April 1, 2012

Sekhemkhet Unfinished Pyramid

The Buried Pyramid Or Sekhemkhet Unfinished Pyramid
In March 1951, Goneim was appointed Chief Inspector of Saqqara. Intrigued by the fact that there was apparently only one 3rd Dynasty monument here (Djoser's Step Pyramid), he carefully surveyed the site and its ground features. To the south-west of Djoser's enclosure wall lay an oblong plateau or terrace recorded on the maps as a natural feature. Goneim was suspicious of the quantity and distribution of fragments of worked stone (granite, limestone and alabaster) lying about on it: there was too much for the terrace to be natural, added to which there were occasional small outcrops of rubble masonry.

The Buried Pyramid - Egypt
So in late September 1951, Goneim began to investigate one of these outcrops. His efforts revealed a rubble-coursed masonry wall which, when cleared, was found to be 27 ft (8.2 m) deep, sitting on bedrock. Eventually an enormous platform was identified, roughly 1700 ft (518 m) on its long axis (north-south), and 600 ft (183 m) wide. This had formed a base upon which an enclosure wall of the 'palace facade' type, similar to Djoser's, had been built. This great work had been left unfinished, presumably because Sekhemkhet died after a reign of only about six years - shortly after construction had begun. Had it been completed, it would probably have risen in seven steps to a height of around 230 ft (70 m) - taller by one step and c. 16 ft (4.9 m) than Djoser's Step Pyramid.

The pyramid platform was especially well preserved on the north side, and it was from here that a deep, sloping rock-cut trench was located which led down to an entrance, a sealed doorway, that was opened in March 1954. Large areas of the entrance passageway were blocked by rubble debris which was extremely unstable, dangerous and difficult to clear. At the base of the blocking to the passage was found a small cache which included 21 gold bracelets and armlets, a hollow gold tube and an exquisite small gold box in the shape of a bivalve shell, all apparently having been deposited together in a now perished wooden box. A large diorite bowl was nearby. The group seems to have been deliberately placed where it was found, rather than abandoned or dropped as robber's booty.

The Entrance to Sub - Structure of the Unfinished Pyramid
The name of the owner of the complex was revealed when five small clay jar sealings were found, impressed by a cylinder seal with the name of Sekhemkhet. Eventually - after clearing more of the dangerous blocking - a large, cavernous, unfinished burial hall was reached in the centre of which stood a rectangular sarcophagus of translucent alabaster cut from a single block. Close examination of the area and various passageways nearby showed no evidence of robbers' intrusions after the tomb had been sealed.
 
In June 1954, almost three years after work had begun, the sarcophagus was carefully opened, the sliding panel raised with difficulty because the original gypsum mortar sealing held it tight in place. To the great astonishment of the invited audience of scholars and journalists, the interior was completely empty and a shock to which there was no ready answer. The sarcophagus had definitely not been robbed; the only explanation possible was that the king had been buried elsewhere, possibly even in the labyrinthine passages of which many have yet to be explored.

Sekhemkhet King and his Pyramid :

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