Egyptian archaeologists refute claims by German amateurs on Great Pyramid

Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 27 Nov 2013

Head of ancient Egyptian antiquities explains why he thinks claims by two German amateurs concerning the construction date of the Great Pyramid are wrong

The chamber where khufu
The chamber where khufu's cartouche is located

In response to the alleged stealing of samples from the Great Pyramid by two German amateur archaeologists, Egypt's antiquities ministry issued a press release Wednesday discrediting all findings by the German pair.

The archaeologists took a piece of Kufu's cartouche from a small compartment above his burial chamber and smuggled it to Germany for study, the Ancient Egyptian section of the Ministry of State of Antiquities (MSA) reported.

The results announced by the two Germans cast doubt on the construction date of the Great Pyramid and consequently the Pharaoh for which it was built.

The results suggest that the pyramid was built in an era preceding Khufu's reign. It also suggests that the Pyramid is not the burial place for a king but a centre of power.

Mohamed Abdel Maqsoud, head of the ancient Egyptian department, asserted in a press release on Wednesday that a multitude of scientific research from the past two centuries shows that the Great Pyramid belongs to King Khufu, the second king of the fourth dynasty, and that it was built during his reign to be used as his royal burial place for eternity.

A pyramid is not a sole object; it is part of a structural complex connected to each others. This includes the pyramid itself, the funerary temple, the side pyramid, solar boat pits, the ramp and the valley temple, Maqsoud said.

He emphasised that Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt during the fifth century BC, said that the ramp of King Khufu's Pyramid took 20 years of construction work and its walls were painted with scenes from Khufu's era.

The original blocks, many of which bore the King's name, were reused in the construction of the pyramids during the Middle Kingdom in the Lesht and Dahshur areas.

Archaeologist George Raisner discovered the tomb of Khufu's mother, Queen Hetep Heres, to the east of the Great Pyramid, and archaeologist Ferdinand Debono found engravings of King Khufu's at Wadi Hamamat, now displayed in the Egyptian museum in Cairo, Maqsoud added.

The cartouche that the German archaeologists sampled was scrawled in red by the Great Pyramid builders in the 17th year of Khufu's reign.

According to the custom at the time, workers used to write on the walls of the structures they built in order to assert their belonging to an individual or king. Such cartouches were found in the entrance of Khufu's solar boat pit.

Maqsoud asserted scientific evidence shows that the pyramid builders' necropolis was found at the eastern rock of the Giza Plateau in 1990, and that each tomb contains details of its owner and his job description, as well as his or her skeleton and funerary collection.

"The most important archaeological evidence that Khufu is the king that built the Great Pyramid is the discovery carried out in 2012 by French archaeologist Pierre Tallet in a rock cave at Wadi Al-Jarff area, two kilometres south of Zaafarana, on the Red Sea," Maqsoud concluded.

He added that Tallet found a collection of papyri dated to the reign of King Khufu mentioning the number of workers, artisans and boats that were used to transport the pyramid's blocks to the Giza plateau.

According to studies carried out by the French mission, these papyri were part of the diary of an engineer who was involved in the construction of the Great Pyramid.

The papyri also show the engineer's working plan and a description of the way the ancient Egyptians transported the blocks.

German archaeologist Rudolf Cooper also uncovered graffiti in the Western Desert at the Dakhla oasis revealing that Khufu and his son Djedef Re sent missions to import colours and oxides for decorating the Pyramid's inner walls.

Ahmed Saeed, professor of ancient Egyptian civilization at Cairo University, supports Abdel Maqsoud, saying that what the German amateurs have claimed is totally false and nonsensical.

He elaborates on the writing of the King's name in graffiti, maintaining it could have been written by the pyramid builders after construction, which might also explain why the king's short name and not his official title is inscribed.

Alternatively, he suggests the cartouche could have been written during the Middle Kingdom era, due to the style of writing used.

He said that graffiti left by visitors on the walls of monuments have helped Egyptologists to know the short names of several kings that they otherwise wouldn't have known, among them Djoser. New Kingdom graffiti left on the walls of the monuments at Saqqara revealed that King Nesri-Khet was in fact Djoser.

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