Colin Reader :
“Giza Before the Fourth Dynasty” - IV
Première partie : ICI
Deuxième partie : ICI
Troisième partie : ICI
Other evidence for early activity at Giza
It is generally considered that extensive development at Giza was limited to the 4th Dynasty and what little activity there was before this was restricted to areas to the south of the necropolis. Although my argument for an Early Dynastic solar-cult complex, with the Sphinx at its focus, clearly runs contrary to this general opinion, there is published archaeological evidence to indicate some activity within the Giza necropolis from as early as the late Predynastic period.
As discussed by Baigent (see above), Mortensen (46) discusses four ceramic jars, reportedly found in the late 1800's 'at the foot of the Great Pyramid' (the exact location has not been recorded). When these jars were first found, the Predynastic period was little understood and, given the accepted 4th Dynasty context of the Giza site, the jars were assumed to be of 4th Dynasty date. Mortensen, however, has re-examined these jars and considers them to be typical of the late Predynastic Ma'adi period. Given that the jars were found intact, Mortensen has also argued that they were from a burial rather than a settlement site. These jars, together with other isolated finds at Giza, have been interpreted as evidence for a Ma'adi-period settlement at Giza that was destroyed when the 4th Dynasty pyramids were built. (47)
Set against the context of the 4th Dynasty development, the destruction of Predynastic and Early Dynastic artefacts within the Giza necropolis is an important consideration. When the 4th Dynasty land-use of the site is considered, most of the available area within the necropolis was either quarried or built upon. These are both rather destructive activities which may have necessitated the removal of earlier structures and the disposal of the resulting 'site clearance' debris. This debris may have been deposited in the base of worked-out quarries or in other known areas of dumping, outside the area of construction.
In the mid 1970's, Karl Kromer, investigated one such area of debris, approximately one kilometre south of the Great Pyramid. (48) Within the fill, Kromer reported finds from the Late Predynastic, 1st, 2nd and 4th Dynasties.Kromer's work has been criticised by Butzer, (49) however, analysis of this critique shows that Butzer did not question the age of the finds but concentrated on Kromer's interpretation, suggesting that the stratigraphy of the excavation site was more complex than Kromer had reported. Whereas Kromer identified the deposition of only a single 'settlement', Butzer suggested that a number of such episodes were represented, the remains of which were separated by layers of wind-blown sand and possible debris slides. Butzer did accept that the deposits excavated by Kromer consisted of accumulations of drift-sand together with the remains of development which had been removed from the area of the pyramids and dumped at the excavation site during the Old Kingdom.
Although Butzer did not criticise the age attributed to the finds, Kromer's interpretation has been criticised by others. Whilst the age of ceramics, stone tools etc. may remain contentious, most people do accept the jar sealings that were excavated as being of Early Dynastic date. (50)
So, the claims for the strong '4th Dynasty context' of Giza begin to look increasingly insecure. Although most of the pre-4th Dynasty artefacts found at Giza have been recovered from outside the 4th Dynasty necropolis, it can be argued that the mechanism by which this earlier material was removed from its original position and deposited elsewhere, is widely understood and generally accepted.
Further evidence that there was Early Dynastic activity at Giza may actually come from within the necropolis itself - particularly the Central Field Quarry area, and the tombs of Khentkawes and Kai (Figure 2).
|Khentkawes : photo The Pyramids of Egypt|
Both the lower rock-cut element of the Khentkawes tomb and the nearby rock cut mastaba of Kai bear two groups of features that are of considerable interest for my argument.Firstly, on these two tombs, the upper limestone beds are cut by features of erosion which resemble (but are less intense) than those on the western Sphinx enclosure walls. In my view, such features were formed before the pattern of surface drainage at Giza was disrupted by the large scale 4th Dynasty development of the site which, in relation to these tombs, included extensive quarrying, upslope, within the Central Field Quarry area.
Remarkably, on these two tombs, the features - so suggestive of pre-quarrying or pre-4th Dynasty erosion - are accompanied by a second set of features which also suggest an Early Dynastic origin. On the lower walls of these tombs are the weathered remains of niched- or palace-façade decoration - a typical Early Dynastic architectural device.
The niched-façade features on the tomb of Khentkawes have been recognized by others, (51), (52) and are limited to the lower part of the southern wall of the tomb, facing the Main Wadi (Figure 2). In its completed 4th Dynasty state, the Khentkawes tomb was faced throughout with a limestone casing. This casing will have obscured the rock-cut niches, further suggesting that the niched features pre-date the use of the tomb for the burial of Khentkawes.
Fig. 12: The remains of the niched-façade on the eastern cut face
of the tomb of Kai with Old Kingdom masonry in the foreground.
In the case of Kai (Figure 12), the remains of the niched-façade extend along both the southern and eastern faces of the superstructure, facing both the main wadi and the Nile valley itself. Whether there is any significance associated with the fact that the niched-façades appear only on the faces of the tombs facing the Nile and its associated former waterway is uncertain.
When compared with the tomb of Khentkawes, the excavated niches on the eastern face of the tomb of Kai are better preserved, extending to a greater height up the external walls of the rock-cut mastaba. This better preservation can be readily explained as the result of protection from degradation provided by a number of subsidiary tombs constructed against the eastern face of the mastaba.
The use of the Early Dynastic niched-façade on the exterior of the tombs of Khentkawes and Kai, differs significantly from the austere architectural style generally adopted at Giza in the 4th Dynasty, with plain façades interrupted only by false doors and individual offering niches. Although their age appears not to have been established during excavation, (53) the tombs built against the eastern face of the mastaba of Kai exhibit this plain, typically Old Kingdom, architectural style (see Figure 12).
Although these apparently Old Kingdom tombs have prevented the degradation of the underlying niches, from close inspection it is apparent that there was a period of time between the excavation of the niches and the later, apparently Old Kingdom construction. Behind the Old Kingdom masonry, the limestone from which the niched panels were cut has a dark patina, a product of weathering (see Figure 13). The preservation of this patina does not coincide with the extent of the overlying masonry. It can only be concluded, therefore, that the niched-façade had weathered considerably before the adjacent Old Kingdom masonry was added.
Fig. 13: Old Kingdom style masonry (A) placed against
and covering the darker niched-façade (B) at the tomb of Kai.
On the basis of the features of erosion along the upper beds of these two rock cut tombs, the weathering of the niched-façade, and the juxtaposition of apparently Old Kingdom tombs, I would argue that the mastaba of Kai and the lower rock-cut element of the Khentkawes tomb, originally formed part of an Early Dynastic development at Giza - the development which had as its focus the Great Sphinx and associated structures.
The work of both Mortensen and Kromer and the detailed architecture of the tombs of Khentkawes and Kai demonstrate that there is evidence for pre-4th Dynasty activity at Giza. What is noteworthy is that the period of time indicated by this evidence is consistent with the time-scales that I have established on the basis of other quite independent considerations (such as the use of stone masonry in Ancient Egypt).
When, in October 1997, I first produced a paper on my views of the age of the Sphinx, the scope of the 'evidence' I cited was fairly restricted. On the basis of the nature and greater intensity of the degradation of the limestones in the west of the Sphinx enclosure, and the effect that Khufu's quarrying had on the hydrology of the plateau, I concluded that the Sphinx and a number of other structures must have pre-dated the 4th Dynasty. Taking into consideration the earliest known use of stone masonry in Egypt, I dated this Sphinx complex to the Early Dynastic period.
At that time, I was unaware of the 4th Dynasty cutting in the Member I terrace in the north of the Sphinx enclosure, and unaware of the work of Mortensen and Kromer and the implications of their finds on the evidence for Early Dynastic activity at Giza. I was also unaware of the detailed architecture of the tombs of Khentkawes and Kai and the evidence for advanced masonry in the Early Dynastic cemetery at Helwan.
Since reaching the conclusion that the Sphinx is an Early Dynastic monument, continued research has uncovered so many additional factors which appear to confirm my initial view that Giza was a site of at least local importance in the Early Dynastic period, several centuries before the pyramids were built on the necropolis. I believe that the weight of evidence is such that it is now extremely difficult to reconcile the geology and archaeology of the plateau with Giza's conventional 4th Dynasty origin.
Undoubtedly, Khafre did have a major influence on the Sphinx - but not as its builder. I believe that the unique layout of Khafre's mortuary complex, which included the Sphinx and Sphinx temple, developed as a result of that pharaoh's usurpation or re-working of the existing solar-cult complex. How better could the association of the king with the sun-god have been symbolised, other than by linking Khafre's 'mansion of eternity' with a long established site of solar worship and the everlasting circle of birth, death and re-birth manifested by the daily rising and setting of the sun ?
46. B. Mortensen: 'Four Jars From the Ma'adi Culture found at Giza' in MDAIK 41 (1985), pp. 145-47.
47. K. Bard: From Farmers to Pharaohs (Sheffield, 1994), p. 21.
48. K. Kromer: 'Siedlungsfunde Aus Dem Fruhen Alten Reich in Giseh' in Osterreichische Ausgrabungen 1971-75, Osterreichische Akademie Der Wissenschaften Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Denkschriften, 136.
49. K. Butzer: 'Review of "Siedlungsfunde Aus Dem Fruhen Alten Reich in Giseh'" in JNES 41:2 (April 1982), pp. 93-95.
50. Personal correspondence between the author and Dr. R. Friedman, 26 June 1999.
51. V. Maragioglio and C. A. Rinaldi: L'Architettura delle piramidi Menfite VI (Rapallo, 1967).
52. S. Hassan: Excavations at Giza 3 (Cairo, 1931-1932). The Mastaba of Shaft 559 (see Plate 5ii) was excavated by Hassan, however, the finds were sparse and did not allow the tomb to be dated. Further tombs (the mastaba of shafts 560, 561 and 562), were either not excavated or were not published.
53. P. Clayton, op. cit. .
UpdateSince its publication in 2002, I have been pursuing the issues discussed in the JACF paper and, whilst some issues remain as 'work in progress', I'd like to take this opportunity to provide the following two updates to the main body of the paper.
Rock Cut Foundation Walls
In the paper I discussed one unusual architectural feature shared by the Sphinx Temple and Proto-Mortuary temple; namely the fact that some of the walls that formed these structures had been 'cut' from the bedrock as ground levels had been locally reduced. I saw this unusual architectural device as a feature which linked these two structures and strengthened the common pre-Fourth Dynasty origin that I had established for them from other evidence. Quite separately, later in the paper, I also included the rock-cut element of the Khentkawes tomb in the group of pre-Fourth Dynasty structures at Giza.
Interestingly, I have recently identified a north-south trending wall that runs close to the north east corner of Khentkawes, which is also hewn from the bedrock.
Here then, we have a third structure (i.e. Khentkawes) which the geological evidence suggests pre-dates the Fourth Dynasty and which also shares this unusual architectural device.
Other Evidence for early activity at Giza
In the original JACF paper, I mentioned the four Maadi jars that were found at the foot of the Great Pyramid in the late 1800’s and argued that this was a possible indication of the area being of some importance before the Fourth Dynasty.
Since then, I have researched this issue a little further and have established that at least the peripheral areas of Giza are known to have had Early Dynastic development - such as Petrie’s First Dynasty Mastaba ‘T’, and the Third Dynasty Covington’s Tomb, both of which are located to the south of the necropolis.
As well as the four jars discussed in my original paper, further Maadi period finds are known for the Giza area. These include finds of similar jars made during the construction of the Giza tramway in the late 1800’s, probably close to the Mena House golf-course.
The Maadi culture is well known from sites that have been excavated on the east bank of the Nile, however, finds in the area of the Giza Plateau are the only Maadi material found to date on the west bank of the Nile. It could be argued that this apparent Giza-Maadi ‘anomaly’ is, in fact, simply a bias in the data, the presence of the Maadi culture at Giza being simply the result of the greater intensity of archaeological work undertaken at this site. Recent excavation suggests, however, that this is not the case.
The Greater Cairo Waste Water Project involved the excavation of many miles of trench for the laying of sewer pipes around the suburbs of Cairo. It was anticipated that these works would encounter a great deal of archaeological material and this was indeed the case (Sanussi and Jones, 'A Site of the Maadi Culture near the Giza Pyramids' MDAIK 53, 1997, p241-253). However, as Sanussi and Jones discuss, in one short stretch of trench (about 60m long) a short distance north of the Giza Plateau a further cache of Maadi pots was found. No finds of a similar age were found in any of the other continuous sections of trench excavated on the west bank of the Nile as part of the sewage project.
There is, therefore, increasing evidence for late Pre-Dynastic activity in the Giza area. What precisely this activity represents remains to be seen.
© Colin Reader et Anthony Sakovich