What is the Headless Pyramid?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Headless Pyramid is a pyramid in Egypt which was thought lost for over 150 years before being discovered again in 2008 by a dedicated archaeological team. This pyramid had long been a topic of discussion and debate, making the rediscovery of the Headless Pyramid an exciting event for many Egyptologists. Now that the pyramid has been found, studies on the site and surrounding area may be able to provide more information about it.

Man holding a globe
Man holding a globe

German archaeologist Karl Lepsius was the first to spot the Headless Pyramid, in the 1800s. His name for it referenced the fact that the top of the pyramid was missing. It is believed that the head of the pyramid was removed to build housing at some point, rather than eroding naturally. Shortly after his discovery, shifting sands covered the pyramid, and no one was able to identify it. The fact that he had clearly seen the pyramid spurred archaeologists to attempt to find it, using his data to zone in on the precise location of the Headless Pyramid so that they could start digging.

This pyramid is located south of Cairo, in a necropolis known as Saqqara. The Headless Pyramid is in the northern area of the necropolis, and when it was ultimately dug out, it was discovered to be badly eroded. In addition to the missing top, much of the sides had crumbled or disappeared as well, leaving more of a footprint than an actual pyramid. Using the layout of the pyramid and surrounding temple complex, along with the unique granite used for the sarcophagus, archaeologists dated the Headless Pyramid to the Old Kingdom, and suggested that it had been built to honor King Kenkauhor, a very short-lived Egyptian monarch.

In addition to the Headless Pyramid and surrounding complex, the crew also found a processional road which was used to carry sacred items to the pyramid. Researchers on the team noted that the Headless Pyramid lacked the distinctive labyrinth used in Middle Kingdom construction, using this as firm evidence to support their dating, and estimates seem to suggest that it was built around 200 years after the famous Pyramids at Giza.

As with other archaeological sites, access to the Headless Pyramid is controlled, to ensure that the site is not damaged, but visitors can see the pyramid by arrangement, or if they wish to participate in guided tours of the Saqqara necropolis. For non-archaeologists, the site may not be terribly exciting, thanks to the fact that the pyramid is largely gone.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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