Pyramid Of Menkaure
The Third Pyramid
In the corner at the southwestern area of the Plateau of Giza, Menkaure’s Pyramid stands tall with the other pyramids. Menkaure was the succeeding pharaoh to his father, Khafre. Like his father and grandfather before him, Menkaure created his own monumental pyramid too. It was referred to as “Menkaure is Divine.” Out of the 3 pyramids of Giza, Menkaure’s pyramid is the smallest.
Based on historical evidence, Menkaure died before his pyramid had finished being built. Shepseskaf, the son of Menkaure, went ahead and finished the rest of the pyramid’s construction by using mudbrick. Future additions were made to the pyramid, including temples that were constructed during the fourth and fifth dynasties. This has historians believing that the mortuary cult had continued to exist during these times.
Menkaure was the king of Egypt for about 18 years. On the entrance of the pyramid, there is an inscription which states the month and day that the king died. Khaemwaset is likely the one who carved this inscription. Khaemwaset was a prince and the son of Ramesses II.
White limestone was likely used to construct the upper casing blocks of the pyramid. As for the lower areas of the pyramid, they contained a durable pink granite covering. Because of this, workers probably started applying the casing on the top of the pyramid and then worked their way down to the base. This supports the theory that the pyramid was never finished. The modern-day entrance still has granite casing blocks that are visible.
During the 12th century A.D., while the Mamaluke era was taking place, the pyramid’s northern side had a big gash put into it. However, no one from Europe had ever gone into the pyramid until 1837. That was when Vyse and Perring visited the pyramid for the first time. When they were there, they discovered a basalt sarcophagus in there. Since it was such a significant find, they decided to send the sarcophagus back to England in their merchant vessel named Beatrice. Unfortunately, the ship never made it back to England because it suffered a wreck somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea. The sarcophagus and ship were never found.
Roughly 4 meters above ground level on the pyramid’s northern side, you will find the main entrance. It will take you to a horizontal corridor which slopes into a small passageway. Keep going and you will see a chamber that is decorated with beautifully crafted stone panels. No one knows why this decoration was used.
The antechamber has a big rectangular shape to it. Upon its completion, it appears like the chamber experienced several changes first. This makes some people believe that it was originally supposed to be a burial chamber.
When Vyse searched the chamber, he found the remnants of a wooden anthropoid coffin. The name carved onto the coffin read “Menkaure.” He even found human remains inside the coffin. However, the remains were determined to be from someone who existed well after the pyramid was built.
There is an additional passageway in the antechamber that goes from its floor to the pyramid’s burial chamber. As you head to the burial chamber in the passageway, you’ll find a room with 6 deep niches. It is believed these were used for storing the king’s canopic jars or various funerary items.
Under the pyramid, the burial chamber has pink granite lining along its rectangular shape. When Vyse was looking around, he found the gorgeous basalt sarcophagus on the west wall which held the remains of Menkaure.
During Menkaure’s reign, he constructed 3 pyramids for the queen. They were constructed on the pyramid’s southern side. The biggest pyramid of these 3 pyramids has a substructure shaped like a T. This shows that it may have originally been designed to be a satellite cult pyramid. Instead of that, it was used for a queens’ burial. The other 2 satellite pyramids were then used for queen burials as well. There were even mudbrick chapels connected to them.
The sarcophagus made of pink granite in the burial chamber of the pyramid used to be fixed right into the floor. Burnt pieces of matting and wood were discovered in the chamber too. This may have been where Khamerernebty II was buried, who was the Chief Wife of Menkaure. The second queen’s pyramid in the center featured another sarcophagus made of pink granite. This one contained a young woman’s bones, although no one knows who she was. The third pyramid never got finished. No evidence of a burial existed there.
On the eastern side of Menkaure’s pyramid, you can find what’s left of his mortuary temple. This temple is believed to have been finished quickly. Evidence shows its construction started with huge blocks of limestone that were quarried. The builders were likely going to use black granite to face the exterior and interior walls. Instead, mudbrick with painted plaster was used to finish the rest of it. Shepseskaf likely did this.
A rectangular courtyard existed in the middle of this structure. It was found to be preserved better than the mortuary temple of Khafre’s pyramid. The evidence shows that the construction methods of the temple were rather innovative for this era. Pieces of various royal statues had been discovered there too.
It seems like Shepseskaf had finished the causeway of Menkaure. He used mudbrick instead of limestone to construct it. However, he didn’t finish as much as he did with the valley temple.
As the sandy valley temple was excavated, numerous Menkaure statues in excellent condition were discovered. These statues really give you a sense of how high quality the artwork was in Ancient Egypt.
The valley temple had been constructed in two phases. The first phase was constructed from stone. The second phase was constructed from mudbrick. The valley temple bears an inscription which reveals that Shepseskaf constructed the temple to honor his father. During the fourth dynasty, the temple was rebuilt. Most scholars believe that Pepy II led its reconstruction.
Since the year 1988, most of the excavations around this area have taken place roughly 300 meters to the south of the Great Sphinx. The Wall of the Crow is a huge structure which has been excavated around too. A worker’s cemetery was discovered there not too long ago.
Recently, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization has orchestrated many excavations in the area surrounding Menkaure’s pyramid. They are looking for evidence of the construction ramp used to help build the pyramid as well as the funerary boats of the king.
The organization did find a double-statue of Rameses II which was not finished. The sculptor apparently sculpted this statue out of just one block of stone. It is 3 meters in height but still a big mystery. It was the first big statue of the New Kingdom to ever be found in the Plateau of Giza.
Updated On March 24, 2020