The Step Pyramid is safe and sound, says antiquities official

Ahram Online, Saturday 6 Sep 2014

Egypt's antiquities ministry has rebuffed allegations that the Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara — considered the oldest stone monument in the world — is in danger

Djoser step pyramid
Djoser step pyramid (Photo: Ahram Online)

Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities Saturday announced that the Djoser Step Pyramid in Saqqara necropolis is safe and sound and that reports published in newspapers that a block of its stepped structure had collapsed were unfounded.

Kamal Wahid, director of Giza antiquities, told Ahram Online that restoration works at the Djoser Step Pyramid use the latest technology and are ongoing according to a plan approved by the antiquities ministry and its consultancy bureau. He added that the restoration work is also approved by UNESCO.

"The company in charge of the restoration is registered with the government as an 'A' category company, like the Arab Contractors and Orascom, for example, which means that it is a good and qualified company," Wahid asserted.

Two days ago activists accused the ministry of negligence because it assigned restoration work to an unqualified company that led to the collapse of a major part of the 4,600-year-old Step Pyramid.

Activists accused the company of being responsible for a major deterioration at the site, including the collapse of a section of the pyramid during earlier restoration work.

Amir Gamal, representative of the "Non-Stop Robberies" movement, accused both the company and the ministry of a full-fledged crime by building new walls outside the pyramid that did not accord to international standards on restoration work, which prohibit adding more than five percent new construction to antiquities, if necessary.

He added that the company started the restoration work in 2006 and was meant to complete it by 2008, and that the condition of the pyramid is going from bad to worse.

Wahid said no wall has been constructed around the pyramid as claimed, and that not a single block of the pyramid collapsed. As for the delay in restoration work, Wahid cited lack of funds.

Wahid added that any deterioration of the pyramid is due to climatic effects, environmental erosion factors, and the leakage of subterranean water — not to mention the 1992 earthquake.

The restoration plan includes consolidating the pyramid's underground tunnels, monitoring cracks, restoring wall decorations and inspecting the natural ventilation inside the pyramid and the southern tomb.

In 2010, a structural repair and reinforcement system was put into motion. This involved temporary structural support in preparation for more permanent reinforced steel rods to be inserted diagonally through the steps of the pyramid, knitting together the six levels.

The Step Pyramid was designed by architect Imhotep to hold the mummy of Third Dynasty King Djoser and preserve it for eternity. At the time of its completion, the Step Pyramid was the largest building ever constructed, representing a sophisticated and dramatic leap in architectural scale and style.

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