June 6, 2008
Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Identified At Last
Egypt's top archaeologist reported Thursday the identification of a severely eroded pyramid south of the capital city of Cairo. The pyramid has been attributed to the Fifth Dynasty Pharaoh Menkauhor, who ruled Egypt in the 24th century BC.
Some archaeologists had associated the "ËHeadless Pyramid', first described by the German archaeologist Lepsius in the 19th century, with the Tenth Dynasty Pharaoh Merykare, who ruled in the 20th century BC. But others associated the pyramid with the Twelfth Dynasty, which ruled during the Middle Kingdom between 1991 and 1786 BC .
But Hawas, Egypt's leader of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and his team excavated the pyramid's lower levels more thoroughly than any previous expedition, and said he was now convinced that the pyramid was that of Pharaoh Menkauhor, who had been known from inscriptions to have built a such a pyramid.
The announcement puts an end to a long-standing dispute.
"Now we are sure that this pyramid is of a style of a pyramid of Dynasty V and belongs to a king called Menkauhor," Hawas told reporters during a tour.
Hawas based his identification on architectural features, since the archaeologists did not find inscriptions with the name of the pharaoh. This, along with the fact that Menkauhor is the only Fifth Dynasty ruler whose pyramid has not been identified, confirmed the attribution.
Hawas emphasized the large red granite blocks at the entrance to the burial chamber, something characteristic of pyramids of that period, he said. The lid of the sarcophagus was made of a grey schist material closely associated with the Old Kingdom, he said.
"The material of this sarcophagus was never used in the Middle Kingdom," he added.
The substructure's' ground plan was another determining factor. It lacked the labyrinthine pattern of passages to burial chambers that were characteristic of pyramids during the time of the Middle Kingdom.
"The Middle Kingdom pyramids ... have complicated corridors until you reach the burial chamber. Without discovering any inscription I tell you this is Old Kingdom. The substructure is exactly Dynasty V," Hawas told Reuters.
Many years ago the top part of the pyramid went missing, removed by villagers, Hawas suspects, to build houses in the flood plain of the Nile 100 yards away.
When Hawas' team began work 18 months ago, they had to remove about 25 feet of sand to reach the pyramid's well-preserved lower levels. During the process they encountered what Hawas believes was a processional way, built in the Ptolemaic period. Hawas said the Apis bull cult high priest would lead the funeral of each sacred bull along the processional towards the Serapeum, where the mummified animals were buried underground in vast stone sarcophaguses.