June 27, 2012

A Clue at Meidum Pyramid Part 3

The next exploration, carried out by Ludwig Borchardt in 1926, only lasted one day and a half. As Borchardt points out, even this was unnecessarily long since he found what he was looking for within the first thirty minutes. He had made two even shorter visits to the site before, one together with Reisner in 1897, and the second with Ricke, earlier in 1926. Borchardt had evidently evolved some very clear ideas about the structure of the Meidum pyramid in the thirty years separating his two visits, and all that now remained was to prove his theory correct. If Borchardt’s exploration was short, the same cannot be said about his publication. There are 30,000 words of concise and detailed information, supported by many diagrams, setting out his theory, its proof and many other problems of pyramid construction, to which we shall return later. His report is a veritable mine of information.

Ancient Egypt Pyramids
Borchardt’s main object was to explain the ‘rough bands’ which intersect vertically the otherwise smooth pyramid core. They had been regarded as possibly a decoration by Petrie and Wainwright who, however, had not much faith in their own explanation and admitted that they were at a loss for a sensible interpretation of this feature. Borchardt showed that the higher of these bands is, in fact, part of the second step pyramid (E2) which had been laid on top of the steps of Er In other words, when the original step pyramid (E,) was extended to larger dimensions, the height of the new steps did not coincide with the old ones; the latter had first been raised by about 4 m. each. The reason for this change is simple. At the first step pyramid (EJ the entrance of the passage had been located at the level of the first step. With the enlarged version, i.e., the second step pyramid (E2), this entrance would have emerged 4 m. above this step level. In order to bring the entrance up to the level of the first step of E2, this step and all others had to be raised. However, there was no need to dress the outside of these heightened steps of Ex since their surface would be covered by the steps of the new E2. Only when the third and fourth steps of E2 were eventually removed did these undressed parts of the buttress walls become visible as ‘rough bands’. There can be little doubt that Borchardt’s explanation is correct but it tells us nothing about the reason why steps three and four disappeared.

The third exploration of the Meidum pyramid was undertaken by Alan Rowe, who had worked with Reisner, on behalf of the Pennsylvania University Museum. The excavations were carried out in the winter 1929/30 and part of the results were reported promptly in the Museum’s Journal in 1931. Unfortunately the rest of the work has still to be published, after more than forty years. Inside the pyramid Rowe went over much the same ground as his predecessors, only discovering a short blind shaft near the bottom of the passage and two slight changes in its slope, amounting altogether to less than 30. By far the most important of the published results concern excavations in and near the mortuary temple which we shall discuss later in this chapter.

The method of robbing these casing stones also followed a definite pattern. Ease of access and the avoidance of stone falls were the guiding principles, as is shown by the way in which stones were taken from the Bent and Khafre pyramids. The attack started at the base and the comers of the building and continued inwards and upwards across the faces. If the Meidum pyramid had been ruined by stone robbers, they would also have attacked it in the same manner. This, however, was not the case.

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