Update on the recent works carried out by the Latvian Scientifique Mission in the Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Egypt)
Redazione Archaeogate, 18-09-2007
During its last campaign, the Latvian Scientific Mission, which has already worked more than two years in the Step Pyramid of Saqqara (Egypt) in the framework of its joint-venture with the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities and direct supervision from Dr. Zahi Hawass, has successfully carried out some additional documentation works, very important for the safeguarding and restoration of the oldest stone monument in the world. Resources allocated to this program (15 scientists) represent the largest scientific team never mobilized abroad in the History of this small but scientifically highly advanced Baltic country.
These documentation works have been made in several main categories:
- Continuation of the very detailed 3D scanner and photogrammetry documentation works for the remaining facades, and further into the 7km long underground galleries system. Up to date more than 320 million measurements perfectly geo-referenced have been collected, and managed by GIS system. This huge database is available and used by SCA specialists in order to properly implement specific restoration interventions, and provide a monitoring of the regular collapses happening in the pyramid.
- In this context, The Latvian scientific team has realized jointly with SCA partners some Emergency shoring and consolidation works in the 5th and 6th galleries belonging to the so-called royal family galleries and located at the deepest level of the pyramid. These galleries present some very serious structural pathologies and imminent risks of collapsing. Therefore, restoration specialists knowledge and experience have efficiently contributed to protect 2 alabaster sarcophaguses by use of reversible new technologies, like for example polymer beams and nets.
Based on this efficient solution, is currently discussed the best way to shore and consolidate the very unstable vault located on top of the central burial shaft.
- Detailed Architectural and structural investigations continuation. Some risky detailed surveys completed by some Carbon 14 dating have significantly increased the understanding level of the constructive chronology of this monument dated back to 2660BC as well as through the next historical main interventions, like the Saite or Roman ones.
- In order to accurately study the pyramid foundations shape, the surrounding original ground level relief and the stratified structure of the underground, has been carried out some Geophysical investigations (Ground Penetrating Radar) . The obtained results have exceeded all expectations.
First of all, very qualitative GPR signals have been collected up to ľ50m. It could be underlined that such quality of so deep signals has been obtained by Latvian produced equipment and software. These GPR investigations have also highlighted some underground cavities and galleries. These new structural and geological data are very important for a proper understanding of exact structural condition of the pyramid, and will have to be seriously taken into consideration for its restoration.
It can be noticed that, as part of underground non-geological cavities, appeared on the eastern fašade some new descending corridors starting from the dry moat and reaching the 1st, 3rd and 5th galleries. GPR investigations have undoubtedly provided to Egyptologists an interesting and surprising fact which will require from them further studies.
Riga (Latvia) September 17, 2007
Dr.arch. Bruno Deslandes
Head of the Latvian Scientific Mission in Egypt
Architect, UNESCO-UNDP expert for tangible heritage documentation
Architect-advisor to the French M.F.A.
"Baltais Vejs" offices complex; K. Ulmana gatve 119; Marupes pagasts LV-2167; Latvia
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Axonometry of the Netjerikhet complex showing both 3D burial systems.
Axonometry of the Netjerikhet Pyramid
Updated East-West Section of the Step Pyramid
Updated East-West Section of - 3D scanner data overlapped wih GPR signals - Latvian Scientific Mission in Egypt: Geophysical survey and data interpretation by G. Sichoff, SIA GIC geophysicist; V. Seglins, University of Latvia, professor, Dr. geol.; model applied: GPR Zond 12C with 150-75-38 MHz antenna system
Plan of the Netjerikhet complex