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Dating old kingdom tombs

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NOVA: Can you give us an example of a single aspect of material culture, from ancient Egypt that you might use as a starting point for dating the pyramids? All the pottery you find at Giza looks like the pottery of the time of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, the kings who built these pyramids in what we call the Fourth Dynasty, the Old Kingdom.

We study the pottery and how it changes over the broad sweep, some 3,000 years.

And you would know that it didn't date, for example, to the colonial period of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, because nothing you'd find in the Empire State Building ruins, around it, in the dirt surrounding it—maybe it's a stump sticking up above the sloping ruins of Manhattan—nothing really looks like the flowing blue china, or the other kinds of utensils and material culture that they used in the time of the American Revolution.

So it's hard to give a succinct answer to that question, because we date things in archaeology on the basis of its context and a broad mass of information and material culture—things that were used by people, styles, and so on.

As with other tombs dating to this period, the entrance was via a portico on the northern side.

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Rarely do we have people from thousands of years ago who are writing, who are signing confessions.So we're not dealing with any one foothold of factual knowledge at Giza itself.We're dealing with basically the entirety of Egyptology and Egyptian archaeology.The well-preserved mastaba of Ti is located at the northern edge of the Saqqara necropolis, about 300m north of the ‘Philosopher’s Circle’.Ti held the titles of ‘Overseer of the Pyramids of Niuserre’, and ‘Overseer of the Sun-Temples of Sahure, Neferirkare and Niuserre’, making him a high-status official during Dynasty V.Papyrus stands erect behind the boat which floats on a swamp full of different types of fish, hippopotomi and a crocodile.