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Aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Egypt.

Saqqara's step pyramid, shown here, served as a model for the smaller pyramid at Edfu.

PHOTOGRAPH BY KENNETH GARRETT, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

A. R. Williams

National Geographic

Published February 5, 2014

Decades before the great pyramids at Giza took shape, a modest stepped pyramid arose at a site now known as Edfu. Archaeologists from the University of Chicago have been studying the 4,600-year-old stone structure since 2010, gathering information about its purpose and attempting to protect it from modern encroachment.

Contrary to many news reports this week, this is not a new discovery. In fact, the pyramid's existence has been known since at least 1894.

The archaeologists involved in the recent research declined to comment on their work. Because it is ongoing, "the archeologists don't feel comfortable giving media interviews about the project at this time," a university spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.

But the university and the American Research Center in Egypt have published a number of reports as work on the pyramid has progressed. Here's what's known, and what has been discovered over the past few years.

The Edfu pyramid is located about 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of the Egyptian capital of Cairo. Until the recent archaeological excavations began, it wore a shroud of sand that had accumulated for many centuries. The structure is one of several identical pyramids built at about the same time in early provincial centers in southern Egypt—Seila in the Fayum, Zawiet el-Meitin, Abydos, Naqada, Hierakonpolis, and Elephantine near Aswan.

Experts aren't sure exactly which king built these pyramids, but the best candidates are Huni (2637-2613 B.C.), the last ruler of the Third Dynasty, or his son Snefru (2613-2589 B.C.), the first king of the Fourth Dynasty.

Although much smaller in scale, the monuments follow the stepped shape of Egypt's first stone pyramid, built by King Djoser, the first ruler of the Third Dynasty at the dawn of the Old Kingdom. Djoser built his pyramid as a tomb. Rising in six tiers to a height of 204 feet (62 meters), it was the centerpiece of a grand funerary complex at the site of Saqqara—the Arlington National Cemetery of ancient Egypt, located about half an hour's drive south of Cairo, where kings and courtiers were buried for almost 3,000 years.

But the structure at Edfu was never intended as a tomb. Like the other provincial pyramids, it had no internal burial chamber. Though its three steps probably reached a height of only about 42 feet (13 meters), its construction required a great deal of effort. Archaeologists believe the pyramid was built of several different types of limestone quarried about half a mile (fourth-fifths of a kilometer) away.

Why go to all that trouble if the king's mortal remains weren't going to rest there for eternity?

Two reasons, archaeologists surmise in their published reports.

Royal Power, Living God

First, the Edfu pyramid and its six counterparts were likely symbols of royal power. The king ruled from Memphis, near modern Cairo. These engineered mounds of stone would have served to remind people in the provinces who was really in charge of their lives, and that Egypt was a unified political state.

Second, the provincial pyramids may have been places where people worshipped the king, who was believed to be a living god.

At Edfu, archaeologists have uncovered the stone foundation of a structure that was built against the eastern face of the pyramid—perhaps the remains of a chapel. More than 60 percent of the potsherds archaeologists collected came from that same area—possible evidence of food offerings left there long ago in honor of the king's cult.

The activity of that cult was probably short-lived. Early in the Fourth Dynasty, King Khufu (2558-2532 B.C.) began to build his iconic slope-sided pyramid tomb at Giza, shifting resources and attention far to the north.

As the University of Chicago archaeologists exposed the lower courses of the pyramid at Edfu, they discovered hieroglyphs from later periods. These may indicate that the structure retained its symbolic power throughout pharaonic history, even if the king's divinity was no longer celebrated there.

Stone is a valuable building material in the North African desert. Over centuries, blocks were pillaged from the Edfu pyramid. Today less than a third of the structure remains, with its height reduced to about 16 feet (4.9 meters).

Over time, a myth grew up that a Muslim saint was buried there, which may account for the discovery of burial sites along the eastern and southern sides of the pyramid. It also may explain why the edge of the local cemetery has crept closer over the past five years.

The village of al-Ghonemiya has also spread toward the pyramid. Additional encroachments include a modern road, built in the early 1990s, that runs about 164 feet (50 meters) from the pyramid, and the planned construction of a gas pipeline along that same route. The University of Chicago archaeologists began their study of the pyramid to learn as much as possible before the converging threats got any closer. Local residents watched the excavation with wonder. They had no idea the neglected mound hid an ancient monument.

Two years ago, the archaeologists employed local workers to build a brick wall around the pyramid. The wall, a mere three feet (one meter) high, won't keep anyone out, but it does serve as a reminder that this monument from the great age of pyramid-builders is worth protecting.

11 comments
stephen Paine
stephen Paine

As incredible as it may sound, I have discovered the secret of the pyramids based on 35 years of research; thus, I approached a university professor because her work was helpful in helping me find the truth, but when I showed what I had she went crazy. I have a photo that proves my hypothesis. I just need a venue to reveal the truth. I am writing a book now it will be finished very soon. I believe it is because of my background in ancient occult doctrine and Buddhism, i.e. the cycle of samsara, (life and death) that made it possible for me to have the insight to see the purpose of these structures (transmitters). I am also a student of quanta so the geometric aspect (Fibonacci, and Golden mean principles) helped me see the true nature of these structures and mental construct doctrine that is imbued within them. 

Respectfully,

Stephen Paine

Joseph Clark Clayton
Joseph Clark Clayton

yea just built these for worship, that's it, with there tec would have taken them over 200 years to make, wake up people, these lies are only fooling the people who wish to be fooled.

GlobalVision Tours
GlobalVision Tours

DIGGING IN PREHISTORIC SITES IS VERY INTERESTING WORK. THIS WILL GIVE US VALUABLE DATA ABOUT REVOLUTION HAPPENED IN CULTURE AND LIFESTYLE OF HUMAN COMMUNITY. PYRAMIDS ARE MY FAVORITE SUBJECT FROM CHILDHOOD AND I DID SOME SEARCHING IN MY NATIVE LAND TO FIND SUCH ARTIFACTS, BUT FAILED. KERALA IN INDIA HAVE SOME UNEXPLORED PREHISTORIC SITES, STILL NOT REVEALED ITS FULL ETHNICITY. MOSTLY DOLMENS AND CAVE SITES WITH ROCK CARVINGS IN KERALA. CHECK HERE AMAZING PREHISTORIC SITES IN KERALA

AFTAB SHEIKH
AFTAB SHEIKH

IT IS CLEARLY MENTIONED IN THE HOLY QURAN THAT THE NON BELIEVERS  AND THOS PEOPLE WHO ASSOSIATE ANY ONE WITH GOD THE ALMIGHTY ARE FOLLOWERS OF SATAN AND ARE DOOME  D TO THE HELL FIRE..THIS CONVICTION IS ALSO ENDORSED BY PEOPLE OF JEWISM,CHRISTIANITY ETC ANYWAY THESE PEOPLE PRAYED T THEIR OWN HAND MADE GODS  WHO COULD GIVE THEM NOTHING IN RETURN  IT IS SAD TO NOTE THAT VERY LARGE POPULATION OF THE HUMANITY SHALL BE THRON IN HELL FIRE FOR DISOBEDIENCE TO ALLAH THE GREAT WHO ENT 1,25,000 PROPHETS TO DELIVER HIS MESSAGE OF ONENESS OF ONLY ONE ALLAH THE ALMIGHTY NEVER THE LESS THE RESERACH MADE B Y CHICAGO UNIVERSITY IS HIGHLY APPRECIABLE AS IT THROWS GREAT LIGHT ON THE OLD CIVILIZATION EGYPT  I AM LOOKING FOR THE MOUNTAIN VENSUVIUS  WHICH DESTROYED POMPEII AND HECULANEUM KINDLY SHOW ME DETAILED PHOTOS AND SRTICLES ON THE SAID UBJECT I SHALL BE HIGHLY GRATEFUL

robbie butler
robbie butler

they where built   to show people  that egyptiansn  existed   and to show ppl wart there capable off years  ago

Guen Perry
Guen Perry

Device or not. The pyramids were definitely not used for burial chambers. And besides some partially translated hieroglyphs found at one location near the Giza there is no real evidence King Khufu built the Giza. I wish the American Research Center in Egypt  would stop pushing their own agendas on archaeologist and allow them to come up with their own logical assessment of various sites.

Guen Perry
Guen Perry

 Device or not. The pyramids were definitely not used for burial chambers. And besides some partially translated hieroglyphs found at one location near the Giza there is no real evidence King Khufu built the Giza. I wish the American Research Center in Egypt  would stop pushing their own agendas on archaeologist and allow them to come up with their own logical assessment of various sites.

Zach Purnell
Zach Purnell

They pyramids served as electrical conduit towers.  Batteries were built in clay pottery.

Curt Mayer
Curt Mayer

@Zach Purnell The pyramids were originally built to detect idiots in the future.  Even with over half of its bulk removed, and almost 50 centuries later, the Edfu device is still extremely effective, having flushed out the above poster.

Russ Nash
Russ Nash

@Y Q @Curt Mayer@Zach Purnell

Yes device. Do stay in context. 

Zach's clay batteries, best placed where the sun doesn't reach, could give either of you quite a shock. You'd be surprised!

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