Ancient Egyptian Structure Discovered Near Giza Pyramids

Archaeologists identified a previously unknown “anomaly” using ground-penetrating technology at Giza’s West Field Cemetery.

May 10, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
The Giza Plateau in Egypt. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


A previously unknown structure was discovered in an apparent “blank area” of the Giza pyramid complex. Using ground-penetrating technology, a joint research team from Higashi Nippon International University, Tohoku University, and Egypt’s National Research Institute of Astronomy and Geophysics found an ancient “anomaly” hidden beneath the sand of Giza’s West Field Cemetery.


Ground-Penetrating Radar Revealed an “Anomaly”

The red rectangle indicates the initial archaeological survey area at Giza. Source: Archaeological Prospection.


Located west of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the West Field Cemetery is an important burial site for ancient royals and high-ranking officers. Archaeologists have long been curious about a so-called “blank area” in the middle of the cemetery that is surrounded by mastabas. These are a type of tomb with a flat-roofed rectangular structure that marks an underground burial site.


Previous excavations in this area of the Giza pyramid complex did not yield significant discoveries. However, a newly-published article about a 2021-2023 excavation revealed a new underground discovery: “We conducted a joint geophysical exploration, using [ground-penetrating radar] (GPR) and electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) at the Western Cemetery…. We believe we found an anomaly: a combination of a shallow structure connected to a deeper structure.”


A Mysterious L-Shaped Structure Was Found

The L-shaped structure was identified using ground-penetrating technology. Source: Higashi Nippon International University.


The hidden “anomaly” that was found in the West Field Cemetery of Giza is a shallow L-shaped structure connected to a deeper structure. The L-shaped structure measures 10 meters by 10 meters and is at a depth of about 2 meters. Clear GPR imaging revealed it was backfilled with sand after construction and may have served as an entrance to the deeper structure. Beneath the shallow structure, ERT revealed a “highly electrically resistive anomaly” about 5 to 10 meters underground.

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Neither technology used by the excavation team could identify the exact properties of the archaeological discovery. The electrically resistive material may be comprised of sand, gravel, and air voids. Researchers are also uncertain of the purpose of these structures. “We conclude from these results that the structure causing the anomalies could be vertical walls of limestone or shafts leading to a tomb structure,” the team explained. “However, a more detailed survey would be required in order to confirm this possibility.”


The History of Giza Excavations

The pyramids of Giza. Source: Wikimedia Commons.


The Giza pyramid complex is among the most famous and fascinating archaeological sites in the world. The ancient site is at the edge of the Western Desert in the city of Giza, not far from the banks of the Nile River and the city center of Cairo, the Egyptian capital. The complex includes the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, as well as the Great Sphinx. The ancient landmarks were all constructed between 2,600 and 2,500 B.C.E. during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt.


Formal excavations of the Great Pyramid of Giza and its surroundings began in the 19th century. At the start of the 20th century, after the three largest pyramids were thoroughly explored, archaeologists turned their attention towards the dense population of private tombs in Giza’s West Field. The West Field has since been divided into smaller areas, each named after an excavator or mastaba numbers.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.