15:52 GMT15 January 2021
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    A trio of items were found by engineer Waynman Dixon inside the Great Pyramid of Giza’s Queens Chamber in 1872, and came to be known as the ‘Dixon relics’, with two - a ball and hook – finding their way to the British Museum, while one artefact has been missing for more than a century.

    A relic from the Great Pyramid of Giza that has been missing for over a century has been miraculously recovered, quite by chance.

    ​The artefact is a purportedly 5,000-year-old wooden fragment which is now in several pieces and has been hailed as a "hugely significant" discovery, writes The Guardian.

    Curatorial assistant Abeer Eladany, who is originally from Egypt and did a 10-year stint working in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, stumbled upon the artefact while reviewing items in the Asia collection of the University.

    Her attention had been caught by a cigar box marked with her country’s former flag. As she opened it, Eladany found inside several wooden splinters.

    A cigar tin that was found at the University of Aberdeen which contained fragments of cedar wood recovered from inside the pyramid at Giza
    © Photo : University of Aberdeen/PA Wire
    A cigar tin that was found at the University of Aberdeen which contained fragments of cedar wood recovered from inside the pyramid at Giza

    After cross-referencing the discovery with other records. she then identified it as the fragment of wood from the Great Pyramid which has been missing for more than a century.

    “The university’s collections are vast – running to hundreds of thousands of items – so looking for it has been like finding a needle in a haystack. I couldn’t believe it when I realised what was inside this innocuous-looking cigar tin,” she said.

    Enthralled by the magnitude of the find, the woman said:

    “I’m an archaeologist and have worked on digs in Egypt but I never imagined it would be here in north-east Scotland that I’d find something so important to the heritage of my own country. It may be just a small fragment of wood, which is now in several pieces, but it is hugely significant given that it is one of only three items ever to be recovered from inside the Great Pyramid.”

    ‘Dixon Relics’

    The wooden fragment is one of three items discovered by engineer Waynman Dixon inside the pyramid’s Queens Chamber in 1872.

    Known ever since as the ‘Dixon relics’, two – a ball and hook – have been housed at the British Museum in London. The third – a piece of cedar - was believed by experts to have been used during the pyramid's construction, possibly as a measuring rule. If that were the case, it might hold clues to the mysteries behind the construction of the pyramid.

    The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt
    © CC0
    The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

    The cedar fragment was said to have originally belonged to a larger piece of wood, observed in a 1993 exploration of the interior of the pyramid by a robotic camera.

    However, the artefact that was reportedly donated to the university in 1946 by Dixon’s friend, James Grant, could not be located. It had never been classified, and an extensive search failed to retrieve the item.

    Carbon Dating Revelation

    The discovery of the artefact has now raised new questions, as carbon dating has shown that the wood can be dated to the period 3341-3094 BC.

    Pyramids of Giza
    © CC0
    Pyramids of Giza

    If correct, this is 500 years earlier than historical records which date the Great Pyramid to the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu in 2580-2560 BC.

    “Finding the missing Dixon Relic was a surprise but the carbon dating has also been quite a revelation. It is even older than we had imagined. This may be because the date relates to the age of the wood, maybe from the centre of a long-lived tree. Alternatively, it could be because of the rarity of trees in ancient Egypt, which meant that wood was scarce, treasured and recycled or cared for over many years,” said Neil Curtis, head of museums and special collections at the university.

    Curtis added that scholars will now be able to study the artefact to determine its use and whether it was deliberately deposited in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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