Sunday, June 18, 2006

Archive: Discovery of Khufu satellite pyramid

A new anecdote by Zahi Hawass on the Egyptian Gazette website, reproduced here in full due to the lack of archive on the site.
"At the southeast corner of the Great Pyramid was a large mound of sand. In 1991, I told my assistant to begin clearing this so that we could see what was underneath and we found a pyramid! I was thrilled. Petrie had excavated in this area in 1881; the American archaeologist George Reisner had been here in the early 1900s; and Selim Hassan had done further clearance in 1940. So we had expectations of finding anything new, especially something as important as a pyramid.
When I examined the newly discovered monument, I saw that it had a square base, the typical shape for a pyramid; its position, at the southeast corner of the upper pyramid complex, identified it immediately as Khufu's missing satellite pyramid.The satellite pyramid is an important element of the Old Kingdom pyramid complex, but its function is still subject to debate. Some scholars think it was a symbolic burial place for the ka, or spirit double, of the king; others think it was for the burial of the king's placenta, canopic jars, or crowns; and still others believe it was a solar symbol. I believe that it might have been connected with the Sed Festival, a celebration whose exact meaning is still uncertain. It is often called the royal jubilee, as it was generally celebrated for the first time after thirty years of rule. Some historians think it reconfirmed the king as ruler, guaranteed his royal power, or renewed his life and his strength. I believe the festival was held by the king to commemorate his victories and announce that he had finished all that the gods had asked him to do.The pyramid complexes of Khufu's immediate predecessors and successors all have satellite pyramids south of their main pyramids. In pyramid complexes during the rest of the Old Kingdom, the satellite pyramid is typically placed at the southeast corner of the pyramid enclosure. The fact that Khufu did not have a satellite pyramid was always a mystery, and this new find fills a major gap in our knowledge of the development of the pyramid complex."

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