Priceless Artifact from the Great Pyramid Found in Cigar Tin

scottish university recovers long-lost artifact in unlikely place

By Jonny Lupsha, News Writer

A 5,000-year-old Egyptian artifact turned up in a cigar tin in Scotland, Science Alert reported. Missing for 70 years, the piece of cedar wood is one of just three ever recovered from inside the Great Pyramid at Giza. The Great Pyramid is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Pyramids of Giza
During ancient and medieval times, the three pyramids at Giza were plundered as items in burial chambers were taken, while pieces of their outer casings of smooth white limestone were removed. Photo By Ahmed Shiko / Shutterstock

According to Science Alert, an invaluable Egyptian artifact was recently found in the unlikeliest of places. “One of only three artifacts ever recovered from inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid has been found in a misplaced cigar tin in a Scottish university collection,” the article said. “The fragment of cedar wood, which has been found to date back 5,000 years to the building of the pyramid at Giza, was first discovered in the late 19th century but had been missing for more than 70 years.

“The fragment—initially measuring five inches or around 13 centimeters but now in several pieces—was first discovered in the Great Pyramid’s Queen’s Chamber in 1872 by engineer Waynman Dixon.”

The artifacts from the Great Pyramid at Giza are merely one facet of the structure. The construction and design of the pyramid are something else entirely.

The Pyramids: Separating Fact from Fiction

Former theories have it that the pyramids of Giza were built with slave labor and were unlike anything that had ever come before them. Fortunately for Egyptian slaves—and unfortunately for the pyramids’ architects—neither of these claims are exactly true.

“Herodotus says 90,000 men at a time built the Great Pyramid in three-month stints, probably in the season where their fields were underwater,” said Dr. Bob Brier, Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. “Contrary to popular belief, slaves didn’t build the pyramid—the Exodus of the Israelites was much later; there were never large numbers of slaves doing public works in Egypt.

“Its shape was more the result of evolving accidents than a sudden discovery. The pyramid was a tomb for the pharaoh; it wasn’t a form that even the ancient Egyptians considered magical.”

At the same time, just because the pyramid design wasn’t anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t revered in one way or another.

The Materials

Dr. Brier said there is no architectural papyrus that laid out how to build temples or pyramids. It was, for lack of a better term, a trade secret. In modern history, architects and archaeologists have figured out how they began to build the pyramids.

“You don’t build a pyramid on sand; sand is unstable,” he said. “You clear down to bedrock, and then what you have to do is level the bedrock. Now, how do you level an area 13.5 acres? The prevailing theory is that you use something like a carpenter’s bubble that you put on top of a bookshelf and you can see if it’s level when the bubble is showing.”

To do this, Dr. Brier said, the Egyptians probably dug channels and filled them with water, and wherever the water ran out was the lowest part of the base. The next step was to bring the blocks to the site, which was likely easier than we thought because there were quarries near the pyramids, which saved on transportation costs. He said it was floated across the Nile and hauled into place.

By stripping away the myth from the facts of the construction of the pyramids at Giza, we can begin to understand how such a feat of construction was achieved without losing the awe and wonder that are rightfully bestowed upon them.

This article was proofread and copyedited by Angela Shoemaker, Proofreader and Copy Editor for The Great Courses Daily.

Dr. Bob Brier contributed to this article. Dr. Brier is an Egyptologist and Senior Research Fellow at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Hunter College and PhD in Philosophy from The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

About Jonny Lupsha, News Writer 680 Articles
Jonny is a freelance writer and novelist who lives in Sterling, Virginia. He has written for The Great Courses since 2017 and enjoys studying the courses as much as writing about them. Contact Jonny at lupshaj@teachco.com