Showing posts with label Dahshur. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dahshur. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Egypt News "2" : Egypt cuts highways across pyramids plateau, alarming conservationists.

"The roads are very, very important for development, for Egyptians, for inside Egypt," says head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "Know that we take good care of our antiquities sites everywhere in Egypt."
Egypt is building two highways across the pyramids plateau outside Cairo, reviving and expanding a project that was suspended in the 1990s after an international outcry.
The Great Pyramids, Egypt's top tourist destination, are the sole survivor of the seven wonders of the ancient world and the plateau is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The highways are part of an infrastructure push spearheaded by Egypt's powerful military and championed by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is building a new capital city to ease the population pressure on Cairo, home to 20 million people.
The northern highway will cross the desert 2.5 km (1.6 miles) south of the Great Pyramids. The southern one will pass between the Step Pyramid of Saqqara - the oldest one - and the Dahshur area, home to the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Each highway appears to be about eight lanes wide.
Critics say they could cause irrevocable damage to one of the world's most important heritage sites. Authorities say they will be built with care and improve transport links, connecting new urban developments and bypassing central Cairo's congestion.
"The roads are very, very important for development, for Egyptians, for inside Egypt," said Mostafa al-Waziri, secretary general of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "Know that we take good care of our antiquities sites everywhere in Egypt."
Some Egyptologists and conservationists say the highways will disrupt the integrity of the pyramids plateau, pave over unexplored archaeological sites, generate pollution that could corrode monuments, produce litter and expose closed areas packed with hidden archaeological treasures to looting.
Al-Waziri said existing roads were much closer to the pyramids and carried a lot of tourist buses. "That is why we are doing a lot of development," he said, noting plans to use electric tourist buses within the plateau to avoid pollution.

The highways, which will dissect the plateau into three, will cross a section of ancient Memphis, one of the world's biggest and most influential cities for almost 3,000 years.
"I was flabbergasted by what I saw," said former senior UNESCO official Said Zulficar, who visited a portion of the southern highway two months ago. "All the work that I had done nearly 25 years ago is now being put into question.
"Zulficar led a successful campaign in the mid-1990s to suspend construction of the northern highway, a branch of Cairo's first ringroad. UNESCO said it had requested detailed information on the new plan several times and asked to send a monitoring mission.
The state press center referred a Reuters request for further comment on the plans to a communications advisor of the tourism and antiquities ministry, who could not be reached.
Construction began well over a year ago in desert areas largely out of public sight and became more visible around March, Egyptologists and Google Earth images indicate.
On a recent visit, Reuters journalists saw heavy machinery clearing fields and building bridges and junctions along both highways. Hundreds of uprooted date palms lay in piles.
The southern highway is a part of Cairo's second ringroad that will connect the western satellite city of Sixth of October to the new capital city east of Cairo via 16 kilometers (nine miles) of desert on the pyramids plateau, farmland and a corner of Memphis.
In 2014, the World Bank estimated congestion in the greater Cairo area cut about 3.6 percentage points off Egypt's output.
"The road cuts through archeologically unexplored cemeteries of the little-known 13th Dynasty, in walking distance of the pyramids of Pepi II and Khendjer and the Mastabat el-Fara'un", said an Egyptologist who knows the area.
The person was among six Egyptologists Reuters spoke to. Most of them declined to be named for fear of losing clearance to handle antiquities.
One said caches of statues and blocks with hieroglyphs had been unearthed since highway construction began; the antiquities authority said on its Facebook page these had been discovered on nearby private property.
Memphis, said to have been founded in about 3,000 B.C. when Egypt was united into a single country, was eclipsed but not abandoned when Alexander the Great moved the capital to Alexandria in 331 B.C.
It extended more than 6 square kilometres, the Nile valley's largest ancient settlement site.
The new road comes close to the ancient city's commercial districts, its harbour walls and the former site of an ancient Nilometer, used to measure the height of the annual flood, said David Jeffreys, a British Egyptologist who has been working on Memphis for the Egypt Exploration Society since 1981.
It also endangers a Roman wall that once bordered the Nile that Jeffreys said few people were aware of.
"Memphis has long been neglected, even by Egyptologists, as it is a complicated site to excavate," another Egyptologist said. "But it is enormously rich, bursting with temples, archives, administrative buildings and industrial areas."

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Discover, Dahshur: Rock-Hewn Burial Shaft Uncovered in Egypt's Abusir Necropolis

Three rock-hewn burial shafts filled with coffins and faience pots have been uncovered in Egypt's Abusir necropolis near Cairo. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.
The discovery was made after authorities received reports of illegal excavations in the area.

Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, told Ahram Online that the antiquities ministry formed an archaeological committee led by Sabri Farag, the director-general of the Saqqara Necropolis, to conduct urgent excavations at the site.

Waziri explains that excavation revealed three rock-hewn burial shafts containing funerary collections, including four wooden coffins in bad conservation condition bearing hieroglyphic texts.

Farag says that one of these texts bears the cartouche of King Ptolemy IV (244 – 204 BC), but the remaining text is not clear enough to decipher. More studies are set to be carried out to determine to which reign the coffins belong.

Farag said the coffins hold four mummified bodies, presumably of birds, along with three round-shaped linen wrappings housing the mummies' stomachs.

A collection of 38 symbolic pots carved in faience was also found. All the objects are being held in storage at the site for restoration.

Monday, October 16, 2017

New Discovery, Abu Sir: Parts of A Ramses II Temple Uncovered in Giza's Abusir

Cartouche of Ramesse II. Courtesy of the Czech Institute of Egyptology
The newly uncovered temple in Abusir necropolis helps piece together the activities of Ramses II in the Memphis area. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Parts of a temple to King Ramses II (1213-1279 BC), along with reliefs of solar deities, have been uncovered by an Egyptian-Czech mission during excavation work in Abusir necropolis in the the governorate ofGiza

Mohamed Megahed, deputy to the mission director, told Ahram Online that the temple is located in an area that forms a natural transition between a terrace of the Nile and the floodplain in Abusir. He added that the temple is 32 by 52 metres and behind it was a large forecourt along with two identical and considerably long storage buildings to the right and left side of the complex.

Studies carried out so far, Megahed explained, show that it can be assumed that stone columns lined the side walls of the court, which was enclosed by mud brick walls that were in at least some places painted blue. The rear end of the court, a ramp or staircase leads to an elevated stone sanctuary whose back part was divided into three parallel chambers.

“The remains of this building, which constitutes the very core of the complex, were covered with huge deposits of sand and chips of stone of which many bore fragments of polychrome reliefs,” Professor Mirsolave Barta, director of the Czech mission, told Ahram Online. He pointed out that the fragments not only show the decorative scheme of the sanctuary, but also function to help date the entire complex.

A relief on which is engraved the different titles of King Ramses II was also found, as well as another connected to the cult of solar deities such as Re, Amun and Nekhbet.

“The discovery of the Ramses II temple provides unique evidence on building and religious activities of the king in Memphis area and at the same time shows the permanent status of the cult of sun god Re who was venerated in Abusir since the 5th Dynasty and onwards to the New Kingdom,” Barta asserted.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

New Discovery, Dahshur: Burial Chamber of Recently Unearthed 13th Dynasty Pyramid in Dahshur Uncovered

Newly Discovered Box 
Photo Nevine El-Aref
The wooden box of the canopic jars and remains of an anthropoid sarcophagus were uncovered inside the newly discovered pyramid remains in Dahshur necropolis. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The Egyptian archaeological mission from the Ministry of Antiquities uncovered the burial chamber of a 13th Dynasty Pyramid discovered last month at Dahshur archaeological site.

Adel Okasha, head of the mission and the general director of the Dahshur site, explained that after removing the stones that covered the burial chamber, the mission discovered a wooden box engraved with three lines of hieroglyphics.

These lines are rituals to protect the deceased and the name of its owner.

Sherif Abdel Moneim, assistant to the minister of antiquities, revealed that the box housed the four canopic jars of the deceased with their name engraved, that of the daughter of the 13th Dynasty King Emnikamaw, whose pyramid is located 600 metres away.

He said that the mission also discovered last month a relief with 10 lines of hieroglyphics bearing the cartouche of King Emenikamaw. Hence the box may belong to the King’s daughter, or one of his family. Inside the box, the mission found wrappings of the deceased's liver, intestines, stomach and lungs.

Remains of an anthropoid sarcophagus have been found but in a very bad state of conservation. Excavation works would continue to uncover more of the pyramid's secrets.

Khaled El-Enany, minister of antiquities, visited the site this morning to inspect the excavation works.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

News, Dahshur: Studies on Newly Discovered Pyramid Point to 13th Dynasty King Kamaw

Minister of Antiquities Mohamed El-Nany 
inspects site of new discovery   
Preliminary studies on hieroglyphs found in newly discovered pyramid ruins in the Dahshur necropolis have revealed a cartouche of the 13th Dynasty King Emny Kamaw, Adel Okasha, director-general of the Dahshur necropolis. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

Okasha said that offering texts are engraved on the ruins, as well as a female name of the king's family.  

Okasha said that excavation work is ongoing to reveal more of the pyramid's secrets.

Earlier this week, an Egyptian mission from the Ministry of Antiquities uncovered remains of the pyramid. 

Okasha says that the structure is composed of a corridor leading to the inside of the pyramid, a hall leading to a southern ramp, and a room at the western end.

An alabaster block measuring 15cm by 17cm has been found in the corridor, engraved with 10 vertical hieroglyphic lines that are still being studied. 

A granite lintel and a collection of stony blocks showing the interior design of the pyramid have also been uncovered.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New Discovery, Dahshur: Remains of 13th Dynasty Pyramid Discovered in Dahshur Necropolis

The newly discovered corridor in Dahshour.
(Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Antiquities) 
Archaeologists have revealed a portion of the pyramid's internal structure, described as being in very good condition. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

The remains of a 13th Dynasty pyramid have been discovered by an Egyptian archaeological mission working in an area to the north of King Snefru's Bent Pyramid in the Dahshur Necropolis.

Mahmoud Afifi, the head of the ancient Egyptian antiquities sector at the antiquities ministry, announced the find, adding that the remains are in a very good condition and further excavation will take place to reveal more of the structure.

Adel Okasha, director general of the Dahshur Necropolis, explained that the portion of the pyramid uncovered so far shows a part of its inner structure. 

This structure is composed of a corridor leading to the inside of the pyramid and a hall that leads to a southern ramp, as well as a room at the western end, he said.

An alabaster block measuring 15 cm by 17 cm was also found in the corridor, engraved with 10 vertical hieroglyphic lines that are still being studied. 

A granite lintel and a collection of stoney blocks showing the interior design of the pyramid have also been uncovered.

Further studies will be conducted to identify the owner of the pyramid and the kingdom to which it belongs.

Friday, February 10, 2017

News, Giza: Encroachments Removed From Dahshur Necropolis Site - Ministry

Bulldozers from a neighbouring quarry had entered the Dahshur necropolis site. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

After two days of violations, the Dahshour necropolis, where the both pyramids of King Senefru are located, has been restored to its former state.

Alaa El-Shahat, head of the Administrative Centre for Antiquities in Cairo and Giza, told Ahram Online that in collaboration with the Tourism and Antiquities Police, Cairo Governorate, the army forces and General Security, the Ministry of Antiquities has succeeded in removing all recent encroachments made on the archaeological site and its safe zone.

Three days ago, El-Shahat said, bulldozers from a neighbouring quarry entered the Dahshur necropolis site, which is located around 40km south of Cairo.

The ministry has removed the encroachments and the police have caught the criminals who violated the archaeological sites.

The ministry, he continued, will also build a long wall to separate the archaeological site from the neighbouring quarry as well as establishing a small security unit of the Tourism and Antiquities Police in the area adjacent to the quarry in order to prohibit any future encroachment onto the site.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

New Discovery, Dahshur: Egyptian Middle Kingdom Tomb Discovered at El-Lisht

Parack and youssef during excavation
The tomb of King Senosert I’s stamp bearer was discovered at the El-Lisht archaeological site in the Dahshur necropolis. Written By/ Nevine El-Aerf.

An Egyptian-American mission from Alabama University has stumbled upon a very well preserved tomb of King Senosert I’s stamp bearer while conducting cleaning work in an area south of King Senosert I’s pyramid.

An Egyptian-American mission from Alabama University has stumbled upon a very well preserved tomb of King Senosert I’s stamp bearer while conducting cleaning work in an area south of King Senosert I’s pyramid.

Mohamed Youssef, director of the Dahshur archaeological site, told Ahram Online that the tomb is dated to the 12th dynasty during the reign of the Middle Kingdom King Senosert I.

The tomb is carved in the bedrock of the necropolis and has a mud brick ramp. The walls of the tomb are engraved with scenes depicting the deceased at work in front of deities and in different position with his family. 
the entrance gate of the tomb & wall scene depicting the deceased during hunting trip
(courtesy of the ministry of antiquities)
Excavation work is now in full swing to know more about the tomb and the deceased.

Sarah Parcak, director of the archaeological mission from Alabama University, said that the mission is now training a number of Egyptian archaeologists on the new techniques and methods used in the documentation and preservation of antiquities, as well as using satellites in safeguarding the archaeological sites.

El-Lisht is the site of the Middle Kingdom necropolis for royals and elites. It includes the two pyramids of kings Amenemhat I and Senusret I, which are surrounded with smaller pyramids of members of the royal family, as well as many mastaba tombs of top governmental officials.

Friday, February 5, 2016

News, Abu Sir: 4,400 Year-Old Wooden Boat Unearthed Near Abu Sir Pyramids

Abu Sir Pyramids
CAIRO: A funerary boat has been unearthed near the 4,400 year-old Abu Sir pyramids south of Giza, the antiquities ministry said in a statement Thursday.

The find was excavated during routine cleaning of an ancient mastaba (tomb of a nobleman) carried out by Czech archaeology mission.

“This is a highly unusual discovery since boats of such a size and construction were during this period reserved solely for top members of the society, who usually belonged to the royal family,” Miroslav Barta the director of the Czech mission was quoted by the AFP.

Barta suggests the 18-meter boat dates back to the end of the third or beginning of the fourth dynasty.

Solar boats in ancient Egypt were usually made of cedar wood brought from Lebanon, tour guide Magdy Abdel Mohsen told The Cairo Post.

“They were either used to transport the corpse of the Pharaoh from the east bank to the west bank of the River Nile, where the body was mummified and buried or, according to the ancient Egyptian afterlife belief, served as means to transport the pharaoh to eternity,” said Mohsen.
Source: Cairo Post– By/ Rany Mostafa
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Monday, February 1, 2016

New Discovery, Abu Sir: Old Kingdom Boat Remains Discovered in Cairo

CAIRO: The remains of a large wooden boat have been discovered in the South Abusir area of Cairo by a Czech archeology team from Prague’s Charles University, Ministry of Antiquities Mamdouh Damati announced on the ministry’s Facebook page Monday.

The boat, dated from the Old Kingdom, may have been owned by a king, but verification will be challenging due to the deterioration of the wood.

The pegs and boards of the boat are intact, and its structure may contribute “significantly to the knowledge of boat building in ancient Egypt,” 

Damati said, adding that most boats are not found intact, or are in a very poor state of preservation.
Source: Cairo Post– By/ The Cairo Post

Monday, January 18, 2016

News, Dahshur: Work Underway to Uncover Secrets of Egypt's Dahshur & Khufu Pyramids

Although no discoveries have yet been made, scans have revealed several anomalies which indicate that a discovery could be on the horizon, said Egypt's minister of antiquities. Written By/ Nevine El-Aref.

King Senefru's Bent Pyramid at Dahshur

The initiative to scan Egypt's pyramids to uncover their secrets using infrared examination and Muon detection is progressing, with work underway on King Senefru's pyramids at the Dahshur necropolis and Khufu's pyramid on the Giza Plateau, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh Eldamaty said on Sunday.

"Although no discoveries have yet been made, scans have revealed several anomalies which indicate that a discovery could be made in the pyramids by the end of 2016," Eldamaty told a news conference held at the Grand Egyptian Museum.

The #Scanpyramids project, which aims to scan over a one-year period some of Egypt's pyramids, combines several non-invasive scanning techniques to search for the presence of any unknown internal structures and cavities in ancient monuments, which may lead to a better understanding of their structure and their construction processes and techniques.

The technologies used are a mix of infrared thermography, Muon radiography and 3D reconstruction.

Eldamaty explains that the Muon detection scans on Senefru's bent and red pyramids in Dahshur have been completed and are undergoing analysis in a specialised lab at the Grand Egyptian Museum by Japanese scientist Kunihiro Morishima from Nagoya University.

Hani Helal, the coordinator of the #Scanpyramids project, told Ahram online that the short-term infrared survey reveals different temperatures on the eastern and northern facades of the Khufu pyramid, which implies a discovery may be on the horizon. "The difference in temperatures cannot be the result of the difference in the kinds limestone blocks used, because the difference in temperature reaches six degrees," Helal asserted.

The #ScanPyramids project was launched in October under the authority of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, and the Heritage, Innovation and Preservation Institute (HIP).

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

News, Dahshur: Egypt Launches ‘Scan Pyramids’ Project

King Senefru's Bent Pyramid at Dahshur

CAIRO: The international project to scan Egypt’s pyramids to better understand their architecture and interior design, using non-invasive radar, is scheduled to launch Sunday, announced Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty.

The Bent Pyramid, built by the founder of the 4th Dynasty Pharaoh Sneferu (2,613 B.C.- 2,589 B.C.) was selected to be the first pyramid that will be subjected to “non-invasive and non-destructive surveying techniques,” Damaty stated.

“The pyramid was selected because it is the first known attempt to build a true pyramid and also due to its unique architectural design,” he added.

The Scan Pyramids project, scheduled to be launched in a press conference at a five starts hotel overlooking Giza Pyramids Sunday, will begin at the end of October.  “It is a joint venture between Japan and Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University, with additional support from the Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute (HIP), France,” according to the statement.

The project has already been approved by the permanent committee of the Ministry of Antiquities and has obtained all necessary permissions from concerned authorities.
Source: Cairo Post – By/ Rany Mostafa

Monday, October 19, 2015

News, Dahshur: Egypt's Minister of Antiquities Reveals to Ahram Online Details of 'Scan Pyramids' Project

The secrets of the pyramids are to be finally uncovered at the end of October. Written By / Nevine El-Aref.

King Senefru's Bent Pyramid at Dahshur
Entitled Scan Pyramids, an international project to uncover the secrets of the pyramids, is to be implemented at the end of October, Egypt's antiquities minister revealed to Ahram Online in an exclusive interview.

Mamdouh Eldamaty said that the project aims to solve the enigma of the Old Kingdom pyramids at Dahshur and Giza and to provide a better understanding of their architecture and interior designs. The project, Eldamaty continued, will also provide 3D photos and a detailed study of pyramidal architecture in Egypt.

"The survey will be implemented through invasive -- though non-destructive -- scanning techniques using cosmic rays in cooperation with scientists and experts from Japan, France and Canada," Eldamaty said. The minister added that the cosmic rays are immensely high-energy radiation, mainly originating outside the solar system, that are also used by the Japanese for early detection of volcanoes and earthquakes.

The Scan Pyramids survey, Eldamaty pointed out, will be the first time that a cosmic rays laboratory has been established outside Japan and will be only the second one ever.

"King Senefru's Bent Pyramid in Dahshur was selected to be the first pyramid that will be subjected to such a survey due to its distinguished and unique architectural design and because it is the first attempt at pyramid construction that has not been carefully studied," Eldamaty told Ahram Online.

Eldamaty said that the survey is a joint venture between Japan and Egypt in collaboration with a consortium from the Faculty of Engineering at Cairo University, as well as the Heritage Innovation and Preservation Institute in France, all of which are under the supervision of the Ministry of Antiquities.

The Scan Pyramids project was approved by the permanent committee at the antiquities ministry and has obtained all the necessary permission from security agencies and other concerned authorities. A press conference is to be held on Sunday at the Mena House Hotel in Giza to announce the launching of the Scan Pyramids project.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Short story: All change at the Valley Temple at Dahshour Necropolis

A garden and a brick structure uncovered at the Dahshour Necropolis have changed views of the functions of a pyramid complex, writes Nevine El-Aref. 
The Northern face of the Bent Pyramid.

In the parched desert of the Dahshour Royal Necropolis, the southernmost area of the Memphis Necropolis, a number of pyramids are revealing the changes in ancient Egyptian architecture that occurred during the Third and Fourth Dynasties, with step pyramids giving way to the first true pyramids.

There is the Bent Pyramid, the first attempt at building a complete pyramid carried out by the Fourth Dynasty king Senefru, who took pyramid construction to a new level. There is also the Red Pyramid, the first truly smooth-sided pyramid.  Several kings of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Dynasties also built pyramids at Dahshour, among them Amenemhat II, Sesostris III, and Amenemhat III, who built a pyramid encased in black stone.

A military zone until 1996, the site remained untouched for many years, except for excavations carried out by Egyptologist Ahmed Fakhri in the 1950s, and later by German Egyptologist Reiner Stadelmann. Although several tombs and funerary structures were unearthed, Dahshour still retains many of the secrets of the ancient Egyptians.

The site recently attracted the attention of a mission from the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, which started comprehensive excavation work in 2010. The work was concentrated in the area north of the Valley Temple of the Bent Pyramid, previously explored by Fakhri, who stumbled upon a brick building that he dated to the Middle Kingdom. Stadelmann later thought it could be a magazine or vestry of the Valley Temple. The brick structure was then reburied in sand.

A small sanctuary on the Eastern side of the Bent Pyramid.
In 2012, a re-examination of the site using a magnetometric survey showed that the building was actually older than the Bent Pyramid Valley Temple and its remains more extensive than previously thought.

“The major aim of the project was to investigate this earlier building in its entirety and gain as much archaeological evidence as possible on its original layout, date and function as well as having a better understanding of the whole landscape of this area especially after a recent magnetic survey detected a settlement with orthogonal streets,” project field director Felix Arnold told the Weekly.

 After removing 15 cm of sand, excavators not only rediscovered Fakhri’s brick structure but also found the remains of an extensive garden which once featured more than 350 plants arranged in long parallel rows enclosed within a five-metre thick wall.

The garden site is spread along the area inside the enclosure wall, and its west side includes four rows of 26 tree pits, which range from between 2.2 to 2.4 m in size with diameters ranging from between 50 to 100 cm. An irrigation channel that once watered the roots of the plants was also discovered around the pits.

 In most cases, Arnold said, the space between the pits was covered by a thin layer of earth, allowing smaller plants to grow. Only in one segment was the earth limited to narrow strips, possibly serving as flower pits. Additional rows of tree pits were arranged along the east side of the enclosure, though apparently more densely spaced, while another two rows were found on the northern side. An area of 150 m in the core of the enclosure wall was left free of plants.

“A few remains of plant roots are clearly visible,” Arnold said, adding that the remains revealed that the whole garden was once planted with palm trees, sycamores and cypress trees.

Ruins of the garden with plant pits
“This is the first time we have found a cypress tree in Egypt,” Arnold said, adding that it could have been imported from Syria. He said that studies have suggested that all the trees were planted as adult plants, meaning that they were planted somewhere else and later transported to Dahshour at one or two years old. “It seems at first that the trees used to grow in the garden, as we can see the roots going into the sand. But regretfully this did not last long,” he said, saying that the growing process had lasted for just a few years.

The ancient Egyptians must have brought water in pots to irrigate the plants in pits every day or every week as the water of the Nile was not extended to Dahshour. “There could have been more rain at that time, but never enough to irrigate a whole garden,” Arnold said. The site would have been filled with workers busy building the Bent Pyramid, so it would have been very possible to bring extra water, he added.

Arnold explained that the field excavations revealed that the ground level of the garden was not entirely horizontal as its southern part was more than one metre higher than the northern side. On this elevated ground, Arnold said, a brick building was constructed, part of which was discovered by Fakhri.

 Very little of the building is preserved, only the traces of the foundations. It was constructed directly on the natural surface of the desert, in the north on stone and in the south on a compact layer of sand. The building turns out to have been surrounded by a massive, rectangular five-metre-thick enclosure wall running 80.5 m from north to south and 55.8 m from east to west.

“Walls of these dimensions were only made for a king, and they are known from the so-called funerary enclosures of the Early Dynastic Period at Abydos, as well as from the city temples of the Old Kingdom, such as at Bubastis,” Arnold said.

root remains
He said that the mission has not yet unearthed any entrance for the building, but that early studies suggest the existence of at least two gates, one near the south end of the east side and the second in the centre of the south side. The southern part of the building consists of three entrance rooms, and its northern part has a courtyard. The main entrance lies at the southern end of the east side and was set into the back of a shallow niche. Behind the door, the direction of the entrance was bent twice, leading through a passage into a columned hall. Along the foot of the walls of the rooms deep pits were found.

“They possibly served as emplacements for offering vessels,” Arnold suggested, adding that a third squared room with a depression in its middle was located to the west side of the hall and it could have served as a space for washing or ritual purification.

“During its period of use the building was refurbished and reformed,” Arnold said, adding that a wing of rooms was added to the west, giving the building a square ground plan. The extension occupied an area formerly occupied by part of the garden, the plants now being covered by the floor of the building. In a third stage, the new wing was subdivided into at least two spaces and an entrance added at the south end of the west side.

Additions were also made in the area surrounding the building, he said. A building was constructed adjacent to the enclosure wall, and another smaller structure was built into the southwest corner of the enclosure, but the northern half of the enclosure remained free of buildings.

Arnold during work
Traces of a gypsum floor were found, indicating that it was used as a courtyard. “The purpose of the enclosure and the structures in its interior remains unclear,” Arnold said, adding that it was not a chapel or a palace or a regular temple. There are three theories about its original use, as it was built during the life of the king and used during his lifetime and not after his death, like the Valley Temple of his Pyramid Complex.

Due to the age of the root remains of the trees, Arnold said that the building could have been used for just five years. “It was a temporary structure,” he concluded. The first theory, the best one, says that the structure could have been a temple where special festivals or ceremonies for a living king were held and not for eternity like in the Valley Temple. “It could have been a place to celebrate the renewal of the king, for example,” Arnold said.

The second theory says that the complex is a direct predecessor of the limestone Valley Temple built later in its vicinity, though its ground plan does not share any features with the temple, such as the wing of entrance rooms in the south and the courtyard in the north. The third theory is that the building was a temple for the cult of the king with a garden, but missing the features of a regular temple as it was constructed entirely out of brick. No chapel has been found or any kinds of stelae, statues or false doors.

It cannot be ruled out that the king was present in the building as a living person, rather than as a statue. In this sense the structure could have been related in purpose and meaning to the funerary enclosures of the First and Second Dynasty at Abydos or the sacred enclosures familiar from depictions of burial rituals.

“The brick building can be dated to the middle of the reign of king Senefru,” Arnold told the Weekly, adding that it could have been erected at the time that work started on the Bent Pyramid in the eighth year of Senefru’s reign. The building could thus have been used until the Valley Temple was erected in the 15th year of Senefru’s reign.

visual photo illustrating the garden with palm trees
The construction of the Valley Temple respected the location of the brick building, and the earlier structures do not seem to have been used after the temple was completed. Most of the brick walls are covered with the building debris of the temple. The thick enclosure wall was later entirely removed and replaced by a new, much thinner wall. The new enclosure wall did encompass most of the space formally occupied by the brick enclosure, however.

The garden was also extended to the north along the slope of a low hill. Two additional rows of plants were added. In several cases the roots of bushes have been preserved in this part of the garden. How much of the original garden remained in use is unclear. In some areas, plants were added later, sometimes replacing earlier ones. “It is a very important discovery that could change ideas of the function of the Pyramid Complex, especially the Valley Temple,” Arnold told the Weekly.

While the specific function and meaning of the structure remains unclear, he said the building adds a new facet to our knowledge and understanding of the origins of pyramid temples at the beginning of the Old Kingdom and the purposes behind their construction.

“Though possibly related to other building types of the period, the structure in its design, and especially in its extensive integration of plants, is something new and so far unique,” Arnold said. “Buildings of a similar kind may indeed have existed in the vicinity of the valley temples of other pyramid complexes, but no one has yet unearthed one.”

Monday, February 16, 2015

News: Czech Archaeologists & AUC Professor Reveal Details About Queen Khentkaus III’s Tomb

A Czech archaeological team and Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology and head of the Egyptology unit at The American University in Cairo (AUC), discovered the tomb of a previously unknown queen at the Abusir necropolis, southwest of Cairo.
A statue of the Fifth Dynasty Pharaoh Neferefre
The queen’s tomb provides crucial insight into constructing the history of the royal family of the Old Kingdom and understanding the role of women at that time. The Czech team has been working in Abusir for 55 years and maintains a two-fold cooperation with AUC.

“What is fascinating about the tomb is the inscriptions because they show that this is a completely new member of the royal family of the Fifth Dynasty,” explained Miroslav Barta, director of the Czech Institute of Egyptology and professor at Charles University, Czech Republic, who led the excavations.

Within the tomb, the queen is identified as the “king’s wife” and also “mother of the king.” “We know this based on the inscriptions from her burial chamber, where she is given two specific titles,” remarked Barta. The name, Khentkaus, means “the one closest to our souls,” and two previous queens with this name have already been identified.

The addition of a brand new name, Queen Khentkaus III, in the lineage of ancient Egyptian royalty has undoubtedly stirred enthusiasm on a global scale. “She was a royal spouse,” said Barta, adding, “most likely to King Raneferef,” as she is buried in close proximity to Raneferef’s burial complex.

Burial site of Queen Khentkaus in the Abusir necropolis
The investigation of the tomb of Khentkaus III also contributes to understanding the role of women in ancient Egypt in general. “Women, especially in the Old Kingdom, had a significant amount of power and prestige to be the mother of a king gave one a vast amount of power,” noted Ikram. “It meant, for instance, that the king built better tombs for them [mothers],” Barta explained. “So women of this rank really played an important role.”

He added that tomb inscriptions most often refer to a man; rarely do names and inscriptions refer to women. Despite the fact that, “if you inspect the burial facilities inside these tombs, you would find that the burials of women bear more riches, compared with the males,” he said, noting, “These women were really very important.”

The inscriptions indicate the two phases of Khentkaus’s life as a woman of the royal family. She was married to the king, but, more importantly, she actually gave birth to a boy who later became a king, probably Menkauhor. “In the Fifth Dynasty, there is very rich evidence showing that when you became the king, you looked back and promoted your mother and built for her a more appropriate funerary complex,” said Barta. Research suggests that the transition from wife to mother was accompanied by a notable increase in respect and rank.

Around 30 copper and limestone utensils were discovered at the site
The discovery of this mid-Fifth Dynasty (about 2450 BC) tomb was made early this year. The tomb is located in a small cemetery that housed the burial sites of elite court members. Much of the tomb was destroyed in antiquity, including the mastaba, chapel and sarcophagus. However, the mission did uncover 24 limestone vessels and four copper tools that were part of the funerary equipment. In addition, some small fragments of bone were found. “We assume, given the archaeological context, that the bones are hers,” Barta indicated.
Abusir has proven to be a valuable site for excavation in recent years. One of the most important discoveries from the area was the “Abusir Papyri,” some of the oldest surviving papyri to date that offers detailed information about funerary beliefs and administrative systems. Another collection of exceptionally well-preserved wood and limestone statues have been instrumental in understanding burial practices and societal structures in the Fifth Dynasty.

Burial site of Queen Khentakawess in the Abusir necropolis
Ikram is optimistic about what research at Abusir may tell us about all strata of ancient Egyptian society. “Working here will reveal a great deal about the daily life of people who served the king, the modes of death for all classes, and also the familial and power relationships within the royal family of the Old Kingdom,” she said.

Barta, too, is eager about what remains undiscovered, “There are more tombs to be excavated, and we assume some of them, at least, will also belong to some, perhaps, unknown members of the royal family,” he noted, adding that what we know thus far “is probably not the last word. We will know more when our anthropologist comes, which is planned for March or April this year.”

The story of the family history of the Fifth Dynasty will continue to evolve with each new find. Barta sees the discovery of Khentkaus III as another stone in the grand mosaic.