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Cluster of 35 Ancient Pyramids and Graves Discovered in Sudan

Cluster of 35 Ancient Pyramids and Graves Discovered in Sudan

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First Posted: Feb 07, 2013 09:24 AM EST
Pyramids
Thousands of years ago, the kings of Egypt created the very first dynasty. Now, researchers have pinpointed when this first dynasty emerged, revealing that this period of unification happened far more quickly than previously thought. (Photo : Flickr/Retlaw Snellac)

About 2,000 years ago, a kingdom named Kush flourished in what is now known as Sudan. Sharing a border with Egypt, the people of Kush were highly influenced by the other civilization. The result was that they built pyramids: lots of them. At one particular site known as Sedeinga, pyramid building continued for centuries. Now archaeologists have unearthed at least 35 of these small pyramids along with graves.

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Discovered between 2009 and 2012, the pyramids were densely packed. In one field season alone, researchers discovered 13 pyramids within 5,381 square feet--only slightly larger than an NBA basketball court. So why was the density of the pyramids so great? Researchers theorized that since this building continued over centuries, the people of Kush used whatever space was available at the site, packing in pyramids in between others to make better use of the space.

The largest pyramids discovered are about 22 feet wide at their base. The smallest one, however, is a mere 30 inches long at its base and was probably built for the burial of a child. Unfortunately, none of the structures are intact--the tops of the pyramids are not attached. Because a camel caravan route travelled past the location in the past, more than likely damage occurred over time. Vincent Francigny, a research associate with the American Museum of Natural History in New York who helped make the discovery, estimates that if the capstones were whole, they would depict either a bird or a lotus flower on top of a solar orb, according to Livescience.com.

The capstones weren't the only structures to suffer damage. The graves themselves were largely plundered long ago. However, scientists were still able to find some skeletal remains and a few artifacts. In particular, they found a table that depicts the Egyptian goddess Isis and the jackal-headed god Anubis, who is associated with death. It also included an inscription dedicated to a woman named "Aba-la," which may be a nickname for "grandmother."

Yet not all of these pyramids were your run-of-the-mill pyramids. Several of them were designed with an inner cupola, a circular structure that connected the pyramid corners through cross-braces. Archaeologists are baffled why the people at this site seemed to be fond of the design since it didn't add to the solidity or the external appearance of the monument. However, a new discovery in 2012 may provide the answer. In an interview with Livescience.com, Fracigny admitted that they recently found a grave of a child covered by a circle made of brick in the area. He theorized that it was possible that when pyramid building came into fashion, it was combined with the local circle-building tradition. This would explain the circular structures inside of the pyramids.

This isn't the only recent archaeological discovery to make the news this week, either. A cluster of 102 unidentified tombs were unearthed by archaeologists on the Pamirs plateau in China, most of them for infants.

Currently, researchers at Sedeinga are still making discoveries and researching these ancient pyramids.

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