‘Unknown: The Lost Pyramid’ Explained: How Did Dr. Waziri Find The Book of Death?


In 2022, Dr. Zahi Hawass dubbed the Indiana Jones of Egypt, and his protege, Dr. Mostafa Waziri, excavated two different sites in Saqqara, hoping to make important discoveries. Unknown: The Lost Pyramid is a documentary on Netflix that follows the journey of the two Egyptologists who once worked together but are now competitors in the field. Even as a competitor, Waziri enjoys discussing his findings with his mentor and looks up to Hawass for his insights. The amount of physical effort and conviction required to carry out an excavation project is also discussed in the documentary. Unknown: The Lost Pyramid is made pretty much like any other Netflix documentary. Those with an interest in Egyptian history will surely enjoy watching the unfolding of these historic findings. 

What Is ‘Unknown: The Lost Pyramid’ About? 

Dr. Zahi Hawass is determined to make an impactful discovery, and he is confident that he will be remembered for finding the pyramid of Huni. The ancient Egyptian king was the last Pharaoh of the Third Dynasty and naturally an important figure in the Old Kingdom period. Not much is known about Huni, and finding his burial ground is therefore crucial to understanding ancient Egyptian history. There is nothing more that Dr. Hawass enjoys than the thrill of finding something from ancient times. He was initially not interested in becoming an archeologist, and one of the primary reasons for his disinterest was that most of the archaeologists studying Egyptian history were foreigners. He always believed that it was important for the people of Egypt to contribute to finding out about their own history. Most of the artifacts discovered by foreigners were taken back to their country, therefore making it all the more important for the local people to work together to preserve their past.

While Dr. Hawass and his team were making the best use of the nine-month excavation period, a kilometer away from his site, his protege, Dr. Waziri, and his team was studying a site called Bubasteion in Saqqara. Four years ago, it was at Bubasteion that the tomb of Wahtye was discovered, and Dr. Waziri was positive that he would come across something pathbreaking once again. Since the tombs were well preserved, the chances of making another discovery seemed likely. Soon his team spotted a shaft, and upon entering it, they found the good eye of Horus, confirming that there was a firm chance of finding coffins. Waziri and his team were hopeful about finding a burial chamber consisting of sarcophagi.

Is The Pyramid Of Huni Found?

Dr. Hawass’s team came across a limestone quarry, further establishing his theory that the pyramid of Huni was located in the Gisr-el-Mudir. Soon, his team discovered nine statues, indicating that they belonged to elite members of the Old Kingdom. Usually, the bodies of court members and higher officials were buried next to the burial ground of a King. The statues indicated that the cemetery belonged to the elites, and therefore a pyramid was expected to be close by. Finding an unlooted monument was extremely significant, considering how most were destroyed by thieves. Therefore, when Hawass and his team found the statues, they were relieved to know that the cemetery had not been looted and was worth digging in for. Hawass was excited, thinking how the pyramid of Huni could also possibly be unlooted, and it would be a discovery that he would be remembered for.

Dr. Hawass takes his inspiration from English archaeologist Howard Carter. It took Carter five years to find the tomb of Tutankhamun. Carter’s journey taught him to be patient and to never give up on his vision. Soon his team was able to confirm that the tomb had remained sealed and, therefore, untouched for over four thousand years, and a sarcophagus was discovered. Upon removing the stone cover, a skeleton was found. Since the process of mummification was not advanced during the Old Kingdom, the skeleton was deformed. Dr. Hawass decided to leave the coffin as it was since the body was already damaged. The final month of excavation was challenging for Dr. Hawass’s team, but the spirit was high, and the thought of uncovering an important fragment of history kept them going. Another sarcophagus was found; it was sealed and enormous in size. The coffin belonged to a woman named Nebet Hut, and the body was stored over 4,300 years ago. The body was well preserved, and her ornaments retained their blue-green colors even after remaining sealed for thousands of years.

Dr. Hawass believes it is the oldest and most well-preserved mummy that has ever been discovered in Egypt. He concluded that the person must have been an important figure since she had access to the mummification process, which was quite rare in the Old Kingdom. The gilded cane indicated that she could possibly belong to the royal palace. Dr. Hawass concluded that the discovery of a royal figure suggests that the pyramid of a Pharaoh must be near. In the final week of the excavation, a limestone wall was discovered. Going by the size of it, Dr. Hawass believed it could be nothing but the pyramid he had been searching for. Whether or not he will discover the pyramid of Huni remains unknown, but his contribution to training several Egyptian archaeologists will always be remembered. And he is satisfied knowing that his legacy will live on long after he is gone.

What Did Dr. Waziri And His Team Find During Their Excavation?

Dr. Waziri’s team discovered the entrance of an intact tomb consisting of coffins. Upon entering it, they found several statues that the ancient Egyptians used as magical protection, and it was important they removed the statues before uncovering the coffins. It took the conservators over ten days to restore the statues due to their fragile condition. Along with the elegant statues, the team also came across strange artifacts that they had not seen before. The meaning behind the artifacts will remain unknown as long as no writing discussing their meaning is found. After removing the statues, it was time to uncover the wooden coffin in the tomb.

The coffin belonged to an individual named Ahmose, and upon removing the lid, a bronze protector statue of a cat was found. On the chest of the mummified body was a gold amulet of a bird with a human head. A white cylindrical object attracted the attention of Dr. Waziri, and it turned out to be a well-preserved papyrus. The papyrus (a material that was used as a writing surface in ancient Egypt) named Waziri papyrus is one of the rare scroll-form written documents ever discovered. After waiting for three weeks to restore the papyrus through the processes of sterilization and humidification, it was finally unrolled. The nine-meter-long papyri consisted of 113 chapters that belonged to “The Book of Death.” The Waziri papyrus is considered the best preserved “Book of Death.” It provides an in-depth account of ancient Egypt and could potentially affect our understanding of Egyptian beliefs.

With his protege making news with the discovery of a well-preserved papyrus, Dr. Hawass remains confident that his pyramid discovery will attract the attention of the entire world. Unknown: The Lost Pyramid underlines how the two most prominent Egyptologists are paving the way for archaeology in Egypt. It is under their mentorship that the future of archaeology in Egypt is being built. Even though Dr. Waziri and Dr. Hawass have their own separate practices, it is their love for discovery and history that binds them together. While the gigantic structure that is now the largest structure ever found in Saqqara has been unearthed, Dr. Hawass and his team are still searching for its entrance. During the course of the documentary, we witness two of the most significant recent discoveries in Saqqara. Unknown: The Lost Pyramid is surely a must-watch for those invested in ancient Egyptian history.

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Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni Rudra
Srijoni has worked as a film researcher on a government-sponsored project and is currently employed as a film studies teacher at a private institute. She holds a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies. Film History and feminist reading of cinema are her areas of interest.

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