Menkaure is the son of Khafre and the grandson of Khufu of Dynasty
IV. He bore the titles Kakhet and Hornub. There are doubts that Menkaure could be the son
of Khafre, because the Turin Papyrus mentioned a name of a king between Menkaure and
Khafre, but the name was smashed. A Middle Kingdom text written on a rock at Wadi Hamamat
includes the names of the kings: Khufu, Djedefre, Khafre, Hordedef and Bauefre. This text
indicates to some that Hordedef and Bauefre ruled after Khafre. But it seems that their
names were not written as kings because Menkaure's names were not mentioned. It has been
suggested that Hordedef's name was mentioned because was a wise educated man in this
period and perhaps Bauefre was a vizier.
He built the smallest pyramid at the Giza plateau, and is called
"Menkaure is Divine." The pyramid is remarkable because it is the only pyramid
in Dynasty IV that was cased in 16 layers of granite, Menkaure planned to cover the
surface with granite but he could not because of his sudden death.
The pyramid complex of Menkaure was completed by his son and successor
Shepseskaf but the temples has architectural additions which were made during Dynasties V
and VI. This suggests that the cult of Menkaure was very important and perhaps differed
from the cults of Khufu and Khafre.
At the pyramid's entrance, there is an inscription records that Menkaure died
on the twenty-third day of the fourth month of the summer and that he built the pyramid.
It is thought that this inscription dates to the reign of Khaemwas, son of Ramsses II. The
name of Menkaure found written in red ochre on the ceiling of the burial chamber in one of
the subsidiary pyramids.
H. Vyse found a basalt sarcophagus and inside it a skeleton of a young woman.
The sarcophagus was lost in the Mediterranean between ports of Cartagena and Malta when
the ship "Beatrice" sank after setting sail on October 13, 1838. We still have
the lid from the wooden anthropoid coffin found inside the pyramid which bears the name
and titles of Menkaure.
Menkaure's main queen was Khamerernebty II, who is portrayed with him in a
group statue found in the Valley Temple. It is believed that she is buried in Giza.
Shepseskaf completed the pyramid complex of his father with mudbrick and left
an inscription inside the Valley Temple indicating that he built the temple for the memory
of his father.
Menkaure ruled for 18 years. There are two inscriptions found in his pyramid
complex. The first was a decree bearing the Horus name of Merenre of Dynasty VI. The
decree stated that the Valley Temple was in use until the end of the Old Kingdom. The
objects found in some of the storage rooms of the temples show that the king's cult was
maintained and that the temple had a dual function as a temple and a palace.
The second decree of Pepi II was found on the lower temple vestibule,
awarding privileges to the priests of the pyramid city. In the adjacent open court and in
the area just east of the temple lie the remains of the Old Kingdom houses. Pepi II's
decree indicates that these houses belonged to the pyramid city of Menkaure. Here lived
the personnel responsible for maintaining the cult of the deceased king.
The statuary program found inside the complex displays the superb quality of
arts and crafts. The triads in Menkaure's valley temple suggest that his pyramid complex
was dedicated to Re, Hathor, and Horus. In addition, they show the king's relationship
with the gods and are essential to his kingship, indicating both a temple and palace
The textual evidence indicates that the high officials had more privileges in
his reign that in any other period. They had many statues in their tombs; the inscriptions
and the scenes increased and were set on rock-cut tombs. In the tomb of Debhen an
inscription was found describing the kindness of Menkaure. When Debhen came to visit the
king's pyramid, he asked the king for permission to build his tomb near the pyramid. The
king agreed and even ordered that stones from the royal quarry in Tura should be used in
building his tomb. The text also mentions that the king stood on the road by the Hr
pyramid inspecting the other pyramid. The name "Hr" was also found written in
the tomb of Urkhuu at Giza, who was the keeper of a place belonging to the Hr pyramid. It
is not clear what the Hr pyramid is. Is it a name of a subsidiary pyramid, or the name of
the plateau? The Debhen texts is a revelation of f how the king tried to inspire loyalty
by his people giving them gifts.
Menkaure also had a new policy - he opened his palace to the children of his
high officials. They were educated and raised with the king's own children. Shepsesbah is
one of those children. The textual and archaeological evidence of the Old Kingdom
indicates that the palace of the king was located near his pyramid and not at Memphis.
Menkaure explored granite from Aswan and he sent expeditions to Sinai. Excavations under
the author revealed a pari of statues of Ramses II on the south side of Menkaure's
pyramid. The statues were made of granite, and one represents Ramses as king while the
other as Atum-Re.
The name of Menkaure was found written on scarabs dated to the 26th Dynasty,
which may imply that he was worshipped in this period.
Herodotus mentioned that Menkaure died suddenly and added that there was an
oracle from the Buto statue that foretold that he would live for 6 years. Menkaure started
to drink, and enjoy every moment of his remaining years. However, Menkaure lived for 12
years, thus disproving the prophecy. Herodotus also said that his daughter committed
suicide. The Greek historian also wrote that the Egyptians loved Menkaure more than his
father and grandfather. The Late Period tales were based on Menkaure's reputation during
the Old Kingdom. He ruled with justice, gave freedom to his officials to carve statues and
make offerings, and stopped the firm rules.
E1-Makrizi, the Arab historian named Menkaure's pyramid as the colored
pyramid because of the red granite casing.
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