Meidoum (Egypte): Researcher changes the dating of the necropolis

Polish researcher changes the dating of the famous Egyptian necropolis

Szymon Zdziebłowski  / PAP - Science and Scholarship in Poland

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The pyramid of Meidum from the Old Kingdom period, one of the most famous monuments in the necropolis. Photo by T. Rzeuska.

Royal cemetery in Meidum developed continuously at least until the late New Kingdom period, the end of the second millennium BC, determined Dr. Teodozja Rzeuska, archaeologist at the Institute of Mediterranean and Oriental Culture PAS. Until now, Egyptologists believed that the dead had been buried there only in times of the builders of the pyramids, in the third millennium BC. 

Archaeological site Meidum represents the southern border of the most famous necropolis of the ancient world - the Memphite necropolis, which includes the largest pyramids built for the pharaohs Khufu and Khafre.

"Scientists associate Meidum with a finely crafted mastaba (tomb of the mighty - editor. PAP) relief depicting geese, with one of the oldest mummies found in Nefer mastaba, and with sculptures depicting the family of Pharaoh Snefru (IV Dynasty, 27th century BC). The necropolis is considered one of the most recognisable in Egypt, but paradoxically it is also one of the least known and most mysterious "- said Dr. Teodozja Rzeuska.

One of the first scientists to conduct regular excavations there in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century was British archaeologist W.F.M. Petrie, pioneer and father of Egyptian archaeology. At the end of the 1920s, American researcher Alan Rowe also carried out short excavation work in Meidum. The last archaeologist to conduct excavations there was Aly El-Khuli. 40 years have passed since that time.

"The results of several scientific expeditions helped formulate a thesis, which in time became the dogma that in Meidum the dead had been buried only in the early reign of the fourth dynasty. Shortly afterwards the place was to be abandoned in favour of other parts of the Memphite necropolis, like Dahshur and Giza" - said Dr. Rzeuska.

According to the researcher, many modern scientists approached the problem of dating the necropolis uncritically. All tombs and monuments are automatically dated to the early Old Kingdom.

Dr Teodozja Rzeuska decided to take a closer look at monuments published in numerous scientific articles, especially ceramics. Preliminary work has already yielded a surprising result.

"It turned out that the necropolis in Meidum not only had not been abandoned during the early Old Kingdom, but it had been developing continuously for another one thousand five hundred years, at least until the late New Kingdom" - explained the researcher.

Dr. Rzeuska bases her analysis of the historical topography of Meidum on original, almost one hundred years old excavation documentation made by the W.F.M Pietri and Alan Rowe. The research was made possible with KWERENDA programme grant received from the Foundation for Polish Science.

The end result of the analysis is the publication of monographic study in the English language, devoted to the historical topography of the royal necropolis at Meidum, which will be released after the project completion.