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The builders of the Old Kingdom pyramids oriented the monuments to the cardinal points with great accuracy. How they managed to achieve this has long been debated. Several candidate methods have been proposed, tested, and found workable, yet there is one straightforward method that scholars have largely ignored, perhaps because it was thought to be incapable of achieving the requisite accuracy. This is the 'equinoctial solar gnomon method' which uses a vertical rod to track the movement of the sun on the equinox. In this article, the author describes an experiment carried out to evaluate the method, and compares the results with archaeological survey data from the Memphite Necropolis in Egypt.
An analysis of texts on a fragmentary Old Kingdom papyrus from Saqqara suggests that they record the construction of the pyramid complex of pharaoh Teti. Amongst the information obtained from the papyrus was a dimension – 441 cubits. This paper discusses the possible significance of this dimension in the context of Old Kingdom pyramid building.
Studies of the earliest urban settlements in the Nile Valley often neglect to address the significance of built environments for the ‘poor’ and their relationship with social organization. The western workers’ quarter at el-Lahun; the ḫnrt mentioned in hieratic papyri, has received little scholarly attention in comparison to the eastern area containing the ‘élite residences’. In 1889 Flinders Petrie noted that the western streets of the town showed signs of a greater degree of poverty. Later examinations indicated the presence of a type of corrective labor camp; what might be described today as a ‘ghetto’. Convicts may have been forced to live in such places of confinement as a form of punishment. Life for a multitude of people in the ancient town of el-Lahun might, in fact, have been radically different from previously held views. Rather than a quiet township community, this article uncovers a social order built upon racial discrimination and cultural intolerance, marked by seclusion, coercion, and possibly violence.