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Menkaure or Menkaura (Egyptian transliteration: mn-kꜣw-rꜥ) was a pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. He is well known under his Hellenized names Mykerinos (Ancient Greek: Μυκερῖνος, romanizedMukerînos by Herodotus); in turn Latinized as Mycerinus, and Menkheres (Μεγχέρης, Menkhérēs by Manetho). According to Manetho, he was the throne successor of king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidence, he was almost certainly the successor of Khafre. Africanus (from Syncellus) reports as rulers of the fourth dynasty Sôris, Suphis I, Suphis II, Mencherês (=Menkaure), Ratoisês, Bicheris, Sebercherês, and Thamphthis in this order.[2] Menkaure became famous for his tomb, the Pyramid of Menkaure, at Giza and his statue triads, which showed him alongside the goddess Hathor and various regional deities.


Menkaure was the son of Khafre and the grandson of Khufu. A flint knife found in the mortuary temple of Menkaure mentioned a king's mother Khamerernebty I, suggesting that Khafre and this queen were the parents of Menkaure. Menkaure is thought to have had at least two wives.

  • Queen Khamerernebty II is the daughter of Khamerernebty I and the mother of a king's son Khuenre. The location of Khuenre's tomb suggests that he was a son of Menkaure, making his mother the wife of this king.[3][4]
  • Queen Rekhetre is known to have been a daughter of Khafre and as such the most likely identity of her husband is Menkaure.[3]

Not many children are attested for Menkaure:

  • Khuenre was the son of queen Khamerernebty II. Menkaure was not succeeded by Prince Khuenre, his eldest son, who predeceased Menkaure, but rather by Shepseskaf, a younger son of this king.[5]
  • Shepseskaf was the successor to Menkaure and likely his son.
  • Sekhemre is known from a statue and possibly a son of Menkaure.
  • A daughter who died in early adulthood is mentioned by Herodotus. She was placed at a decorated hall of the palatial area at Sais, in a hollow gold layered wooden zoomorphic burial feature in the shape of a kneeling cow covered externally with a layer of red decoration except the neck area and the horns that were covered with adequate layers of gold.[6]
  • Khentkaus I – possible Menkaure's daughter[7]

The royal court included several of Menkaure's half brothers. His brothers Nebemakhet, Duaenre, Nikaure, and Iunmin served as viziers during the reign of their brother. His brother Sekhemkare may have been younger than he was and became vizier after the death of Menkaure.[8]


Menkaura flanked by the goddess Hathor (left) and the personification of the nome of Sesheshet (right). Graywacke statue in Cairo Museum.

The length of Menkaure's reign is uncertain. The ancient historian Manetho credits him with rulership of 63 years, but this is surely an exaggeration. The Turin King List is damaged at the spot where it should present the full sum of years, but the remains allow a reconstruction of "..?.. + 8  years of rulership". Egyptologists think that 18-year rulership was meant to be written, which is generally accepted. A contemporary workmen's graffito reports about the "year after the 11th cattle count". If the cattle count was held every second year (as was tradition at least up to king Sneferu), Menkaure might have ruled for 22 years.[9]

In 2013, a fragment of the sphinx of Menkaure was discovered at Tel Hazor at the entrance to the city palace.[10]

Pyramid complex[edit]

Menkaure's pyramid at Giza was called Netjer-er-Menkaure, meaning "Menkaure is Divine". This pyramid is the smallest of the three main pyramids at Giza. This pyramid measures 103.4 m (339 ft) at the base and 65.5 m (215 ft) in height.[11] There are three subsidiary pyramids associated with Menkaure's pyramid.

These other pyramids are sometimes labeled G-IIIa (East subsidiary pyramid), G-IIIb (Middle subsidiary pyramid) and G-IIIc (West subsidiary pyramid). In the chapel associated with G-IIIa a statue of a queen was found. It is possible that these pyramids were meant for the queens of Khafre. It may be that Khamerernebti II was buried in one of the pyramids.[4][8]

Valley temple[edit]

The Valley temple was a mainly brick built structure that was enlarged in the fifth or sixth Dynasty. From this temple come the famous statues of Menkaure with his queen and Menkaure with several deities. A partial list includes:[8]

  • Nome triad, Hathor-Mistress-of-the-Sycomore seated, and King and Hare-nome goddess standing, greywacke, in Boston Mus. 09.200.
  • Nome triad, King, Hathor-Mistress-of-the-Sycomore and Theban nome-god standing, greywacke. (Now in Cairo Mus. Ent. 40678.)
  • Nome triad, King, Hathor-Mistress-of-the-Sycomore and Jackal-nome goddess standing, greywacke. (Now in Cairo Mus. Ent. 40679.)
  • Nome triad, King, Hathor-Mistress-of-the-Sycomore and Bat-fetish nome -goddess standing, greywacke. (Now in Cairo Mus. Ent. 46499.)
  • Nome triad, King, Hathor, and nome-god standing, greywacke. (Middle part in Boston Mus. 11.3147, head of King in Brussels, Mus. Roy. E. 3074.)
  • Double-statue,’ King and wife (Khamerernebti II) standing, uninscribed, greywacke. (Now in Boston Mus. 11.1738.)
  • King seated, life-size, fragmentary, alabaster. (Now in Cairo Mus. Ent. 40703.)
  • King seated, lower part, inscribed seat, alabaster. (Now in Boston Mus. 09.202)

Mortuary Temple[edit]

At his mortuary temple more statues and statue fragments were found. An interesting find is a fragment of a wand from Queen Khamerernebty I. The piece is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Khamerernebti is given the title King's Mother on the fragment.[8]


Burial chamber of Menkaure, today, and as discovered with now lost sarcophagus

In 1837, English army officer Richard William Howard Vyse, and engineer John Shae Perring began excavations within the pyramid of Menkaure. In the main burial chamber of the pyramid they found a large stone sarcophagus 8 feet 0 inches (244 cm) long, 3 feet 0 inches (91 cm) in width, and 2 feet 11 inches (89 cm) in height, made of basalt. The sarcophagus was not inscribed with hieroglyphs although it was decorated in the style of palace facade. Adjacent to the burial chamber were found wooden fragments of a coffin bearing the name of Menkaure and a partial skeleton wrapped in a coarse cloth. The sarcophagus was removed from the pyramid and was sent by ship to the British Museum in London, but the merchant ship Beatrice carrying it was lost after leaving port at Malta on October 13, 1838. The other materials were sent by a separate ship, and those materials now reside at the museum, with the remains of the wooden coffin case on display.

It is now thought that the coffin was a replacement made during the much later Saite period, nearly two millennia after the king's original interment. Radio carbon dating of the bone fragments that were found, place them at an even later date, from the Coptic period in the first centuries AD.[12]

Records from later periods[edit]

According to Herodotus (430 BC), Menkaure was the son of Khufu (Greek Cheops), and that he alleviated the suffering his father's reign had caused the inhabitants of ancient Egypt. Herodotus adds that he suffered much misfortune: his only daughter, whose corpse was interred in a wooden bull (which Herodotus claims survived to his lifetime), died before him. Subsequently the oracle at Buto predicted he would only rule six more years.

The king deemed this unjust, and sent back to the oracle a message of reproach, blaming the god: why must he die so soon who was pious, whereas his father and his uncle had lived long, who shut up the temples, and regarded not the gods, and destroyed men? But a second utterance from the place of divination declared to him that his good deeds were the very cause of shortening his life; for he had done what was contrary to fate; Egypt should have been afflicted for an hundred and fifty years, whereof the two kings before him had been aware, but not Mycerinus. Hearing this, he knew that his doom was fixed. Therefore he caused many lamps to be made, and would light these at nightfall and drink and make merry; by day or night he never ceased from revelling, roaming to the marsh country and the groves and wherever he heard of the likeliest places of pleasure. Thus he planned, that by turning night into day he might make his six years into twelve and so prove the oracle false.[13]


  • Menkaure was the subject of a poem by the nineteenth century English poet Matthew Arnold, entitled "Mycerinus".
  • Menkaure, using the Greek version of his name, Mencheres, is a major character in the Night Huntress series of books by Jeaniene Frost, depicted as an extremely old and powerful vampire living in modern times. He is a protagonist of one book in the series.

Gallery of images[edit]


  1. ^ a b Thomas Schneider (2002). Lexikon der Pharaonen. Düsseldorf: Albatros. ISBN 3-491-96053-3. pp. 163–164.
  2. ^ "LacusCurtius • Manetho: History of Egypt (And other Fragments)".
  3. ^ a b Grajetzki, Ancient Egyptian Queens: A Hieroglyphic Dictionary, Golden House Publications, London, 2005, p13-14 ISBN 978-0-9547218-9-3
  4. ^ a b Tyldesley, Joyce. Chronicle of the Queens of Egypt. Thames & Hudson. 2006. ISBN 0-500-05145-3
  5. ^ Clayton, pp.57-58
  6. ^ Herodotus, Historia, B:129-132
  7. ^ Hassan, Selim: Excavations at Gîza IV. 1932–1933. Cairo: Government Press, Bulâq, 1930. pp 18-62
  8. ^ a b c d Porter, Bertha and Moss, Rosalind, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Statues, Reliefs and Paintings Volume III: Memphis, Part I Abu Rawash to Abusir. 2nd edition (revised and augmented by Dr Jaromir Malek, 1974). Retrieved from gizapyramids.org
  9. ^ Miroslav Verner: Archaeological Remarks on the 4th and 5th Dynasty Chronology. In: Archiv Orientální, Vol. 69. Prague 2001, page 363–418.
  10. ^ Ancient Egyptian leader makes a surprise appearance at an archaeological dig in Israel July 9, 2013, sciencedaily.com
  11. ^ Guinness Book of World Records 2012. 2011. p. 194. ISBN 978-1-904994-68-8.
  12. ^ Boughton, Paul "Menkaura's Anthropoid Coffin: A Case of Mistaken Identity?" Ancient Egypt. August/September 2006. p.30-32.
  13. ^ Herodotus, Histories, 2.129-133
  14. ^ "Head of King Menkaura (Mycerinus)". Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Catalog number 09.203.
  15. ^ Hayes, William (1978). The Scepter of Egypt: A Background for the Study of the Egyptian Antiquities in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 1, From the Earliest Times to the End of the Middle Kingdom. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 108. OCLC 7427345.

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