Monday, February 10, 2014


AN international team of archaeologists have identified a 4,600-year-old proto-pyramid in far southern Egypt which predates the Great Pyramid by centuries.

The step pyramid, located near the town of Edfu, belongs to a series of almost identical small pyramids that have been discovered near several provincial centers in Egypt such as Elephantine, Hierakonpolis, Naqada, Abydos, Zawiet el-Meitin near Minya, and Seila in the Fayoum.

According to an inscription found at Elephantine that can be linked directly to this pyramid, the whole group dates to the reign of Pharaoh Huni (around 2600 BC), last ruler of the 3rd Dynasty.

The monument is situated north of the modern village of al-Ghonemiya – between the edge of the desert and the cultivated areas of the Nile Valley, about 5 km south of Tell Edfu and at 25 km south of the pyramid of al-Kula, which is linked to the major Predynastic site of Hierakonpolis.

The first reference to the Edfu pyramid dates back to 1894, when G. Legrain indicated a ‘false’ pyramid at the entrance of the Edfu-Kharga caravan road. In 1908, H. de Morgan mentioned the structure again, and two years later Arthur Weigall mentioned its presence in his Guide to the Antiquities of Upper Egypt from Abydos to the Sudan Frontier.

In 2009, the archaeological team led by Dr Gregory Marouard from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Dr Hratch Papazian from the University of Copenhagen commissioned the Tell Edfu Project in order to unearth and protect this pyramid.

According to the archaeologists, the Edfu pyramid had been built directly on the sandstone bedrock and was made exclusively of sandstone and some calcareous sandstone blocks. The quarry area has been discovered only 800 m north of the site during an extensive preliminary survey conducted on some of the small hills that mark the desert edge at the site.

“The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks,” Dr Marouard and Dr Papazian said in an article published in the News & Notes, a Quarterly Publication of the Oriental Institute (in .pdf).

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