Egyptian History



Unique among the Old Kingdom pyramid complexes stand those of Khafre and Menkaure, known as Khephren and Mycerinus to the Greeks. Khafre's complex is most unique because its temple is complete, while Menkaure's temples were found almost intact.

The architectural components of Khafre's complex with its pyramid, upper temple, causeway and lower temple give us our most complete understanding of an Old Kingdom funerary complex. Much of the complex remains almost complete; even the enclosure wall rises to a height about 3 metres. The complex was first excavated by Mariette in 1869 and Holscher in 1909-10. Systematic excavations of this huge site continue to this day.

Khafre's pyramid is called "Khafre is Great." Indeed, the pyramid itself is great as it rises from a 215m-wide base to a height of 143.20m along an angle that measures 5307'. Still crowning its top is a fine limestone capstone and casing. The pyramid has two entrances, but tomb robbers cut two additional tunnels to aid their quest. Each entrance opens to a passage that slopes downwards to join a horizontal passage leading to a chamber. The first chamber contains Belzoni's record of his opening of the pyramid on 2 March 1818; the second contains Khafre's red granite sarcophagus.

Adjacent to the pyramid stands Khafre's upper temple, the most complete of all Old, Kingdom temples. It is built of local limestone with its outer wall faced with granite. The pillared hall, two long narrow rooms, open court and five niches are the most important features of the temple. The court may have contained a seated statue of the king recording his titles. Evidence found near the pyramid's base proves the existence of a platform that may have supported a stela and an altar.

Around the upper temple are found five boat pits: two located on the north side and three on the south.

Remains of a subsidiary pyramid. lie on the north-south axis of the main pyramid. Evidence proves that it belongs to a queen rather than a being satellite pyramid. To the West of the subsidiary pyramid was found a serdab that may have contained a statue for the Ka of the King.

West of the main pyramid, Petrie excavated an area that he called "the workmen's barracks." He believed that t he area contained 91 rooms. Following his hypothesis, others estimated that the site housed 5500 workmen. New evidence, however, proves that the site was a storage area and a workshop.

Linking the per and lower temples is a causeway about 494.60m long and 5m wide. It runs at an angle of 106 degrees. There is no evidence to prove that the causeway was as roofed or decorated. At the lower temple there are two en entrances trances. The north entrance bears the, inscription, "Khafre beloved by Bastet," while the south reads, "Khafre beloved by Hathor." The temple has a large T-shaped hall. Along the west wall of this room one counts 23 sockets to secure the bases of 23 statues. A series of three double rooms open off the southwest comer of the east-west "bar" of this hall.

This temple was found by Mariette in 1853 and re-excavated by Holscher.

The entire complex of Khafre contained about 58 statues, including four colossal sphinxes, each more than 8.5m long, that lounged in pairs flanking each door of the .lower temple. Other statues stood in the temple niches: 23 in the lower temple, 12 colossal statues around the courtyard and ten inside the sphinx temple, and seven large statues inside the inner chamber of the upper temple.

The smallest of all the Giza pyramids belongs to Menkaure and is called "Menkaure is Divine." The pharaoh died before the complex was complete so his son, Shepseskaf, was left to finish the job.

The pyramid, surrounded by two enclosure walls, was once about 73m high; now it measures 62.2m high and each side measures 108.7m at the base. Berring and Vyse entered the pyramid in 1837 and Reisner excavated the whole complex.

The entrance is on the North, and the burial chamber is located at the end of the passage. Vyse found a basalt sarcophagus and inside it a skeleton of a young woman. The sarcophagus was lost in the Mediterranean between ports of Cartagena and Malta when the ship "Beatrice" sank after setting sail on October 13, 1838. We still have the lid from the wooden anthropoid coffin found. inside the pyramid by Vyse which bears the name of Menkaure. It is in the British Museum.

At the pyramid's entrance there is an inscription thought to be dated to Dynasty XXVI. It records that Menkaure died on the twenty-third day of the fourth month of the summer and that he built the pyramid. It is also thought that this inscription dates to the reign of the New Kingdom restorer, Khaemuas, son of Ramesses the Great.

The. pyramid, once cased with 16 courses of granite, was left unfinished due to the untimely death of the king while the other complex was completed with mud-brick by his son. The many additions made to the complex in Dynasties V and VI prove that his cult continued until the end of Dynasty VI.

The upper temple is one of the components completed during the reign of Shepseskaf. The temple is divided into two parts: the public part which ends to the West of the pyramid's first enclosure wall, and the private part which is situated between the pyramid's eastern face and the enclosure wall. The large statue of Menkaure found inside the temple is now in Boston. Seals, cult objects, inscriptions and statues were also found here.

South of. Menkaure's pyramid are three subsidiary pyramids. They stand just outside the inner enclosure wall and within the outer enclosure wall. The three pyramids lie on the same east-west axis. GIII-b lies 10-15m West of GIII-a and GIII-c lies 13.6 m West of, GIII-b.. On the east side of each is a mud-brick temple. Reisner suggests that GIII-a belongs to Queen Khamerernebty II, Menkaure's main queen, who is portrayed with him in a group statue found in the lower temple.

GIII-b is for an unknown queen since the skeletal remains of a young woman were found inside. I believe that GIII-c is a satellite pyramid because no evidence of a burial was found. 'There are no boat pits, but we are excavating on the west and south sides of the pyramids where we may find the remains of a supply ramp and boats.

The causeway runs to a distance of about 608m. Its foundation is made of local limestone but was completed with mud-brick and was not roofed. Shepseskaf also finished the lower temple in mud-brick. The temple has an open court and southern and northern magazines. Triad -statues of the King with Hathor and with various Nome goddesses were found inside.

Evidence of a basin. and a well might mark the location of Menkaure's purification tent. The lower temple's vestibule contains a decree of Pepi II awarding privileges to the priests of the pyramid city. In the adjacent open court and in the area just East of the temple lie the remains of Old Kingdom houses Pepi II's decree indicates that these houses belonged to the pyramid city of Menkaure. Here lived the personnel responsible for maintaining the cult of the deceased king.

About 73m South of the causeway of Menkaure, A. Saleh found what he calls the industrial area consisting of a long narrow foundation in the shape of a reversed L and a second shorter foundation Northwest of the first. The two foundations are built of stone rubble mixed with mortar. Saleh labels these foundations as embankments and suggests that they are parts of the ramps used to transport blocks to building sites. Other discoveries prove that the whole area could be the workshop the pyramid complex.





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