A Surprising Discovery
While Abeer Eladany, a curatorial assistant, was doing a review of the museum’s Asia Collection, a small box that seemed out of place caught her eye. It was a small, tin, cigar box whose lid was decorated with the image of the old Egyptian flag. In the box was the 5-inch long piece of cedar broken into several pieces. It’s speculated that this wood fragment was part of a tool that was used to construct the mighty structure.
How the Cedar Found Its Way to Scotland
During the 19th century, astronomer royal for Scotland, Charles Piazzi Smyth, contracted British engineer Waynman Dixon to take part in the survey of the Great Pyramid. With the permission of the Egyptian Antiquities Service, Dixon removed three items from the Queen’s Chamber, including a ball, a hook, and a piece of cedar.
Two of the Dixon relics were housed in the British Museum while the third went missing. The ancient piece of wood came into possession of another Scottish expedition member, Dr. James Grant, and records show that his daughter donated the piece of cedar to the museum in 1946.
The Item Is Significantly Older Than the Pyramid
Pharaoh Khufu’s reign, and the construction of his great pyramid, are dated to around 2500 BC. However, by carbon dating the piece of cedar retrieved from the structure, it was discovered that the wood fragment dated back to 3341 B.C. to 3094 B.C, meaning that it was around 500 years older. This wasn’t too surprising as it might refer to the age of the tree the fragment came from and how well wooden items were cared for in Egypt due to the scarcity of the material.