Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt have unearthed a step pyramid built around 2600 BC (about 4,600 years ago) – said to be older that the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The step pyramid, thought to be one of seven ‘provincial’ pyramids built either by the pharaohs Huni or Snefru, was originally 43 feet tall, but now measures just 16 feet from its base owing to weathering and pillaging.
“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid, told the gathering at a symposium in Toronto organised by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities recently.
The team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made – a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.
Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial.
The study suggests the seven small pyramids stopped being used when work on the Great Pyramid began by the pharaoh Khufu.
Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu.
According to the study, these seven pyramids may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king.
The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid.
The researchers think the inscriptions and burials date to long after the pyramid was built and that the structure was not originally intended as a burial place.