Just three known objects have been recovered from Egypt's Great Pyramid, and one of those has been missing for 70 years. That is until an Egyptian archaeologist stumbled upon it in Scotland. Curatorial assistant Abeer Eladany was digging through the University of Aberdeen's museum collections late last year when she came upon a cigar box decorated with Egypt's former flag, per CNN. Inside were five pieces of wood, which got Eladany's heart pumping. "Once I looked into the numbers in our Egypt records, I instantly knew what it was," she says in a release. The wood had been taken from a larger piece within the Great Pyramid in 1872 by engineer Waynman Dixon and his friend James Grant, a graduate of the University of Aberdeen. They also took a ball and hook. Together, the items are known as the "Dixon Relics," the only known items to emerge from the pyramid's depths, which are today explored using robots and cameras; only three known chambers have been reached.
Dixon kept the ball and hook, now housed at the British Museum, while Grant took the 5-inch piece of cedar. It was donated to the University of Aberdeen in 1946 but lost. Eladany found the fragments in the Asia collection. "I never imagined it would be here in northeast Scotland that I'd find something so important to the heritage of my own country," says the archaeologist. The fragments date to 3341-3094 BC, centuries before the pyramid was built around 2500 BC, per the Guardian. It's possible it came from "the center of a long-lived tree" or was passed down because wood was so scarce in ancient Egypt, explains Neil Curtis, Head of Museums and Special Collections. He adds it's up to scholars "to debate its use"; some believe the wood formed a measuring tool. (Read more discoveries stories.)