Pyramid of Menkaure
|Pyramid of Menkaure|
|Ancient name||Menkaure is Divine|
|Constructed||c. 2510 BC (4th dynasty)|
red granite, white limestone, casing
|Height||65 metres (213 ft) or 125 cubits (original)|
|Base||102.2 by 104.6 metres (335 ft × 343 ft) or 200 cubits (original)|
|Volume||235,183 cubic metres (8,305,409 cu ft)|
The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three main Pyramids of Giza, located on the Giza Plateau in the southwestern outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. It is thought to have been built to serve as the tomb of the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkaure.
Size and construction
Menkaure's pyramid had an original height of 65.5 metres (215 feet) and was the smallest of the three major pyramids at the Giza Necropolis. It now stands at 61 m (204 ft) tall with a base of 108.5 m. Its angle of incline is approximately 51°20′25″. It was constructed of limestone and granite. The first sixteen courses of the exterior were made of red granite. The upper portion was cased in the normal manner with Tura limestone. Part of the granite was left in the rough. Incomplete projects such as this pyramid help archaeologists understand the methods used to build pyramids and temples. South of the pyramid of Menkaure are three satellite pyramids that are each accompanied with a temple and have a substructure. The southernmost is the largest and a true pyramid. Its casing is partly of granite, like the main pyramid, and is believed to have been completed due to the limestone pyramidion found close by. Neither of the other two progressed beyond the construction of the inner core.
In the mortuary temple the foundations and the inner core were made of limestone. The floors were begun with granite and granite facings were added to some of the walls. The foundations of the valley temple were made of stone. However both temples were finished with crude bricks. Reisner estimated that some of the blocks of local stone in the walls of the mortuary temple weighed as much as 220 tons, while the heaviest granite ashlars imported from Aswan weighed more than 30 tons. It was not unusual for a son or successor to complete a temple when a Pharaoh died, so it is not unreasonable to assume that Shepseskaf finished the temples with crude brick. There was an inscription in the mortuary temple that said he "made it (the temple) as his monument for his father, the king of upper and lower Egypt." During excavations of the temples Reisner found a large number of statues mostly of Menkaure alone and as a member of a group. These were all carved in the naturalistic style of the old kingdom with a high degree of detail evident.
Age and location
The pyramid's date of construction is unknown, because Menkaure's reign has not been accurately defined, but it was probably completed in the 26th century BC. It lies a few hundred yards southwest of its larger neighbours, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Great Pyramid of Khufu in the Giza necropolis.
Coffin and sarcophagus
Richard Vyse, who first visited Egypt in 1835, discovered on 28 July 1837 in the upper antechamber the remains of a wooden anthropoid coffin inscribed with Menkaure's name and containing human bones. This is now considered to be a substitute coffin from the Saite period. Radiocarbon dating on the bones determined them to be less than 2,000 years old, suggesting either an all-too-common bungled handling of remains from another site, or access to the pyramid during Roman times. Deeper into the pyramid, Vyse came upon a basalt sarcophagus, described as beautiful and rich in detail with a bold projecting corniche, which contained the bones of a young woman. Unfortunately, this sarcophagus now lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea, having sunk on October 13, 1838, with the ship Beatrice, as she made her way between Malta and Cartagena, on the way to Great Britain. It was one of only a handful of Old Kingdom sarcophagi to survive into the modern period. The lid from the anthropoid coffin mentioned above was successfully transported to England and may be seen today at the British Museum.
At the end of the twelfth century al-Malek al-Aziz Othman ben Yusuf, Saladin's son and heir, attempted to demolish the pyramids, starting with Menkaure's. The workmen whom Al-Aziz had recruited to demolish the pyramid stayed at their job for eight months, but found it almost as expensive to destroy as to build. They could only remove one or two stones each day. Some used wedges and levers to move the stones, while others used ropes to pull them down. When a stone fell, it would bury itself in the sand, requiring extraordinary efforts to free it. Wedges were used to split the stones into several pieces, and a cart was used to carry it to the foot of the escarpment, where it was left. Due to such conditions, they could only damage the pyramid by leaving a large vertical gash in its north face.
- Janosi, Peter. "Das Pyramidion der Pyramide G III-a" (PDF).
- Edwards, Dr. I.E.S.: The Pyramids of Egypt 1986/1947 p. 147-163
- Lehner, Mark (2001). The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries. London: Thames & Hudson. p. 221. ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
- Hawass, Zahi. "The Pyramids at Giza: Khafre and Menkaure". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
- Stewert, Desmond and editors of the Newsweek Book Division "The Pyramids and Sphinx" 1971 p. 101
- Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997)p.41 ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
- Verner, Miroslav, The Pyramids – Their Archaeology and History, Atlantic Books, 2001, ISBN 1-84354-171-8
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