|Khentkaus I in hieroglyphs|
Title of Khentkaus I and Khentkaus II
|Queen Khentkaus depicted on her tomb|
Khentkaus I, also referred to as Khentkawes, was a queen of ancient Egypt during the 4th dynasty. She may have been a daughter of pharaoh Menkaure, wife of both kings Shepseskaf and Userkaf and mother of Sahure. Her Mastaba at Giza – tomb LG100 – is located very close to Menkaure's pyramid complex. This close connection may point to a family relationship, but it is not quite clear exactly what that relationship is.
The proximity of Khentkaus' pyramid complex to that of King Menkaure has led to the conjecture that she may have been his daughter. She may have been married to King Userkaf and may have been the mother of Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai. Verner has stated that it is more likely however that Sahure was a son of Userkaf and his wife Neferhetepes. It has also been suggested Khentkaus was the mother and regent for her son Thampthis and the mother of Neferirkare Kakai instead. Manetho's King List has Menkaure and Thampthis reigning in the fourth dynasty, which ties her to the end of the fourth dynasty.
Khentkaus appears to have served as a regent and may have even taken on kingly titles. Some of her titles are ambiguous and are apparently open to interpretation.
- King’s Mother (mwt-niswt)
- Mother of Two Dual Kings (mwt-nswy-bitwy) or Dual King and Mother of a Dual King (nsw-bity mwt-nsw-bity)
Theories regarding Khentkaus I
The "Khentkaus Problem" has a long history. In the 1930s Hassan proposed that Khentkaus was a daughter of Menkaure, and married first to Shepseskaf and later to Userkaf. Ventikiev was the first to suggest that the title mwt nswt bity nswt bity should be read as "The Mother of two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt".
Junker believed that the existence of the pyramid town suggested that Khentkaus was a very important person and that the title should be read as "the King of Upper and Lower Egypt and the Mother of the King of Upper and Lower Egypt". He suggested that she was the daughter of Menkaure and the sister of Shepseskaf.
Borchardt suggested that Shepseskaf was a commoner who married the king’s daughter Khentkaus. He further thought that Sahure and Neferirkare Kakai were sons of Shepseskaf and Khentkaus. Borchardt conjectured that Userkaf was an outsider who was able to take the throne because Sahure and Neferirkare were too young to ascend the throne when Shepseskaf died.
Grdseloff proposed that Shepseskaf and Khentkaus were the son and daughter of Menkaure, and that Userkaf was a prince form a collateral branch of the royal family who came to the throne when he married the royal widow and mother of the heirs to the throne Khentkaus.
Kozloff theorized that Shepseskaf was the son of Menkaure with a minor wife who came to the throne after the death of the King’s Son Khuenre. Shepseskaf married Menkaure’s daughter Khentkaus. Upon the premature death of Shepseskaf, Khentkaus married the High Priest of Re to secure the throne for her two sons.
Callender took the fact that Khentkaus’ name never appeared in a cartouche to mean that she never ruled Egypt. Instead she preferred to read the mwt nswt bity nswt bity title as the mother of two Kings of Upper and Lower Egypt. She thought Khentkaus had to be a daughter of Menkaure and the wife of either Shepseskaf or Thampthis. She pointed to Userkaf and Neferirkare as the two sons referred to as the sons of Khentkaus in her title.
Coordinates: Khentkaus was buried in Giza. Her tomb is known as LG 100 and G 8400 and is located in the Central Field, Giza which is part of the Giza Necropolis. The pyramid complex of Queen Khentkaus includes her pyramid, a boat pit, a Valley Temple and a pyramid town.
The pyramid complex of Khentkaus I
The pyramid complex consists of the pyramid, a chapel, a solar boat, the pyramid city, a water tank and granaries. The pyramid was originally described in the 19th century as an unfinished pyramid and it had been conjectured that it belonged to King Shepseskaf. The pyramid was excavated by Selim Hassan starting in 1932. The tomb was given the number LG 100 by Lepsius.
The chapel consisted of a main hall and an inner chapel. A passage cut in the floor of the inner chapel leads to the burial chamber. The floor of the chapel was covered in Tura limestone. The walls were covered in relief, but the scenes are very badly damaged. Relief fragments were found in the debris when the tomb was excavated by Selim Hassan. The passage to the burial chamber and the chamber itself were lined with red granite. The passageway is 5.6 m long and descends below the main structure of the pyramid. The burial chamber is large and most closely resembles the burial chamber of King Shepseskaf in Saqqara. The burial chamber possibly housed an alabaster sarcophagus, many pieces were found in the sand and debris that filled the chamber. Also in the chamber contained a small scarab made of a brown limestone. Its craftsmanship leads to the belief that it is from the twelfth dynasty. It leads some to believe that her tomb was reused for other later tombs.
The solar boat is located to the south-west of the pyramid. A pit measuring some 30.25 m long and 4.25 m deep was cut into the rock. The prow and stern of the boat were upraised and the boat appears to have had a roof. It may represent the night-boat of the sun-god Ra. If so there may be an accompanying day-boat.
Immediately to the east of the pyramid lies a pyramid city. The city is laid out along several streets which divide the city into groups of houses. These houses had their own magazines and granaries. The city was constructed from unbaked mud-brick, and surfaces were covered in a yellow plaster. The city was probably the home of the priests and servants of the pyramid complex. The pyramid city was constructed towards the end of the 4th or beginning of the 5th dynasty and seems to have been functioning well into the 6th dynasty.
The valley temple of Khentkaus I
A causeway connects the pyramid chapel to the valley temple of Khentkaus. The temple lies close to the valley temple of Menkaure which suggests a close relationship between Khentkaus and Menkaure. In front of the temple a small structure referred to as the "washing tent of Queen Khentkaus" was discovered. This structure was the location where the body of the deceased queen would have been taken to be purified before being embalmed. The debris filling this chamber contained many fragments of stone vessels, potsherds and flint instruments. The floor is the opening of a limestone drain which runs downwards under the ground for a distance of 7–20 m., emptying into a large, rectangular basin. The drain is covered by arched sections of the same material, the whole forming an almost circular stone pipe. Though by no means the oldest subterranean water-channel known in Egyptian funerary architecture, according to Hassan, it is the earliest of this particular type and construction.
The valley temple of Khentkaus and Menkaure were both partially constructed of mud-brick and finished with white limestone and alabaster. The main entrance is located on the northern side which is a departure form the more common situation where the main entrance is located to the east. Entering the Valley temple from the main entrance, you would walk up a “wide brick-paved causeway which runs up from the valley in a westerly direction.” The doorway was embellished with a portico held up by two columns. Once you enter the doorway, “The doorway opens into a vestibule, the roof of which was supported upon four columns. Near the doorway a statue of King Khafra (father of Menkaure) once stood. Remains of a statue of a king (possibly Khafra) and the body of a sphinx statue were found in the vestibule of the temple. The vestibule opens up to a court which in turn led to the magazines.
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- Michael Rice: Who is who in Ancient Egypt, Routledge London & New York 1999, ISBN 0-203-44328-4, see p. 96
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- Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton, The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt, Thames & Hudson (2004), pg 68
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- http://gizapyramids.org/code G 8400 page
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- Hassan, Selim. Excavations at Gîza IV. 1932–1933. Cairo: Government Press, Bulâq, 1930. pp 53