Archaeologists have discovered the base of a small, 4,500-year-old pyramid believed to have been built for a Pharaonic queen in the desert outside Cairo. This is the 110th pyramid to be discovered in Egypt. The pyramid, made of stone blocks, is thought to have been built for the wife of Djedefre, the daughter of the Pharaoh Cheops. It was discovered by a Swiss-Egyptian expedition excavating near the pyramid of Djedefre, who was the son of Cheops.
Djedefre is believed to have usurped the throne in Egypt by murdering his older half-brother 4,500 years ago to become the third king of the fourth Pharaonic dynasty. He reigned for eight years. Archaeologists found the name Khufu, or Cheops, inscribed in hieroglyphics inside.
The archaeologists found it contained three chambers in addition to the tomb located about 15 feet underground. No mummy was found, perhaps due to ancient tomb robbers. Researchers did find a remnant of a limestone sarcophagus, some pottery and one alabaster jar of the type used to store organs removed from a body before it was mummified.
“When we discover in Egypt a tomb or a statue, it’s something important,” says Zahi Hawass, director of Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Antiquities. “But when we discover a pyramid, it’s the most important thing.” The archaeologists were clearing sand from desert around Redjedef’s unfinished pyramid just outside Cairo when they found an unmistakable shape: sharply cut blocks rising just a few feet above a square base of just 5-by-5 yards. The discovery “was completely by accident,” Hawass says. Redjedef ruled for a few years after Cheops’ death and may have been killed by his brother in a power struggle.
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A project to revive ancient Egyptian Pharaonic music has been started by music scholars. Paintings and engravings on the walls of temples prove the importance of music in Pharaonic culture, a fact which triggered the interest of Khairi El-Mult, professor of musicology at Helwan University in Egypt.
Music meant more to the Pharaohs than entertainment. Maged Samuel, of the department of theory and composition at Helwan, says, “For the ancient Egyptians, music existed since the movement of the cosmos began.” says Samuel. They believed that music emanates from the movement of the cosmos, while the melody is the result of the interaction between the Godly spirit with the musical instrument. As a sacred science, music was only studied by high-ranking priests who also studied astronomy and medicine.
According to composer and musician Hani Shinouda, many of our modern-day musical instruments existed in ancient Egyptian times. There were version of the violin, harp, and pan pipe. During the first dynasty the harp had five strings, which is evidence that they used the pentatone scale which developed into the hexatone scale then to the heptacord scale used now. Old religious songs sung in churches today are very similar to those of the ancient Egyptians, says Shinouda. Illustrations on the walls of temples also prove that we still use ancient movements and mannerisms such as clapping and putting one hand behind the ear while singing and reciting the Koran.
Many musical instruments have been unearthed in Pharaonic tombs. Drums dating back to the third and sixth centuries A.D. were found in Nubia, two of which are displayed in the Egyptian Museum. Shells used as wind instruments were uncovered in the tomb of a Pharaonic child in the Aamry region near Helwan. French musicians were able to prove that the clarinet developed from the mizmar.
Scientists participating in El-Mult’s project began by studying the paintings on the walls of the tombs. Dr. Ola El-Egezi, professor of ancient Egyptian language at the faculty of antiquities, Cairo University says they want to figure out the melodies from the hand movements that are depicted. Through the movement of the fingers the researchers have discovered that they used to clap and tap while playing. The music was led by a conductor who controlled the tempo.
Sociologists, archeologists and experts in musical instruments plan to work together in order to remake the ancient Egyptian instruments. Singers will be trained to perform the songs. A museum displaying these instruments will be established and an annual Pharaonic music festival will be staged in Luxor.
“The French scientist Champollion astonished the world by unveiling the secrets of hieroglyphics through the Rosetta Stone. The revival of Pharaonic music will have the same effect,” says El-Mult. “This project is no less important than unearthing monuments. We are bound to unveil ancient Egypt’s true face through the revival of the Pharaohs’ ancient melodies.”
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