At a symposium held by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities in Toronto,Ontario, on January 11th, archeologists revealed the uncovering of yet another provincial pyramid near the ancient settlement of Edfu in Southern Egypt. The 4,600-year-old structure, built decades before the Great Pyramid of Giza, is the seventh of its kind discovered scattered near major ancient settlements, throughout central and southern Egypt.
While the existence of the Edfu pyramid had been known for some time, it was not until 2010 that a team of archeologists led by Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute, began the excavation process. Found under a thick layer of sand, modern waste and blocks that had fallen from the pyramid itself, it measured only 16-feet tall - A far cry from the 43-feet it once proudly stood at. In fact, it looked so diminutive that most locals had believed the hump to be the tomb of an ancient sheikh.
Researchers believe the provincial pyramids were built by either Pharaoh Hui who reigned from 2635-2610 B.C. or his son and successor, Pharaoh Snefru who ruled from 2610-2590 B.C. Sometimes referred to as step pyramids because of the way they have been constructed to resemble three steps, the Edfu pyramid once measured 60 X 61 feet or almost identical to the six found prior to this. This has led researchers to conclude that all seven were built at the same time and for the same purpose. The only mystery? What was the purpose of these sandstone and clay mortar structures?
That's because unlike the other pyramids, which all lie on the West Bank of the River Nile, these do not have an internal chamber and were therefore not meant to be used as burial grounds for pharaohs. The researchers did find remains of babies and children buried at the foot of the pyramid as well as inscriptions and burial dates related to them, etched on the side walls of the pyramid However, analysis showed that those occurred long after the structures were built.
The remains of an installation where food offerings could be made has led researchers to speculate that the pyramids may have just been built as symbolic monuments to affirm the power of the pharaohs in the southern provinces.
While they may never know for sure, the one thing they can confirm, is that all the provincial pyramids were abandoned less than 50 years after they were constructed, when Khufu, the pharaoh responsible for constructing the Great Pyramid of Giza came to power in 2590. They believe that it could be because the pharaoh was secure of his hold over Southern Egypt and also because he probably needed every resource available, to build the bigger pyramids!