Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt. (Credit:Tell Edfu Project/University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute)
EDFU, Egypt, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Archaeologists have discovered a 4600-year-old pyramid in Edfu, Egypt, which is the seventh "provincial" pyramid to be built before the Great Pyramids at Giza.
The step pyramid is only 16 feet high, but is believed to have been 43 feet high when built. The pyramid is identical to six other provincial pyramids found earlier, which are located near different settlements. The exact purpose of these pyramids has eluded archaeologists, who think they could have been used as a symbol of the king's power in the southern provinces.
"The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan," said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute.
But the discovery of food offerings at the Edfu pyramid could provide clues to its purpose. The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti on the outside of the pyramid near remains of babies and children, but archaeologists believe the burials and inscriptions came long after the pyramid was built.
"These are mostly private and rough inscriptions, and certainly dedicated to the child/babies' burials located right under these inscriptions at the foot of the pyramid," Marouard told Live Science.
According to Marouard, villagers always assumed the structure to be the tomb of a local Muslim saint, but on cleaning the structure the archaeologists realized it was pyramid. The structure is a three-step pyramid and was built using sandstone blocks and clay mortar.
"The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks," said Marouard.
By the time Khufu began his reign as king of Egypt, these pyramids had been abandoned and offerings were no longer made. This coincides with the construction of the Great Pyramids, and archeologists suggest Khufu may have thought it unimportant to continue maintaining these seven pyramids.
[University of Chicago's Oriental Institute]