Sunday, April 20, 2014

End-of-the-season: The Pyramid

We began this season hoping to establish a date for the largest pyramid at El Kurru and perhaps even to find the name of the king buried there. We knew that we would have a challenge navigating the possibility that the underground rooms would be structurally unsound and we had prepared to build support structures that would protect us during our work.

What we did not anticipate was the sheer volume of sand, dirt, and rocks that we would have to remove from the staircase and the inner rooms. We estimate we may have moved 250 tons of debris during the course of this season with a core group of around 20 very strong and very hard-working men from El Kurru village.

We cleared the staircase and the first underground chamber that Reisner has also cleared. The staircase itself was 23 meters long and 8 meters deep—a really impressive structure. The stairs were not well preserved at the top, but toward the bottom where they had remained covered by sediment over the centuries, the steps are still visible.

Reisner always designated the first room of pyramid burial chambers “Room A”. While he had cleared it, he did not note a pattern of 12 postholes cut into the floor that may have supported a kind of canopy over the coffin of the dead king during the burial ritual.

We reached the second chamber, “Room B”, and were able to excavate far further into the room than Reisner had done—in fact, reaching the end of the chamber, which was about 5 meters long. We found that it too had a pattern of postholes in the floor, although they were smaller than in Room A.

Neither room, unfortunately, had any material from the original burial.

We did find evidence that the pyramid was sited deliberately next to the pyramid of Piye/Piankhy, though. In clearing the northern side of our pyramid, we found large blocks that were used to build Piye’s pyramid, and found that the foundation of our pyramid was built to incorporate the edge of Piye’s pyramid—a clear statement of ancestral association with this powerful Napatan king. 

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