Rare Egyptian pyramid stone to feature in Edinburgh museum exhibition

A piece of stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza is to go on show in the Capital in the only display of its kind outside Egypt.

A piece of stone from the Great Pyramid of Giza is to go on show in the Capital in the only display of its kind outside Egypt.

The large block of white limestone is one of the few surviving casing stones from the Great Pyramid and will be displayed in the new, permanent Ancient Egypt Rediscovered gallery at the National Museum of Scotland(NMS).

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The stone was originally brought to the UK by Charles Piazzi Smyth, the former Astronomer Royal of Scotland, in 1872.

It was displayed in the Edinburgh home of Smyth who, along with his geologist wife Jessie, conducted the first largely accurate survey of the Great Pyramid in 1865.

From next month, it will form the centrepiece of a display about the design and construction of pyramids.

Dr Margaret Maitland, Senior Curator, Ancient Mediterranean, at NMS said: “We are very excited to be able to offer our visitors the chance to see the only casing stone from the Great Pyramid on display anywhere outside of Egypt.

“One of the seven wonders of the world, many people don’t know that the Great Pyramid would have appeared very different when it was first constructed, thanks to a pristine cladding of polished white limestone. “This casing stone will give visitors to the National Museum a fascinating insight into how one of the most iconic buildings on the planet would have once looked.”

Built for King Khufu and dating to c2589–2566 BC, the Great Pyramid is the oldest and largest in the Giza pyramid complex.

While its interior was made from local stone, it was clad in bright white, polished limestone brought from a quarry at Tura, around nine miles down the Nile.

The limestone would have gleamed in the sun and had a smooth, shining finish, unlike the rough, ‘stepped’ surface which is more recognisable today.

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Few casing stones survive on the Great Pyramid itself and in 1303 AD, a huge earthquake loosened many which were taken to use for buildings elsewhere.

The block in the NMS collection was found buried among rubble at the foot of the Great Pyramid.

On display alongside it will be some of Charles Piazzi Smyth’s measuring equipment and statues of Imhotep – the inventor of the pyramid who was later deified as a god of wisdom – and of King Snefru, who commissioned the first true pyramid.

Ancient Egypt Rediscovered is a new, permanent gallery at the National Museum of Scotland covering 4,000 years of history. The gallery will open on February 8.

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