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The Pyramid of Khafre
Great Is Khafre
Original Height: 143.5 m (470.79 ft)
Current Height: 136.4 m (447.50 ft)
Length of Side: 215.25 (706.19 ft)
Angle: 53
Estimated Volume: 1,659,200 cu m
Khafre was a son of Khufu and his is the second largest known pyramid in Egypt, only approximately 10 feet shorter than the Great Pyramid. Remnants of its original casing are still apparent at the top of the structure. After the accomplishment of the building of the Great Pyramid, King Khafre had a hard act to follow. Khafre rose to the occasion by building his pyramid on higher ground giving the illusion that his pyramid was taller. He also encased the lowest two courses in granite. The pyramid itself lacks the degree of precision that was present in the Great Pyramid. Its angle is slightly sharper and the four corners are not as well aligned to accurately meet the apex. Therefore it exhibits a slight twist at the top. 

Inside the Pyramid of Khafre

This pyramid contains 2 known chambers. One chamber is subterranean, carved into the very bedrock. The other has its floor carved into the bedrock while its upper walls and ceiling pierce into the base of the pyramid.

The higher entrance is 11.54m (38 ft) above ground level. The lower entrance begins at about ground level. As you enter the short descending passageway through the lower opening on the north side of the pyramid, you descend until the passageway levels off. Here we find a vertically operated portcullis. This level passageway is higher, almost a hallway, with a large empty recess in the wall on the left side, just past the mid-point of the passage. To the right, across from the recess, is a short descending passageway leading to a chamber. This  chamber which is carved in the plateau bedrock is 34' x 10'. It contains no sarcophagus and also includes a pointed ceiling. This chamber may have served for storage of offering material, treasure, or have been the equivalent of a serdab. Perhaps it is this pyramid's equivalent of the middle or so-called Queen's Chamber of the Great Pyramid, which also has a pointed ceiling. However, this room does not contain any niche in the wall for the life-size statue of the king, instead its east wall frames the entrance. As you exit this chamber and continue to the right, at the end of the passageway lies a ramp which ascends into the next passageway. Once you climb this ramp, if you turn around, you can also see the rough dressed granite lined passageway that leads back up to the higher entrance on the north side. There is a portcullis in at the interior end of this passageway as well. Continuing south down the passageway leads to the main burial chamber. On this higher level there is a chamber which is ft. 46.5 ft. long and 16.5 ft. wide. The ceiling also comes to a point. There is a unique black granite sarcophagus in this room in that it was built to be sunken into the floor. The original lid, though no longer attached, lies propped up next to the coffer near the west wall. It is possible that the open niche against the east side of the coffer held the king's canopic chest, the box containing the mummified organs of the king, within ceremonial vases. There are a few other examples of this style in other Old Kingdom tombs. By the time this pyramid was reopened in 1818 by Giovanni Belzoni, the body of the king and any sign of royal treasure had been long gone. Belzoni left his graffiti in this chamber on March 2, 1818, which is still present today on the south wall of the burial chamber.


The Khafre Pyramid Complex
Within the Khafre pyramid complex near the remains of the Mortuary temple lies 5 boat pits. Although the roofs of two were found to be nearly intact, no signs of boats were found in any of these pits in modern days. Little also remains of the Mortuary temple, although a reasonable floor plan can be derived from the remains. From the time of Khafre until the end of the Old Kingdom, five features remain consistent within the Mortuary temple. These are : an entrance hall, an open court, five statue niches, magazines, and a sanctuary This temple had such an expansion on any previous Mortuary temple, including that of Khufu, that it is believed that there must have been some religious change in emphasis in the royal mortuary cult. 

This building appears to have been made of a core of limestone and casing of granite. The floor was made of alabaster. The entrance leads to a narrow passage, running from north to south. To the south this connects to two chambers. The north passage leads to a vestibule with two columns, continuing straight leads to four storerooms and a staircase which led to the roof. On the west wall of the vestibule is a passage that leads to a hall which contained 14 square columns. The north and south ends of this hall gives passage to two large bays. Beyond this hall to the west was another hall which had 10 columns Continuing to the west through this hall leads to the courtyard of the temple. Within this courtyard that there was a colonnade supported by rectangular pillars. Each of which also functioned as a back support for large statues of the king. It is on the western wall of this courtyard that we see a new feature emerge which then becomes standard in subsequent mortuary temples five niches.

Only in one earlier valley temple, that of Sneferu, did we encounter a section with 6 niches. The passages flank the niches leading from the western corners of the courtyard. The north passage leads to the pyramid courtyard. The south passage leads to 5 small storerooms, Going southward is 2 more small rooms and a door leading outside the temple. Along the western most section of the temple is a long narrow sanctuary which has remnants of a large granite stela. Mace heads of Khafre were found in his mortuary temple

Remnants of a satellite pyramid are present on the south side of the pyramid. The complex is also unique because it incorporates the Sphinx at the north of the distal end of its causeway. The causeway connects to the rear of the valley temple at its northwest corner.

The Valley temple is one of the best preserved from the Old Kingdom. It is built of huge core blocks sheathed in red granite. The floor of the temple is made of alabaster as is the walls of some of the smaller chambers. There are two entrances on the eastern wall which flank a vestibule, diorite statues of Khafre were found in here. An entrance in the center of the western wall leads to a T-shaped hall which has 23 statue bases and had 16 square red granite pillars, which supported the roof. Many of these columns are still in place. This hall was dimly lit by small slotted window holes in the original ceiling, which were each positioned as to cast a small ray of light on each of the statues. At the southwest corner of the T of the hall there is a small passage that leads to a two tiered set of storerooms, three upon three. These have low ceilings and the lower rooms are made of highly polished slabs of red granite while the upper rooms are made of alabaster. At the northwest corner of the T, a passageway leads back upward to an opening to the causeway. It is about halfway up this passage on the south wall that we find a small chamber that is lined and paved with alabaster. Across from the entrance to this chamber, on the north wall of that passage is a clockwise winding ascending ramp that leads upward to the roof of the temple. On the south side of the temple roof was a small courtyard which was located directly about the aforementioned 6 storerooms.

This is an excerpt from the book,
Guardian's Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Primer,
available soon.

Copyright 2000 Andrew Bayuk
All Rights Reserved

Credits for Illustrations

Plan of Pyramid of Khafre Plan - Lepre   (Cross-section H. Vyse and J. Perring)


Plan of the passageway and chambers within the Pyramid of Khafre - The Complete Pyramids Mark Lehner
Copyright 1997 All Rights Reserved

Photo of Granite sarcophagus of Khafre A. Bayuk


Plan of Khafre Pyramid Complex - Guide to the Pyramid of Egypt, Alberto Siliotti
Copyright 1997 All Rights Reserved

Plan of Khafre Mortuary and Valley Temples -
The Pyramids Ahmed Fakhry

Bibliography and Suggested Reading

 Edwards, I.E.S. The Pyramids of Egypt. New York and London, Penguin Books, 1985

 Fakhry, A. The Pyramids. Chicago and London, 1969

Hawass, Zahi, The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Pittsburgh. 1990

Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids. London. 1997

Lepre, J.P. The Egyptian Pyramids. North Carolina. 1990

Mendelssohn, K. Riddle of the Pyramids. New York. 1974

Petrie, W. M. F. The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. London. 1883

Siliotti, Alberto. Guide to the Pyramids of Egypt, Cairo, 1997

Andreu, Guillemette, Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids. Ithaca and London. 1997

Weeks, John. The Pyramids. Cambridge, 1971


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