Excavations, Egypt, Seila Pyramid, Rituals


In modern times it was not apparent that the structure many travelers had seen atop the remote escarpment in Gebel El-Rus was actually a pyramid. Before its excavation it was locally known as el-Qalah, meaning “the fortress,” though it has since come to be called Harem Seila, or the Seila Pyramid. Even before excavation it could be easily seen as far away as Hawara when the air was clear. Though it stood six miles straight west of the Meidum Pyramid, there was nothing about the visible square covered in aeolian sand that would make explorers or archaeologists think it was another Snefru pyramid. Even the first real archaeologists to survey the area did not realize what it was. Petrie briefly explored there, but his cursory examination did not uncover enough to dissuade him from what met his initial glance: that he was looking at a mastaba. Petrie estimated the height to be about 25 feet, which is less than a third of what it originally was. He also thought it was most likely a 12th dynasty tomb. A layer on the west side had been removed at some point, though Petrie could not tell this at the time. Its removal made the pyramid seem more rectangular than it really was, causing it to look more like a mastaba. He wisely wrote that it would take more exploration to tell what was really going on with the monument.

Original Publication Citation

“Excavations at the Seila Pyramid and Ritual Ramifications,” in Excavations at Fag el-Gamous and the Seila Pyramid, Kerry Muhlestein, editor in chief, Krystal V. L. Pierce and Bethany Jensen, eds., Harvard Egyptological Studies vol. 7. (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 48-75.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date







Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor