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The Real Story: Kazakhstan Pyramid

Ancient Mausoleum discovered in Kazakhstan.Photo copyright Viktor Novozhenov

Ancient Mausoleum discovered in Kazakhstan.Photo copyright Viktor Novozhenov

Here's a definitive account of why you shouldn't necessarily believe what you read on the internet. It's a story about how the internet can take a perfectly fascinating story and make it misleading.

No it's not a pyramid

Case in point, some news was made this week when Viktor Novozhenov, an archaeologist with the Saryarka Archaeological Institute at Karaganda State University in Kazakhstan spoke with Live Science about a Bronze Age mausoleum he helped unearth in Kazakhstan.

I'll link to the article because Owen Jarus from Live Science did the hard work of finding Novozhenov ( and talking to him about this very cool archaeological discovery.

The Mausoleum, according to the article is about 2 meters high and about 15 by 14 meters long. Novozhenov told Live Science. It's "made from stone, earth and fortified by slabs in the outer side." Its shape is pyramidal to the extent that the walls of rubble that define the mausoleum rise towards the center of the excavation.

I don't think that's what he's saying

But the internet being what it is - the story of the mausoleum went viral in a really bad way. Conspiracy sites like ran with this headline: "Scientists discover Pyramid in Kazakhstan that predates Egyptian Pyramids by 1,000 years." Not to be outdone Yahoonews had this headline: "Archaeologists Discover Ancient Pyramid In Kazakhstan OLDER Than Egyptian Structures."

Ummmm, not quite.

First of all let's keep in mind the Kazakhstan "pyramid' is only 2 meters high, so we're not talking Indiana Jones material here. The other thing is that while this site is certainly old, it's not as old, as some of the most ancient Egyptian pyramids like the famous Djoser pyramid, one of the oldest, built in the 26th century BCE. Djoser predates the Kazakhstan mausoleum by at least 1,000 years.

The step pyramid of Djoser

The step pyramid of Djoser

The real problem, of course, is the hyperkinetic headlines take away from the fact that this is really a very interesting find, worthy of note. The mausoleum resembles those produced by the Begazy-Dandybai culture that flourished in the region between the 12th and 8th centuries BCE, but Novozhenov says this one is much older. Its size also suggests it was meant for a king, though it was looted long ago.