No One Knows Why Ancient Egyptians Built This 4,600-Year-Old Pyramid

The new pyramid joins the list of other mysterious step pyramids built before the Great Pyramid at Giza

Photo: Tell Edfu Project, University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute

Archaeologists recently uncovered a 4,600-year-old step pyramid near the Egyptian city of Edfu. It is the seventh of the "provincial" pyramids built decades before the Great Pyramid at Giza, LiveScience reports. The solid structures are built around Egypt and are nearly identical. 

This newest step pyramid stands about 16 feet tall, but when it was new, it towered around 43 feet high. Like the other step pyramids, it was not used for royal burials and contains no inner chamber. And, actually, no one really know what these pyramids were used for.

But a space near one of the newly discovered pyramid's sides appears to have been used for food offerings. The team thinks the pyramids might have been used as monuments to Egyptian royalty, LiveScience reports. It seems to have been abandoned around 50 years after its creation, likely in response to the new focus on Giza. 

Here's LiveScience on the pyramid's structure:

Built of sandstone blocks and clay mortar, it had been constructed in the form of a three-step pyramid. A core of blocks rises up vertically, with two layers of blocks beside it, on top of each other. This made the pyramid look like it had three steps. The style is similar to that of a step pyramid built by Djoser (reign ca. 2670-2640 B.C.), the pharaoh who constructed Egypt's first pyramid at the beginning of the third ancient Egyptian dynasty. The technique is close to that used at the Meidum pyramid, which was built by either Snefru or Huni and started out as a step pyramid before being turned into a true pyramid. 

Hieroglyphic graffiti on the side the pyramid, LiveScience reports, includes depictions of a man, a bird and an animal. In particular, some inscriptions on the side of the pyramid indicate that women and children were buried there. But the archeologists believe those scrawlings and burials came long after the structure was built and were not part of its original purpose.


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