Abusir Pyramid Of KhentkawesClose to the south of Neferirkare’s pyramid, the king constructed a small pyramid for his consort Khentkawes. The Queen’s monument was not excavated at the time Ludwig Borchardt first investigated the pyramid of Neferirkare and was dismissed as a mastaba until the Czech expedition took a closer look in the mid-1970s and discovered the small pyramid was more complicated than it looked.
The pyramid’s remains today are only about 4m high after much damage by stone robbers, and the construction of the three-level core and the subterranean chambers was of a simple design, with a descending passage leading from the north wall to a burial chamber. A fragment of a red granite sarcophagus and fragments of mummy wrappings were found in the burial chamber, confirming the evidence of the Queen’s burial. Construction of the Queen’s pyramid was halted, possibly at Neferirkare’s death, and was resumed in Year 10 of an un-named king according to a block from the pyramid, and she is then named as ‘King’s Mother Khentkawes’. It would appear that the pyramid was completed by her son (Neferefre or Niuserre?).
The owner had been named as ‘King’s Wife Khentkawes’ on a graffito found by Perring, and the Czech team confirmed the name of Khentkawes (II) and her titles, which were inscribed on a pillar in her mortuary temple. There was also a relief in the courtyard depicting the Queen seated on a throne, holding a papyrus sceptre and wearing a uraeus – a symbol of kingship at that time. The mortuary temple built on the east side of her pyramid has been found to be quite extensive, although badly damaged. Constructed in two stages, the inner parts were of limestone, with an altar, a granite false door and magazines.
The additions to the mortuary temple were built of mudbrick and included the first example of a cult pyramid in an Old Kingdom queen’s complex, which also had its own enclosure wall, emphasising the lady’s importance. Khentkawes’ name and titles are the same as a Queen Khentkawes (I), possibly a daughter of Menkaure, who owns a large mastaba at Giza and it was originally thought that the two monuments belonged to the same queen – both of whom are depicted wearing the royal uraeus. Egyptologists now suggest that the two ladies may have been related, but must have been separated by one or two generations. They both seemed to have played an important role as a regent to a young king.
In the mortuary temple of Khentkawes, another collection of papyrus was found, similar to those from Neferirkare and Neferefre’s temples (the Abusir Papyri), providing more details of the function of the mortuary cult.