Egyptian Archaeologist Found Unfinished Historic Pyramid At Saqqara That Price His Life

The traditional historical past of Egypt is stuffed with considerable discoveries that haven’t been defined. One such discovery was made by the archaeologist Zakaria Goneim within the mid-Nineteen Fifties. Goneim’s discover was so distinctive that scientists are nonetheless arguing about what precisely the archaeologist discovered and what it was all for.

In 1951, whereas looking for new untouched burials, archaeologist Zakaria Ghoneim got here throughout a wall that, in his opinion, may very well be one of many undiscovered, unfinished historic pyramids. The stays of the construction had been situated within the necropolis of Saqqara, not removed from the traditional step pyramid of Djoser, whose age is estimated to be 4,700 years previous.

Zakaria Goneim, the discoverer of the Misplaced Pyramid.

In his ebook, entitled “The Lost Pyramid” (Rinehart & Firm, 1956), Goneim wrote: “It might be thought that, since the building had been used as a quarry in later times, its existence was known until a comparatively recent date. Fortunately I was able to satisfy myself that the monument had been undisturbed for at least 3,000 years and probably for longer. Proof of this lay in the large number of later burials which my workmen found during the excavations, and as the earliest of these dated from the Nineteenth Dynasty (1349-1197 B.C.), and as some were found lying undisturbed above the buried pyramid itself, it is obvious that the walls we had uncovered had not been seen by human eyes since that remote epoch.”

For the reason that entrance to the Egyptian pyramids is situated in the course of the northern aspect, discovering the doorway to the unfinished pyramid was a matter of method.

In January 1954, Goneim started his seek for the pyramid entrance, sure that “no superstructure would have been built without beginning the substructure.” Excavating the northern aspect, he first discovered the stays of a mortuary temple. Inspired, he sought the doorway there, as the doorway to Djoser’s pyramid was present in the same location. When this proved futile, he moved the work to the north. Lastly, about 75 ft from the pyramid face, he discovered what seemed to be the doorway gallery.

Entrance to the Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet, Saqqara. Picture Credit score: Getty Pictures / DeAgostini

The gallery was blocked intermittently with heavy stones, and the gaps between had been stuffed with rubble. At size, the doorway to the pyramid was uncovered. “To our extreme relief,” Goneim wrote, “we found that the doorway was intact, sealed with masonry.” The pyramid was opened on March 9, 1954.

The door led to a excessive gallery reduce into the bedrock, however inside sixty ft, they encountered a wall of rubble reaching from ground to ceiling. The group discovered a vertical shaft within the ceiling by which the rubble had been dropped; the mouth of the shaft above was buried within the pyramid superstructure.

Goneim decided that the shaft had not been absolutely breached for the reason that pyramid was constructed. The blockage of rubble within the hall proved to be greater than fifteen ft thick, however first, the shaft needed to be cleared in order that the particles wouldn’t fall on the employees beneath. Whereas clearing the shaft, a tragedy occurred that stopped the excavation for a very long time. One of many stone blocks collapsed down and buried the employees, killing one. This instantly unfold the tales of a pyramid curse and the media exaggerated the information, claiming that the pyramid collapsed and killed 80 individuals.

Then the rumor unfold that an evil spirit was imprisoned within the tomb, which might destroy everybody. Goneim himself was additionally frightened, however he resumed the excavation. Having cleared the chamber, Goneim discovered many burial vessels, on the seals of which he learn the identify of “hitherto unknown king,” Sekhemkhet (this pharaoh had been recognized by one other identify, Djoser Tati).

The sarcophagus chamber wanting north in direction of the doorway hall.

Goneim additionally discovered a golden treasure: 21 golden bracelets, wrist hoops, tweezers, a golden wand within the type of a sickle, golden plates, a golden shell-powder field, and lots of carnelian beads.

To the chamber, they needed to make their means by the fragments of stones that blocked the passage as a consequence of earthquakes. At 31 meters, they discovered a aspect passage resulting in a protracted T-shaped hall containing 120 empty storage rooms. And solely after one other 72 meters, the archaeologist discovered a burial chamber hidden behind protecting masonry and large stone blocks. It was within the very heart of the unfinished pyramid of Sekhemkhet.

“In the middle of a rough-cut chamber lay a magnificent sarcophagus of pale, golden, translucent alabaster. We moved toward it. My first thought was: “Is it intact?” Hurriedly, with my electrical torch, I examined the highest for the lid. However there was no lid; the highest was of 1 piece with the remainder,” Goneim wrote.

After clearing it of sand and dirt, archaeologists found a number of unusual issues. Firstly, on the sarcophagus within the type of the letter V was a type of funeral wreath. Secondly, there have been chips on one of many corners, which had been fastidiously restored. And thirdly, the lid of the sarcophagus was not on the prime, however on the finish and went up, as if the archaeologistswere not in entrance of a coffin, however a entice for a wild animal.

The cement with which the lid was smeared turned out to be intact. With nice issue, archaeologists cleared a spot across the sarcophagus, put in lifting blocks, and, assured that the physique of Sekhemkhet was inside, opened the “coffin”. It was empty inside. Goneim’s disappointment knew no bounds. The excavation season often ends in April because of the warmth. Within the warmth and stuffiness, the expedition labored till June 26 for the sake of outcomes. And all this simply to seek out an empty sarcophagus! The excavations had been stopped.

Returning to work in 1955, Ghoneim cleared the gallery and located many artifacts, however he couldn’t clear up the riddle of the pyramid. Maybe an evil spirit was certainly imprisoned within the sarcophagus? Quickly the curse overtook Goneim: in 1959, he dedicated suicide by drowning himself within the Nile.

Goneim himself decided the age of the pyramid at 4700 years. However radiocarbon evaluation of the “wreath” that lay on the sarcophagus confirmed that the crops had been 800 years older than the pyramid. Why did the Egyptians cease constructing the pyramid? Why did they go away? Why was the sarcophagus so fastidiously closed and the passages laid? Why did somebody put historic dried crops on it? There are a number of variations of this.

Zakaria Goneim holding an historic Egyptian carved picket frieze throughout excavations. Picture Credit score: Getty Pictures / Pictorial Parade / Archive Pictures

The interior structure of the pyramids nonetheless baffles specialists. They’ve so many slim, inclined and vertical passages that solely a snake can transfer alongside. Furthermore, the Egyptian god Nehebkau, the choose of the lifeless, might flip right into a snake. Within the type of an enormous snake, Apep is an historic Egyptian spirit of evil, darkness, and destruction and the arch enemy of the solar god, Ra.

In 1963, Jean-Philippe Lauer took up the excavation of Sekhemkhet’s monument by investigating the potential for a south tomb, a function which he had discovered on the southern aspect of Djoser’s Step Pyramid. He additionally needed to reconstruct a plan of the Buried Pyramid and attempt to resolve the thriller of the lacking mummy.

Lauer uncovered the foundations of the south tomb beneath a destroyed mastaba. In a hall on the backside of a deep shaft, he discovered stays of an early picket coffin which contained the bones of a two-year previous boy (a royal prince?) with some Dynasty III vessels and gold leaf fragments. The burial chamber had been looted by robbers. Lauer went on to show Goneim’s principle that the enclosure wall of the complicated had been prolonged. There are a lot of theories surrounding the Buried Pyramid and its lack of completion which nonetheless stay a thriller.

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