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Top 6 Egyptian Artifacts Recovered from the Great Pyramids of Giza

posted on: Jul 27, 2021

By: Lindsey Penn/Arab America Contributing Writer

The Great Pyramids of Giza have been a source of wonder for many people. Between the pyramids themselves and all of the artifacts found inside, archaeologists and any Ancient Egyptian history buffs can have a field day. There is so much interesting history from the pyramids, enough to write entire books about. The following are just a few of the greatest artifacts found in the Great Pyramids.

The Dixon Relics

Named after Waynman Dixon, a 19th-century British explorer (not an archaeologist), the Dixon Relics is a set of three artifacts. Dixon found them in 1872 in the shafts of the Queen’s Chamber of the original Great Pyramid (Khufu’s pyramid). At the time of discovery, the artifacts were thought to be unrelated, but more research and study have proven otherwise. The artifacts are a hook, a granite ball, and a short rod, possibly made of cedar. Dixon and his partner, Dr. James Grant, brought the artifacts back to Britain. Dixon’s Relics disappeared for a century until another researcher found that the artifacts were passed down through the family. In 1972, the Dixon Relics were given to the British Museum by his family, where they disappeared again until 1993. One artifact has remained missing: the rod.

Despite the shaky history of the artifacts, they remain significant. At the time, Dixon wrote them off as a possible tool that a careless worker dropped down the shaft. His theory was that the ball was used as a hammer, and the rod and hook were attached to form another tool. However, as more artifacts have been found and more carefully studied, archaeologists now believe that the artifacts were placed in the shaft as a part of a ritual done by priests or architects. Some archaeologists believe that the hook was a tool used to open the deceased’s jaw so that they can eat or drink in the afterlife.

Khufu’s Sarcophagus

Khufu’s sarcophagus in 1904

The largest and oldest pyramid in the Great Pyramids of Giza is Khufu’s, a pharaoh in the 26th century BC. His sarcophagus was found in the exact central axis of the pyramid. However, his mummy was not inside of it. The Great Pyramid was looted, likely hundreds of years ago, despite the entrance to the burial chamber being filled with limestone to discourage looting. Instead, archaeologists or explorers did find his empty sarcophagus (which would have contained a smaller sarcophagus with his mummy and treasures). The sarcophagus is made of red granite, and is damaged from where looters likely broke the top to get the artifacts and the mummy out.

Although nothing was actually found in the sarcophagus, the artifact is proof of the way that Khufu was buried, and how the burial chamber was meant to be hidden. However, it is also a testament to the will of the looters, who were able to find the burial chamber and still loot the pyramid and many of the artifacts.

Khufu’s Ship

Photo: Dr. Amy Calvert

Technically not found in the Great Pyramid but in Khufu’s mortuary complex, archaeologist Kamal el-Mallakh discovered the cedar boat in pieces in 1954, after digging under a stone wall on the south side of the Great Pyramid. He found the boat in 1,224 pieces, strung together with bits of rope. The boat was reconstructed, totaling 142 feet long. In addition to this boat, there was another pit found with another deconstructed boat, although that one has been left alone.

The boat’s significance is more related to do with the rituals around the pharaoh’s funeral: archaeologists believe that the boats were used in Khufu’s funerary procession, then dismantled and placed in the pyramid.

Menkaure’s Triad Statue

There were many triad statues believed to be in Menkaure’s pyramid (the smallest pyramid of the three). One of these triad statues is considered a great artifact: the triad of Menkaure, the goddess Hathor, and the personified nome (a geographic area, in this case, it is the area that Menkaure rules). George Andrew Reisner found the statue, among many others, in his excavation of Menkaure’s funerary complex in 1908. The statue is made of greywacke, a variety of sandstone.

The statue, although somewhat typical for Ancient Egyptian statues, is incredibly important, as it reinforces the Ancient Egyptian art style. For one, the triad or idea of items in three is very prevalent in Ancient Egyptian culture (more information can be found on this here). Beyond that, though, the statue also shows the power of the king, especially associated with the goddess Hathor. One interesting point to note, though, is that this is the only triad statue found in Menkaure’s pyramid where the pharaoh is not in the middle, Hathor is. Even still, the statue is evidence in the depiction of pharaohs as equal to deities in their power.

Dyad Statue of Menkaure and His Queen

Another artifact found in Menkaure’s pyramid, the dyad statue is a very famous one. This dyad statue was found in 1910, in the same expedition that found the triad statue. The statue is also made of greywacke (sandstone), and is nearly life-size at about four and a half feet tall. Despite the age of the sculpture, it is in very good shape, and is now seen as the epitome of an Old Kingdom royal tomb sculpture. Technically, it is unfinished, as the lower part of their bodies weren’t polished.

The symbolism of the sculpture reflects the power of the royal couple, especially the king. They are depicted in the typical ways that royalty is shown, and place the emphasis on their power.

Khafre Enthroned

Khafre Enthroned is a statue found in the second pyramid. It was made from a single block of diorite. The statue was found in 1858 and is life-size. Khafre’s legs are made to resemble the legs of lions, and the throne that Khafre sits on is very elaborate. The details of the sculpture are remarkable, especially since diorite stone is hard and difficult to sculpt with. Khafre’s image has all of the typical displays of a pharaoh’s power: he wears the headdress and the ceremonial beard, has the royal pleated skirt, the royal cobra is next to him, the god Horus behind him, and has the heads of lions to his side.

All in all, the detail on this sculpture is unbelievable, showing the expertise and workmanship of the sculptor. It also shows the length that the pharaohs expected their subjects to go to when sculpting them.


Source: LBM0/Flickr

Technically not an artifact, but many artifacts, the hieroglyphs found in the Great Pyramids of Giza are very important for researchers. One is the fact that studying the hieroglyphs has given historians an insight into the linguistics of Ancient Egypt, allowing them to discover new parts of the language. The other way hieroglyphs are significant is because they show people what daily life in Ancient Egypt was like. It includes more than just the funerary rituals and beliefs, but shows the accomplishments and even personalities of some of the pharaohs. For example, the hieroglyphs in Khufu’s pyramid give archaeologists a real sense of his personality as a pharaoh, where they would not have any idea about him because of the extent of the looting.

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