Eight previously unknown storage chambers have been discovered in the pyramid of Pharaoh Sahure, the second king of the Fifth Dynasty (ca. 2465 – ca. 2325 B.C.) and the first to be buried in Abusir. The storage areas are empty, but archaeologists believe they were originally intended to hold the grave goods of the king. The discovery sheds new light on the design and layout of this architecturally important pyramid.
Sahure’s pyramid broke significantly from the precedents set by the pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty. It was much smaller than the massive pyramids of Sneferu, Khufu and their successors, but the interior was much more highly decorated with more than 100,000 square feet of reliefs on the walls of the pyramid and its two mortuary temples, more than three times the amount in the Great Pyramid of Giza. Sahure also used prized materials like granite and alabaster in his pyramid and clad it in brilliant white Tura limestone.
The inner chambers of the pyramid weren’t just looted of the precious grave goods in antiquity. They were also targeted by stone thieves, causing collapses and structural damage that threatened the pyramid’s stability and made it impossible for modern archaeological investigations to accurately map its interior passages.
Since 2019, the German-Egyptian archeological mission from the University of Würzburg has been restoring the pyramid, working to stabilize the interior and prevent future collapse. While shoring up damaged walls and ceilings and excavating rubble, the team exposed undocumented passages to reveal the original layout of the inside of the pyramid. The process made it possible to secure the burial chambers which were so heavily damaged they were previously inaccessible.
Careful documentation of the floor plan and dimensions of each storage room has significantly improved researchers’ understanding of the pyramid’s inner workings. The restoration pursued a balance between preservation and presentation to ensure the structural integrity of the rooms while making them accessible for future study and potentially the public.
Using state-of-the-art technology, including 3D laser scanning with a portable ZEB Horizon LiDAR scanner from GeoSLAM, the Egyptian-German team, in collaboration with the 3D Geoscan team, carried out detailed surveys inside the pyramid. This modern technology enabled comprehensive mapping of both the expansive exterior areas and the narrow corridors and chambers within. The frequent scans provide real-time updates of progress and create a permanent record of exploration efforts.
This groundbreaking project represents a significant milestone in the understanding of the Pyramid of Sahura and its historical significance. The discovery and restoration of the storage spaces is expected to revolutionize the view of the historical development of pyramid structures and challenge existing paradigms in the field.