An artifact lost from the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of three items recovered from within the last wonder of the ancient world, has been discovered in a chance discovery at the University of Aberdeen.
Curatorial Assistant Abir Eladani, originally from Egypt, was reviewing items in the university’s Asia collection when he saw a cigar box marked with his country’s former flag.
Inside he found several wooden splits, which he later identified as a piece of wood from the Great Pyramid, which had been missing for more than a century.
“The university’s collection is huge – it’s running into hundreds of thousands of items – so looking for it is like finding a needle in a haystack. I could not believe it when I realized what’s inside this harmless looking cigar,” he said.
The piece of wood is one of three objects discovered by engineer Weinmann Dixon in 1872 inside the Queen’s Room of the Pyramid.
The so-called ‘Dixon monuments’, two of which – a ball and a hook – are housed in the British Museum, while some speculate that the lost piece of cedar may have been part of a measurement rule, which may reveal clues to the construction of the pyramid.
This piece is believed to have been donated to the university by Dixon’s friend James Grant, but it has never been classified and could not be found despite extensive searching.
The discovery of the monument raises new questions as it shows that carbon dating can be dated to 3341-3094 BC – about 500 years before the historical records, the Great Pyramid dates back to 2580 BC during the reign of Pharaoh Kufu in 2580 BC.
Neil Curtis, head of the university’s museums and special collections, said: “The discovery of the missing Dixon monument was amazing, but carbon dating was also a revelation.
“It simply came to our notice then. The date is related to the age of the tree, which may be from the center of the long-lived tree. Alternatively, this may be due to the rarity of trees in ancient Egypt, which means the tree is in short supply, treasured and recycled or maintained for many years.
“Scholars should discuss its use, whether it was deliberately deposited and then occurred during the New Kingdom, when the Pharaohs tried to emphasize continuity with the past by burying antiquities with them.”
The cedar piece originally belonged to a very large tree, which in 1993 explored the interior of the pyramid in vacuums hidden by a robotic camera and now inaccessible.
Eladani said: “I was an archaeologist working in excavations in Egypt, but I never thought it would be in northeastern Scotland, and I will find something very important to my own country’s heritage.
“It may have been a small piece of wood, which is now several pieces, but it is very significant that it is one of three items recovered from within the Great Pyramid.”