Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt have unearthed a step pyramid built about 4,600 years ago, touted to be older than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The step pyramid, discovered as one of seven ‘provincial’ pyramids built either by the pharaoh Huni or Snefru, was originally 43 feet tall, which now measures just 16 feet from its base owing to weathering and pillaging.
“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid, told the gathering at a symposium in Toronto organised by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities recently.
The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the facades of the pyramid.
The team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made, a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.
Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements and have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial.
The study suggests the seven small pyramids stopped being used when work on the Great Pyramid began by the pharaoh Khufu.
Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu.
According to the study, these seven pyramids may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king.