Step Pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan

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The identity of the builder of the Step Pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan, located to the north of Saqqara, is not known with certainty. No name is mentioned in the monument itself, but  vases found in a nearby mastaba do mention the name of the Horus Khaba. As it was customary for members of the nobility to be buried near their king, this has been taken as evidence that the unfinished Step Pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan was built for Khaba.

However commissioned this funerary complex, made the choice to move away from the site his predecessors, Horus Netjerikhet and Horus Sekhemkhet chose for their burial.
The monument was also built much closer to the floodline, again a departure from the trend set by the earlier kings of the 3rd Dynasty, who built their pyramids well into the desert.

Had this pyramid been finished, it would have risen up in 5 steps to a height of some 45 metres. There were no traces of outer casing, an indication that indeed, this monument was never finished.

Although it is somewhat simpler, the substructure is similar to that of the Step Pyramid of Sekhemkhet. It substructure consists of a sloping corridor dug in the ground, leading to a burial chamber of 3.63 by 2.65 metres and a height of 3 metres.

Click or tap the little circles in this 3D cutout of he step pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 95

There is no trace of a burial and even the surrounding galleries were left empty. Many Egyptologists have seen this as an indication that whoever built this monument died prematurely. But this does not really explain why there are no traces of a burial at all.

Worth mentioning is also that one of the mastabas near this pyramid contained seal impressions and a pottery fragment with the name of the Horus Narmer. This may show that Narmer has been active in the Memphite area.


© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017