A lost artifact from the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of only three artifacts ever recovered inside the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, was found in a chance find at the University of Aberdeen.
Curatorial assistant Abeer Eladany, originally from Egypt, was examining items from the university’s Asia collection when she came across a cigar box bearing her country’s old flag.
Inside, she found several splinters of wood which she then identified as a fragment of wood from the Great Pyramid that had been missing for over a century.
“The university’s collections are vast – numbering hundreds of thousands of items – so looking for them is like finding a needle in a haystack. I couldn’t believe it when I realized what was inside that innocuous looking cigar box, ”she said.
The wood fragment is one of a trio of objects discovered by engineer Waynman Dixon inside the pyramid’s Queens Chamber in 1872.
Known as the ‘Dixon relics’, two of them – a ball and a hook – are kept in the British Museum, while some have speculated that the lost piece of cedar was part of a ruler. measurement that could reveal clues about the construction of the pyramid.
The fragment is believed to have been bequeathed to the university by Dixon’s friend James Grant, but has never been classified and, despite extensive research, could not be located.
The discovery of the relic also raised new questions, as carbon dating has shown that the wood can be dated to the period 3341-3094 BC – some 500 years earlier than historical records that date the Great Pyramid to the reign. of Pharaoh Khufu in 2580 -2560BC.
Neil Curtis, director of museums and special collections at the university, said: “The discovery of the missing Dixon relic was a surprise, but the carbon dating was also a revelation.
“It’s even older than we imagined. This may be because the date relates to the age of the wood, perhaps at the center of a long-lived tree. Alternatively, it could be because of the scarcity of trees in ancient Egypt, which meant that the wood was scarce, valuable, and recycled or maintained for many years.
“It will now be for scholars to debate its use and whether it was deliberately deposited, as happened later during the New Kingdom, when the pharaohs tried to emphasize continuity with the past by burial of antiques with them.
The cedar fragment originally belonged to a much larger piece of wood, which was recently seen during a 1993 exploration of the interior of the pyramid by a robotic camera in hidden and now inaccessible voids.
Eladany said: “I am an archaeologist and have worked on excavations in Egypt, but I never imagined that it would be here in the North East of Scotland that I would find something so important. for the heritage of my own country.
“It may just be a small piece of wood, which is now in several pieces, but it is extremely important given that it is one of only three items ever recovered from the interior of the Great Pyramid.