The “missing pyramid” (photo, from boston.com) of a pharaoh has been uncovered by Egyptian archaoligists, as well as a ceremonial procession road on which high priests carried mummified remains of sacred bulls, said Egypt’s antiquities chief on Thursday.
The pyramid, on which only the base remains, is believed to be that of King Menkauhor, an obsucre pharaoh who ruled for only eight years, more than 4 000 years ago, said Zahi Hawass.
The “Headless Pyramid“, because its top was missing, that is how Karl Richard Lepsius, a German archaeologist, called it in 1842. It was among his finds at Saqqara, said Mr Hawass.
But since Lepsius’ discovery was covered by the desert sands, no archaeologist was able to find it.
“We have filled the gap of the missing pyramid” said Mr Hawass, on a tour of the discoveries at Saqqara, the necropolis and burial site of the rulers of ancient Memphis, the capital of Egypt’s Old Kingdom, south of Cairo.
Only the pyramid’s base, the superstructure, as archeologists call it, was found after a 25-foot-high mound of sand was removed over the past year and a half by Hawass’ team.
Leaps of huge rocks were marking the pyramid entrance and walls. The base was in a 15 foot-deep pit dug out by workers. A burial chamber also was discovered.
The style of the pyramid and the gray granite sarcophagus lid, found in the burial chamber, both indicates that the pyramid dates backto the Fifth Dynasty, a period that began in 2465 B.C. and ended in 2325 B.C.
It would put it about two centuries after the completion of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which are believed to have been finished in 2500 B.C.
Mr Hawass said it was convinced the pyramid belonged to Menkauhor based on the estimated dating of it, because no cartouche, containing the pharoah’s name in hieroglyphs, of the pyramid’s owner has been found.
On Thursday, Mr Hawass announced a second discovery : a part of a ceremonial procession road, dating to the Ptolemaic period, that ran for about 300 years before 30 B.C.
The road runs alongside Menkauhor’s pyramid, going from a mummification chamber toward the Saqqara Serapium, a network of underground tombs where sacred bulls were interred, discovered by French archaeologist August Mariette in 1850.
The mummified bull’s remains would be carried down the road by the high priest, the only human allegedly allowed to walk on it, to the chambers where the bulls would be placed in sarcophagi in the Serapium, about a third of a mile away, he said.
Apis bulls were considered by Ancient Egyptians as the earthy incarnations of the city god of Memphis, also connected with fertility and the sun-cult.
Chosen for its deep black coloring, a bull would be required to have a single white mark, between the horns. They were selected by priests and honored until death. Then it was mummified and buried in the Serapium’s underground galleries.
The sprawling archaeological site at Saqqara is most famous for the Step Pyramid of King Djoserm, the oldest of Egypt’s 100-plus pyramids, built in the 27th century B.C.