Buried Pyramid

The Buried Pyramid (also called the Pyramid of Sekhemkhet) is an unfinished step pyramid constructed c. 2645 BC for Sekhemkhet Djoserty. He was the second pharaoh of the Third Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, which reigned over Egypt c. 2686–2613 BC and is usually placed at the beginning of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Many historians believe that the third dynasty played an important role in the transition from Early Dynastic Period of Egypt to the Age of the Pyramids. The pyramid may be visited, but the public is not allowed access to the base and substructures. Sekhemkhet Djoserty was also the successor to the better-known pharaoh Djoser, who was buried in his famous step pyramid at Saqqara. The buried pyramid was originally modelled after Djoser’s step pyramid and is located several hundred metres southwest. It is also arguable that the pyramid of Sekhemkhet was originally designed to surpass the step pyramid of Djoser but barely made it above ground level and hence was given the name the Buried Pyramid. Its incompletion is thought to have been due to Sekhemkhet’s short reign as ruler, which was approximately six years.


Ivory plaque found in 1955 by Z. Goneim on the floor of the main hall of the pyramid and bearing the Nebty name Djeserty and a list of linen fabrics.
The Buried Pyramid was a previously unknown structure until, in 1951, Egyptologist Zakaria Goneim noticed the odd rectangular shape in the desert while excavating the nearby Unas complex. A three part rubble-coursed enclosure wall was first discovered, and by digging to its bottom, it was found to be 5.2 m (17 ft) tall and 18 m (60 ft) thick. He later discovered that the wall further extended on both sides to dimensions of 520 m (1,700 ft) in the north-south axis and 180 m (600 ft) to the east-west and was full of false doors and niches. The pyramid itself was located at the centre of the complex, with a base length of 115 m (377 ft), it had only one step and was unfinished. During the next stage of excavation, Goneim discovered a descending passage to the north side which led to a gallery blocked with rubble and masonry. There were a number of objects found during the excavation of this gallery including animal bones, demotic papyri, and Third Dynasty stone vessels. In a decayed wooden casket, gold was discovered which included gold bracelets, cosmetic cases, beads, and jars inscribed with Sekhemkhet’s name.

The entrance to the subterranean structure lies to the north, starting with a narrow passage that descends for about 61 m (200 ft) until meeting a vertical shaft from the top of the corridor. At this spot, another passage leads down to a row of 136 unfinished galleries which forms a U shape around the pyramid. Two further such magazine galleries appear right before the entrance to the burial chamber with a similar disposition, like their counterparts, they were never finished. The burial chamber has a base measurement of 8.8 m × 5.18 m (28.9 ft × 17.0 ft) and a height of 4.5 m (15 ft). It was also left unfinished, yet it contained a complete burial arrangement. The sarcophagus is cut from a single block of fine alabaster; its lid was vertical, slid into place and held at the front face by means of mortar sealing.