Saqqara, in Egypt, is the oldest stone complex ever built by humans—and within it sits the oldest pyramid in Egypt. It’s a piece of irreplaceable history that’s been crumbling for 4,600 years. But according to one local report, it’s currently being destroyed by the company hired to “restore” it.
In fact, the company hired by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities may have even committed a crime in its restoration. According to the Egypt Independent, preservation laws require that any new construction be less than 5 percent of the preserved structure. Instead, the company—which has reportedly never worked on a preservation project before!—constructed a number of new walls and structures that exceed the limit.
Now, that might not be such a huge deal. Buildings can be torn down. But according to activists speaking in the story, the new construction is actually contributing to the collapse of the pyramid, which is considered the oldest cut stone structure in the world.
You see, back in 1992, a major earthquake hit the region, and it nearly destroyed the pyramid. It sent “tons” of stone, broken free from the structure, down into the base, and created a “dome-shaped” void at its top, in the words of archaeologist Peter James, who says it was “liable to collapse at any time.”
At the time, James’ company installed an ingenious temporary balloon-style support called WaterWall. “The internally-reinforced PVC product can be inflated with air and then filled with water,” writes James. “It was this product that was used to support the inverted dome of stone.” The system worked well, and over time, restoration specialists planned to install steel rods to strengthen the pyramid permanently.
But funding ran out. And kept running out, it seems, as sociopolitical upheaval wracked Egypt. The company that was hired to take up the job has reportedly never restored an ancient structure before—in fact, it’s never completed a successful project at all. Speaking to Al-Masry Al-Youm and translated by the Egypt Independent, one advocate said the company is actually responsible for a collapse of one section of the structure already.
It’s a sad, and unfortunately very common throughout history, occurrence. But hopefully a structure that survived the past 4,600 years of history can weather this particular storm, too. [Egypt Independent; Co.Design]