June 18, 2012

The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P4

All the buildings of the pyramid complex are constructed of local limestone, quarried nearby. The outer covering, however, consists of fine white limestone from Tura on the opposite bank of t e Nile. The casing blocks of limestone not only had to be planed but also fitted very carefully, an impressive task considering that the surface to be treated in this manner amounted to about 70,000 square metres. Much of this ancient glory has been restored in the last few decades by C. M. Firth, J. E. Quibell and, above all, by J.-P. Lauer who, on behalf of the Egyptian Department of Antiquities have investigated and reconstructed much of the Step Pyramid complex of Zoser.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramid
It has been known for many years, mainly through aerial photography, that another walled enclosure, similar in size to Zoser’s, lay buried under the sand close to the Step Pyramid. In 1951 the Antiquities Service entrusted their Curator at Saqqara, Zakaria Ghoneim, with the excavation of this area. His work not only established the existence of an enclosure wall of the panelled pattern but also the remains of a step pyramid in its centre. Not only stone robbers but also later builders of the Pyramid Age seem to have made heavy inroads into these structures. On the other hand, Egyptologists have tended to overestimate the damage that has been done to massive monuments by depredations of this kind. A simple numerical estimate shows that it is quite impossible to steal a whole pyramid in order to re-use its stones. For a pyramid such as that discovered by Ghoneim, it would mean the removal of more than half a million tons of stone. Unless another big structure for which these stones could have been used is found nearby, theft becomes an unconvincing explanation, and it is more likely that the pyramid was never finished.

This is certainly true in the present case. When the pyramid site was cleared of sand, a structure, 120 m. square but only 7 m. high, was discovered. It seems, in fact, unlikely that the pyramid was ever raised to a very much greater height. On the other hand, the unfinished state of the building allows much insight into its design and method of construction. There is no sign of a central mastaba and the whole building was laid out from the beginning as a step pyramid with concentric buttress walls, similar to the later phases of Zoser’s monument. The fact that even in this early state of erection all the buttress walls are present, shows that pyramids were built up from the outset by gradually raising the level of the whole structure at the same time and not by a successive accretion of buttress walls. In other words, during construction the site must always have presented the aspect of a truncated pyramid with a level top. The excavators also found large building ramps leading to the working area. The size of its foundation suggests that a pyramid of probably seven steps, rising to a height of roughly II Section (a) and plan (b) of the unfinished pyramid of Sekhemket at Saqqara. The broken lines in (a) indicate the probable design of the planned structure. The tomb chamber (i), containing the sealed but empty alabaster sarcophagus (pi. n), was excavated from the living rock, as were also the large magazines (2). The base was about 120 metres square, and the height about 7 metres (after Edwards) 70 m., was intended. The substructure differs from that of Zoser’s by the absence of a shaft. Instead, the tomb chamber, which lies about 30 m. deep under the centre of the pyramid, is carved out of the rock. Access is by a sloping tunnel with the entrance north of the pyramid.

From jar sealings found in the substructure, Ghoneim determined the name of the pharaoh as Sekhemket, who was evidently Zoser’s successor and may be identical with a king called Zoser-teti to whom the Abydos hieroglyphic king-list allots a reign of six years. There was no sign of a portcullis block which was meant to be lowered into the tunnel by a vertical shaft but Ghoneim found the tunnel blocked with ancient masonry which appeared undisturbed. When this was removed, the roughly worked tomb chamber was found to contain a sarcophagus of unusual design. It consists of a single hollow block of alabaster, which instead of a lid has an opening at one end. This aperture was closed with a sliding door, also of alabaster, and sealed with cement that was unbroken. The excitement was great when in May 1954 this trap door was raised, only to give way to disappointment, since the sarcophagus turned out to be completely empty.

From the tomb chamber led a number of passages, also unfinished and empty, but a small quantity of gold jewellery was found in the entrance passage. Halfway along the sloping tunnel, a passage leads to a long U-shaped gallery into which open 132 small storerooms. Some of these contained stone vases.

Egyptian Pyramid Age :
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P1
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P2
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P3
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P4
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P5
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P6
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P7
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P8
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P9
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P10

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