by Dr. Zahi Hawass



As Egypt emerged, from, the Predynastic Period, two power centres, associated with burials arose on the desert sands of Upper Egypt: Abydos in the South and Saqqara in the North. At both sites large tombs from the first two dynasties proclaim the names and wealth of their royal owners.

Not infrequently two tombs bear the name of the same king. Egyptologists have long debated the reason for this and. the actual location of the king's burial. Barry Kemp, an English scholar, solves this problem and most Egyptologists concur: the kings of Dynasty I are buried at Abydos and while the tombs at Saqqara, found by Emery, belong to their officials and nobles who lie buried beside Inb-hd, the "White Wall" which is the Archaic capital of Egypt.

Meanwhile, most kings of Dynasty II are buried at Saqqara, at a location now under the upper temple of Unas. The exceptions are the last two kings of the Dynasty, Peribsen and Kh'asekh-emwy, who 'returned to Abydos for burial.

All of these tombs mark a significant change in construction from those of the Predynastic Period when tombs were simple oval or rectangular graves. Now the body lies in a wooden coffin with a separate chamber for grave goods, and both rest-beneath a mud-brick superstructure consisting of a flat roof and vertical walls. Attached to the exterior is a simple emplacement or small chapel used for the cult of the dead. This new type of tomb is called a mastaba, a modern Arabic word meaning, "bench."

mastaba1.jpg (49477 bytes)

The Abydos tombs are located in an area called Umm el Qa'ab, meaning "Mother of the Pots," but the funerary complex accompanying each tomb is located in another area. One complex, that of Kh"asekh-emwy and known as Shunet el Zebib, marks our earliest standing mud-brick wall. Recently an American Egyptologist who dedicated much of. his life to the excavating the area around Abydos, David O'Connor, uncovered 12 boat pits around Shunet el Zebib. He considers this complex and the boats to be the origin of the pyramids.

Moving north to Saqqara, we find the first attempt at constructing a pyramid. Here the founder of Dynasty III, King Djoser and his architect Imhotep, set a new trend in tomb design and construction. Although they imitated the niched wall of Shunet el Zebib they were the first to use limestone in building construction, and they created the first step pyramid by setting six mastaba superstructures on top of one another. This monumental structure dominates Djoser's huge funerary complex, which includes many other architectural components within the niched enclosure wall.

Over the next 100 years, the design of the Step Pyramid evolved into the well-known true pyramids of Dynasty IV at Dahshur and Giza. The Giza pyramids rise as the best examples, with their fabric of large local stones and casing of fine white Tura limestone. Dynasty IV builders inspire awe by using more and more stone to create larger pyramids and vast funerary complexes outside the pyramid's walls.

One can hardly imagine the number of workmen required for such a huge labour project as building the Giza pyramids. Khufu's pyramid alone required a sufficient number of men to move and place about 2,600,000 cubic metres of stones. Yet the number of artisans required was relatively few. This ratio of stone movers to artisans would change, however, over the next two dynasties as architects decreased the volume of stone using smaller stones, mud-brick or loose rubble fill, while they increased the number of beautiful wall reliefs to create the desired awe-inspiring effect.

For example, it is estimated that the pyramid of Dynasty V's first king, Userkaf, contains only one-thirtieth of the bulk of Khufu's pyramid. Indeed, the 2,600,000 cubic metres of raw stone in Khufu's pyramid is almost equal to all the raw stone of all  of the pyramids of Dynasties V and VI. On the other hand, the Dynasty V pyramid of Sahure at Abusir has 10,000 square metres of wall reliefs, according to German Egyptologist Borchardt. At this same time, the so-called Pyramid Texts appear on the inside walls of the pyramid's chambers-the first example being the pyramid of Unas at Saqqara. In the following dynasty, these precise carvings decorate the burial chambers of both kings and queens. I don't believe that the decreasing size of the pyramids and hence, the reduced need for workmen, was economically motivated because the increasing amount of relief would have necessitated hiring many more skilled artisans who commanded a higher wage than the workmen who moved the stones.

Pyramids of the Middle Kingdom have either mud-brick construction throughout or mud-brick walls with a rubble-filled core. All are enclosed limestone and are similar to the Pyramids of the Old Kingdom - with a few modifications. The most significant change is the creation of a maze of chambers and corridors within the pyramid to confuse grave robbers. Middle Kingdom pharaohs, horrified that even the huge pyramids of Dynasty IV had not safeguarded the deceased from thieves, desired a better way to protect their own eternity. Alas, they would suffer a similar fate.

Then in the New Kingdom, Ineni, the architect of King Tuthmosis I initiates a new trend in the tomb construction. Searching the western hills across the Nile from Thebes (modem Luxor) in the well known site of the Valley of the Kings, he cut the king's tomb into the rock and built the upper temple in another location. Believing that he had accomplished his goal of protecting the immortal pharaoh, Ineni inscribed on. the tomb wall: "I built the tomb of my majesty, no one see, no one hear."'

In some ways, Ineni continues the designs of the past. His plan imitates exactly what he saw in the style of the royal tombs at Abydos with the tombs located in one area while the temples sit in another. Ineni also follows the pyramid. design in his selection of Tuthmosis I's tomb site. The King lies beneath a pyramid, not one of human creation, but rather formed by the natural pyramid-shaped peak known as the Qum.

Through the span of multiple centuries some new trends are introduced to accommodate new needs; yet the development of the royal tomb from Dynasty I through the New Kingdom shows the continuation of the pyramid style and its funerary complex.


The pyramid shape is associated with the sun god Re, symbolized by the phoenix. The phoenix, or bnw in hieroglyphic was worshipped at On, a place the. Greeks called Heliopolis. As the quintessence of Re, the bird stood above the bnbn which is the exact shape of the pyramid and referred to as a pyramidion.

The bird's connection with the bnbn also links it with the obelisk. From atop the obelisk, the bnbn welcomed the rise of the sun god every morning. So it, too, became a symbol of Re. From the obelisk's bnbn, the pyramid takes its shape.

The Pyramid Texts explain that the deceased king used the sun's rays as a ramp to ascend to the sky. The sun would strengthened its beams to support the king on its celestial stair. Hence, the pyramid provided the only means for the pharaoh to take himself from the terrestrial world to the celestial world. This is also explains the step pyramid as a staircase or cr, "ascent" to the sky.. The pyramid is truly a huge bnbn or pyramidion.

The pyramid form may also represent the primordial mound from which the universal god Re created this world. AD kings lie buried beneath this symbolic mound of creation except for Snofru and Khufu. This change was due to religious belief. It seems that Khufu became Re in his lifetime because his pyramid is called Akhet-Khufu, or "The Horizon of Khufu." This name indicates that Khufu was the equivalent of Re who sits and rises each day on the horizon. furthermore, Khufu's sons and immediate successors, Djedefre and Khafre were the first kings to bear the title S3RC, "son of Re." This dearly points to their father, Khufu as Re. There are also many architectural components in Khufu's pyramid complex designed to accommodate the need for this cult, such as the enlargement of Khufu's upper temple, five boat pits and the burial chamber within the pyramid or the ben-ben which identifies the king with Re because the king is actually Re rising above the horizon.

No clear consensus exists among Egyptologists about the function of the pyramid complex. Some suggest that the complex was used for the burial procession of the king and that the lower temple was used for the mummification ritual and process. To support their theories they use evidence that is not related to the royal cult, such as parallels with scenes from private tombs or analysis of the Pyramid Texts, which record religious belief but do not contain any information about the pyramid's actual function.

We can discuss the function using the Giza pyramid complexes as evidence- they are the best excavated, best documented and best studied of all the royal pyramid sites.

First, many architectural features in the temples of the Dynasties IV-VI do not agree with the theory that the pyramid complex was used for the king's funeral procession. For example, the doors of the upper temples that lead to the pyramid courts are too narrow to have allowed the king's coffin and the funeral procession to pass through to the burial chamber inside the pyramid.

Also, the layout of the Old Kingdom causeway does not indicate that it was necessarily a ceremonial way for the procession of the king. Furthermore, the lower temples do not appear to have been designed for either the rituals or the process of mummification. The holes on the roof of the lower temple. of Khafre are not, as suggested by several Egyptologists, for the poles of the washing tent; rather, they are associated with the construction of the temple. The ground plan, wall reliefs, cult objects, and statuary programs found in the lower temple do not indicate any association with the process or ritual, or mummification.

If previous theories regarding the function of the pyramid complexes are called into doubt, what then might be a more logical explanation of their function?

Many Egyptologists believe that the pyramid temples served to promote the corporeal afterlife of the deceased king through the mortuary cult, as well as the continuance of his kingship, his victories over his enemies, and his deification. This theory is more in line with the archaeological evidence of the Old Kingdom pyramid complexes.

Study of the various elements of the complexes can reveal the function. This evidence is abundant, comprising: the architectural components such as the upper and lower temples, the causeways and the pyramids themselves in comparison with other Old Kingdom complexes; the programme of the wall reliefs in Dynasties V and VI; the statuary programme of the upper and lower temples; the programme of cult objects; and, lastly, the texts related to the personnel of the cult and other archaeological remains. The pyramid complex of Khafre is a good example for the study of the architecture program; the pyramid complexes of Khufu, Sahure, Neferefre and. Pepi II are perfect for the study of the wall reliefs; the pyramid complex of Menkaure and Neferefre for the study of the. statuary programme, and finally Abusir provides the only Old Kingdom papyrus that explains the daily service in Egyptian temples.

The relationships between these different programmes and building function are evident as well. For instance, some subjects for wall reliefs are presumably typical of palaces (e.g., dominating scenes, perhaps those showing the king with gods, and the Sed festival scenes), and are also found in temples. On the other hand, temple walls bear scenes of the gods giving offerings to the king; such offering scenes do not appear in palaces. Regarding the statuary programme, clearly statues adorned both palaces and temples. The Sed festival takes place in the palace, while there is a Sed court in the pyramid complex. This suggests that the pyramid complex is a ritual palace closely linked with the ceremonial palace. Personnel for the complex fall into two groups: the cult priests who serve the temple and the administrative body that runs. the funerary establishment as a great palace complex. This evidence tallies to the conclusion that the pyramid complex must be considered a combination of a temple and a palace.

Thus, this analysis of the programmes shows that the pyramid complex was not built for the funeral Procession of the king, nor was the lower temple used for the mummification process, as believed by the majority of scholars. The mummification of the king's body was done in the royal workshop while the ritual mummification was conducted in a purification tent set outside the lower temple. The funeral procession of the king went outside the pyramid complex and reached the burial chamber of the pyramid through the pyramid court.

So the pyramid complex functions as much as a palace as it does a temple. The architecture and decorative programmes as well as other evidence show that the king as Horus and Re is worshipped inside the temples, and that the whole complex is created to worship the triad of Re, Horus, and Hathor and to celebrate the myth of the kingship.




The pyramid's capstone is called a Pyramidion. Many have been found and dated to the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The oldest pyramidion, discovered by Stadelmann, belongs to the Red, or North Pyramid of Snofru at Dahshur. Found in pieces, it is now restored and displayed on the east side of the pyramid. It is a mere 785mm high.

The second oldest Pyramidion was discovered by the author near the recently uncovered satellite pyramid of Khufu (G1d, see map). It counts among the few complete examples because its four angles are preserved. It is 7.9mm high with a base of 1.118m. Now the Pyramidion is located on a base in front of the north side of the pyramid.

Another Pyramidion, measuring .75m high and 1.125m at the base, may belong to GIIIc, a subsidiary pyramid of Menkaure's pyramid at Giza.

I have also found two Dynasty VI pyramids. The first belongs to the pyramid of Queen Iput I. Its length is 480mm while its base is 360 x 390mm. The second belongs to Queen Khwiet. It is 540mm long and has a base of 540mm.

A Dynasty VIII Pyramidion, found in 1929 at South Saqqara, is connected with Iby. This basalt example is registered at Cairo's Egyptian Museum as JE 54855, and measures 160cm high and 167cm long.

From the Middle Kingdom comes the best known pyramidion. Found in 1900, this pyramidion of Amenemhet III (JE 35133) is made of grey granite and is inscribed on four sides with deities Harakhte, Anubis, Osiris, Ptah and Neith. It is 1.05m high and 1.56m long. The inscription that connects the pyramidion with the god Harakhte, as translated by Edward , reads: "May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon [i.e., Harakhte] when he crosses the sky; may he cause the king to chime as a god, lord of eternity and indestructible, Harakhte replies that he has given the beautiful horizon to the king" Also from the Middle Kingdom, is the basalt pyramidion of King Sesostris III which Dieter Arnold found in pieces.

From a Dynasty XIII context comes the pyramidion belonging to King Khendjer that was found in Saqqara (JE 53045). This pyramidion is now restored. The cartouche of King Wsrkare is inscribed on one side. From the same dynasty but belonging to King MRNefeffeAy (Ay) is a small pyramidion made, of black granite that was found in Facus in the Delta in 1911 (JE 43267). It is 52cm high

It seems that another pyramidion was found in the Delta, but its location on has been lost. Miroslav Verner found a granite pyramidion in 1984-85 near the Dynasty V pyramid of King Reneferef. It once topped an obelisk.

An incomplete pyramidion without an inscription is in the Egyptian Museum. Its date is uncertain. The existing portion is l1.05m high and 16mm long.

An inscription found at the pyramid of Queen Udjebten by Jequier suggests that the pyramidion was cased with gold.. This suggestion is further substantiated by my recent discovery at Abusir of an inscription that says its pyramidion was cased with while gold (electrum)

In addition, models of pyramids have been found. Sir Flinders Petrie, the father of Egyptology, found one that is thought to be a model of Djoser's pyramid. He also found a second example at the pyramid temple of Amenemhet III, known as the Labyrinth. The most recent discovery is the model found by Arnold near the pyramid of Amenemhet III at Dahshur.



The pharaohs left behind a monumental testimony of their kingship-the pyramids. The greatest of all 97 pyramids in Egypt belongs to Khufu. It has lost little from its original height of 146m and width of 230m formed by 2.3 million limestone blocks. Each angle measures precisely 51degrees 52'. These impressive statistics become even more extraordinary when we remember that this building feat was accomplished approximately 4500 years ago.

The massive labour force required to build a pyramid came under the direction of one man, the overseer of all the king's works. His task necessitated that he be a man of science, a man of architecture, and a man of authority.

His first decision was critical: Where should the monument be located? Tradition required that the site be on the west side of the Nile while practical considerations required that the site have an ample supply of limestone for the pyramid's core.

Most pyramids can be found in the 40km stretch of western desert that runs Northwest and Southeast from a mid-point near Memphis, Egypt's earliest capital set in the fertile floodplain. In this stretch of land, high above the floodplain on the natural rises at the desert edge, are the Old Kingdom sites of Giza, Abusir, Saqqara, Dahshur, Meidum, Abu-Rawash, and Zawyet el-Arian. Here, the geological formations provide a natural support for the massive platforms upon which the pyramids rest. Sites of the Middle Kingdom are located further South, near the entrance to the Fayoum.

Next, the overseer must establish the quarry, supply ramp, harbour and settlement. The quarry supplied the stone for most of the pyramid's bulk; the supply ramp aided the transport of stone onto the pyramid as it rose; the harbour brought in non-local materials such as the fine white limestone for the outer. casing or the granite for the burial chamber and the temple; and the settlement housed what must have been thousands, if not tens of thousands, of workmen required for the project. Each of these elements had to be placed in the natural terrain in such a way as to ensure efficient flow of men and materials.

In assessing this monumental project, remember that this was a national project for all of Egypt. Everyone had to help and each household had to provide either food or manpower to contribute to the project's 'completion.

When completed, the pyramid complex incorporated several different architectural elements, all integral to the pharaoh's journey into the afterlife.

Using the pyramid of Khufu as an example, we can explore the decision-making processes of an archaeologist who tries to locate the pyramid's quarry. Our survey begins on the east side. This location, we discover,. is not suitable for the quarry because we find tombs built here in year 12 of Khufu's reign. More tombs, begun in year 5, negate the use of the area to the West as well. North of the pyramid, we find no evidence of a quarry. Turning our attention to the South, we find a boat pit dated to the reign of Djedefre and tombs dated to the reign of Menkaure. Both kings ruled after Khufu; therefore, this area was clear during Khufu's reign, and was the probable location for his ramp. On the south side we usually find subsidiary pyramids, but Khufu's overseer set his subsidiary pyramids on the East. This is further evidence that he wanted the area clear for the construction of the ramp.

So Khufu's overseer chose a quarry site low on the Giza plateau, about 750m due South of the pyramid site. This area supplied nicely layered stones suitable for the pyramid's large building, blocks. As the pyramid rose, the quarry basin grew deeper and its sides aligned with those of the pyramid.

Later overseers, such those of Dynasties V, VI and the Middle Kingdom, did not require such large quarries because their pyramids have cores of mostly stone rubble or mud-brick. But the Great Pyramid of Khufu contains 2.6 million cubic metres of stone, mostly cut from the Giza quarry.

How was this massive edifice constructed? This question has intrigued Egyptologists for centuries. Perhaps the most inventive and imaginative idea relies on alien assistance. A more down-to-earth explanation, based on archaeological evidence, proposes the use of a ramp. This hypothesis, however, does not make our understanding of the construction process any less complicated.

There are two basic proposals: a straight ramp or a spiral ramp. Both present their own puzzles. The first theory proposes a single large ramp sloping up against one face of the pyramid. This proposal has the advantage that all four comers and the three sides of the pyramid remain clear during the construction, allowing builders to monitor and check the rise of the sides and the diagonals. Careful surveying during construction was-essential; otherwise, a "twist" might occur and the lines would not meet at a point. There are two problems with this proposal. First, to obtain a functionally low slope-one that rises one metre every six metres - the ramp would have to be extremely long extending over and beyond the quarry. Every time a rise in height was desired, the ramp's length would need to be increased to maintain this slope. Also, this process would cause all work on the pyramid to stop because the design does not allow for the concurrent construction of both pyramid and ramp.

Another theory postulates a ramp spiralling around the pyramid in some way. The most popular form of this idea has a ramp starting at each comer to create four ramps spiralling upwards and resting on the unfinished outer casing blocks for support. These blocks would be smoothed as the ramps were dismantled after the apex. of the pyramid had been reached. This theory leaves most of the pyramid's face clear during construction for checking fines and comers. It also solves the problem of covering the quarry and delivery areas, because the ramps remain confined to the pyramid's immediate area. Nonetheless, it has problems. First, the unfinished faces of the pyramid could not support the ramps which these theorists believe were made of mud-brick or debris. Also, a spiralling ramp increases the distance over which the blocks had to be hauled and creates unnecessary strain. for the team pulling each multi-tonne block on extended ropes as they try to turn the ramp's sharp comers around the pyramid's diagonals.

A compromise between these two principal ideas, suggested by Mark Lehner, proposes a ramp starting at the mouth of the quarry and facing the pyramid. From here it rises to about 30m above the pyramid's base at its southwest comer. The ramp would, lean against the pyramid's face s as they rose-like accretion. layers wrapped around the pyramid with a roadway on top. Unlike the previous theory, the weight of these ramps is borne by the ground around the pyramid. Traffic could move along the top of this great accretion or envelope as both pyramid and ramp rose in tandem. The top of the pyramid could be reached with only one and one-quarter turns. The slope would rise with each turn from a reasonable 6.5 degrees for the first section from the quarry to as much as 18 degrees for the last rise to the apex. Although this last rise may seem too steep, the last part would be only about 40m long, and the number and size of the blocks would be much smaller-at two-thirds its height, the pyramid is already about 90% complete. The advantage of this proposal is a ramp that would extend

from the quarry to the top of the pyramid in the shortest possible distance. It would rest against the faces of the pyramid but. would not weigh upon them. This theory has two distracting questions. First , the ramp as a great envelope would cloak the faces of the pyramid as it rose; therefore, how could the workmen check their lines and angles? Secondly, how could the material of the ramp rise to a height of 146.5m without collapsing?

This leads to another question-what is the fabric of the ramp? Most writings on the subject assume that mud-bricks were used; but a mud-brick construction as massive as the pyramid's supply ramp would leave behind. great stains or deposits of mud that do not exist in the area South of Khufu's pyramid. This area and the great quarry are, however, filled with millions of cubic meters of a particular kind of debris: limestone chips, gypsum, and a calcareous clay called tafla. This must be the material from which the main supply ramp was constructed. It was pushed away as the pyramid was finished and the ramp dismantled. It filled the quarried area and perhaps some of the settlement area further to the South. Recently, our excavations in this area revealed two sections of the ramp that prove that it proceeded from the quarry to the southwest corner of the pyramid and that it was made of stone rubble and tafla.

Now that we know the location of the quarry and the material of the ramp, we have partly solved the puzzle of the ramp and pyramid construction. Specialists, such as structural engineers and those who study soil mechanics, are needed to assess the various proposals and study other construction possibilities for the pyramid.

The great wadi between the pyramid plateau and the southern rise of the Maadi formulation must have been the delivery lane for bringing material, such as granite, basalt, alabaster and fine Tura limestone, to the construction site. The harbour, therefore, must lay buried at the mouth of the wadi. Our early excavations detected the harbour and more recently we found a basalt wall about 800m South of Khufu's lower temple which could. be, the harbour wall. Another huge wall, known. as Heit el-Ghorab, "The Wall of the Crow", is built of limestone blocks as big as those in the pyramids. It extends from the mouth of the wadi and may have boarded the harbour. There is a great gate in the wall that may be the main entrance for the workmen's area.

 So far, our quest ions sought to understand the larger elements of pyramid construction and the organization on the Giza plateau for building Khufu's pyramid. There remain other puzzles about the details of the building itself. For example, Khufu's pyramid is a nearly perfect square at its base and it is accurately oriented to true North while the north side of its 13.5 square acre base is off true level from the South by a scant 2.5cm - how did the ancient builders achieve such accuracy?

Many theories and debates raged while. the actual evidence lay ignored at the bases of Khufu's and Chephren's pyramids. Around the pyramids we find a series of holes, each about the size of a dinner plate. Set at regular intervals, they form fines which run parallel to the sides of the pyramids. These must be for stakes that carried a line used as a reference by the builders as they formed the base of the Khufu's pyramid from blocks of limestone, or, in the case of Chephren's pyramid, from granite. These 15-ton blocks are marked for the centre axes for the pyramid's faces and diagonals. There are also trenches that must be for the infusion and drainage of water during and after the leveling operations. The notion of a plumb fine from stakes to accurately align the bases of the pyramid is substantiated by evidence of similar lines and stakes used by the architect of a southern pyramid for Queen Henutsen.

The pyramids are slow to give up their secrets, but by carefully mapping and studying the ancient traces and clues that they have left for us we are gaining a better idea of the solutions to the puzzles.



For centuries, scholars and visitors have been drawn to the wonders of Giza: the pyramids, the Sphinx and the tombs of officials who served the kings of Dynasty W. But what of the workers and artisans who struggled for decades to build these great monuments? Where did they five? Where were they buried? What was the daily life of these people who remained attached to the pyramids and. who served their temples long after the construction was complete?

We sought answers to these questions in our recent excavations at four major sites: the tombs of the workmen and their overseer; the tombs of the artisans that are connected to the workmen's cemetery by a ramp; the institution areas where we found silos for the storage of wheat and barley and a bakery, and the workmen's camp which we found under the modem village of Nazlet-el-Samman during salvage archaeology before the construction of a new sewage system. All of these sites are located Southeast of the Giza plateau and the Sphinx. They are separated from the pyramids by a wall called the Heit el-Ghorab, "the Wall of the Crow" with its gate spanned by an enormous lime-stone lintel.

Our excavations reveal important. information about the social structures of the labourers and shed new light on their lifestyle and family relations. For the first time, we have data concerning the Old Kingdom pyramid builders and aspects of their religion. Scenes on their tomb walls provide us with a view of the workmen's tasks, their dress, titles and religious beliefs. Most importantly, we have learned that they built their tombs in a shape of a pyramid which proves that this shape was for everyone: the kings built their pyramids of stone, while the workmen built theirs of mud-brick. We estimate that about 18,000 people actually lived on the site while others returned to their homes elsewhere at the end of a hard day's labour. No doubt the labour was hard and an analysis of the workmen's bones proves that they had medical response for accidents on site.



Inside the tomb of a workman we found inscribed two curses: one for the workman and one for his wife. The latter reads:
O all people who enter this tomb
who will make evil against this tomb
and destroy it;
May the crocodile be against them on water,
And snakes be against them on land,
May the hippopotamus be against them on water,
The scorpion against on land.

The husband's curse calls on the crocodile, lion and hippopotamus.





Typically, a pyramid complex contains about 14 architectural components, each with a specific function and location. This form originates in Dynasty IV and continues throughout the Old Kingdom with little change except to accommodate a new cult of for topographical reasons.


About 97 pyramids still mark the desert edge of the Nile valley, and about 12 more exist but lack their superstructures. Often pyramids function as burial places for kings and queens with the burial chamber usually located underneath the pyramid. The chambers for Snofru and Khufu are exceptions. Other pyramid types are called ritual or satellite pyramids. They are connected with the cult of the king.


Each pyramid has at least two enclosure walls, the inner one marking the boundaries of the court and the outer one demarcating the sacred area of the whole complex. The walls are built of stone rubble. Enclosure walls dating to the Old Kingdom are not inscribed, but those of the Middle Kingdom bear the king's titles, such as those of King Sesostris I at Lisht.


Also known as the mortuary or funerary temple, the upper temple is located on the east side of the- pyramid-the only exception is that of Wsrkaf (Dynasty V) at Saqqara. In Dynasty TV the upper temple has a simple plan. From Dynasty V onwards additional, magazines enlarge the north and South sides of the temple.


Usually located on the south side of the main. pyramid, these smaller pyramids function either as the burial of the king's wife or mother or as a satellite pyramid. Sometimes they located elsewhere for topographical reasons.


Located around the pyramid and causeway, boat pits can be numerous, as in the case of Kh'asekh-emwy who has 12 near his enclosure. The number varies Unas has two boats while Khufu and Khafre each have five; yet Menkaure and others have none.


Evidence from the workshop areas shows that statues, stone and pottery vessels, flint-knives and other equipment necessary for the maintenance of the cult were made within the complex. Also, bread and beer were made here to feed the personnel at the pyramid cities.


This sloping roadway connects the upper and lower temples. The sole evidence for a roofed causeway belongs to Khufu's complex. From his reign onwards, the causeways are decorated with wall reliefs. They are most abundant on the causeways of Dynasties V and VI.


This temple, also known as the valley temple, takes its name from its location at the edge of the agricultural floodplain. Of the eight known examples, the earliest accompanies the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. The most complete temple belongs to Khafre.


Located near the lower temple, the city housed the personnel who maintained the cult of the king and was directed by an. overseer. The city always bears the same name as the pyramid. Remains of pyramid cities exist at Dahshur, Giza and Kahun.


During the pyramid's construction, stones, labourers and officials moved through the harbour and canal, located in front of the lower temple. After construction, the port brought in products needed for the maintenance of the cult of the deceased king. We have discovered the harbours for Khufu and Khafre.


The funerary complex produced its own agricultural and animal products on a farm located on the fertile flood plain. Half of the produce went to people living in the pyramid city; the rest went to the sustenance of the living king. This estate was also known as the king's funerary domain and as a wakf in Arabic.


Archaeological and textual evidence prove that the king lived in a palace near his pyramid. From here he ruled the country and supervised the building of his pyramid during his lifetime. The first piece of evidence is the location of the Archaic capital Inb-hd, found near the royal tombs at North Saqqara. The Abusir Papyrus also indicates that King Djedkare-Issesi. lived near his pyramid. Furthermore, there is no evidence for an Old Kingdom settlement at Memphis but there is a large settlement at Giza, about three square kilometres in size, which is likely the location of the administration city and palace. Therefore, the palace of the Old Kingdom kings was not at Memphis as is commonly suggested. Lastly, the importance of the pyramid's construction as a national project would necessitate that the king live nearby. King Amenemhet I, for example, moved his capital from Thebes to Lisht to be near his pyramid, leading me to believe that his undiscovered capital of It-tawi might be found at Lisht.


Here lived the workmen and the artisans who were involved in the construction of the pyramid.


The area in. front of the lower temple that encompasses the harbour and canals is the delivery area, known as "the Mouth of the Lake"



Two important kings and their pyramids from Dynasty IV are worthy of mention. The first is Djedefre, son of Khufu who built his pyramid at Abu Rawash, about 7km North of the Great Pyramid. The remains of Djedefre's complex comprise an upper temple, causeway, a subsidiary pyramid and a boat pit. The lower temple remains unexcavated as yet.

The temple once held the beautiful quartzite head of Djedefre that is now in the Louvre and may once have graced the body of a sphinx. For the past two years, an Egyptian, French and Swiss expedition has been working here. In the previous year, the Inspectorate of Antiquities at Giza re-excavated the upper temple and also found a Coptic church in the valley.

The other Dynasty IV king is Shepseskaf who ruled. at the end of the Dynasty and completed the pyramid of his father, Menkaure. His own tomb is known as Mastabat Fara'un and is located in South Saqqara. The tomb has a large rectangular sarcophagus set on a platform. It has an upper temple on the East with a causeway that leads to the lower temple.



At the sitesof Umm el Qa'ab at Abydos and Saqqara we find the mastaba tombs of Dynasty I royal kings and officials. The mastaba superstructures are built of mudbrick and are fronted by stelae. Their substructures contain a rock-cut burial chamber. and a storage magazine.

Dreyer's excavation at Umm el Qa'ab uncovered new information about this early period at the dawn of Egyptian kingship. Here he found the earliest evidence of writing in Egypt which dates to the late Naqqada C period, about 500 years before Dynasty I. From Dynasty I contexts he exhumed a human sacrifice - a practice which never occurs in Egypt after this period.

Dreyer's work confirms, without any doubt, that Abydos is the burial ground for Dynasty I kings, while their high officials he buried at Saqqara. In Dynasty II, kings join the high officials at Saqqara with two exceptions: Kings Peribsen and Kh'asekhemwy who return to Abydos for burial. Kh'asekh-emwy, the last king of Dynasty II, looks to the future by inscribing on a tomb wall the name of his son, "Djoser" This inscription proves that the owner of the famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara, King Djoser, is indeed the founder of Dynasty III.

Choosing Saqqara as his eternal home, Djoser built his tomb from a series of six successively smaller mastaba superstructures set one on top of another. The pyramid's four sides soar 60m skyward and span 140m along the east-west axis and 118m along the north-south axis. With such great dimensions, unheard of to this point in Egyptian history, Djoser's pyramid dominates his large funerary complex which is impressive in itself. The complex includes an enclosure wall with an eastern entrance complex, south tomb, Heb-sed area, house of -the North and the South, Heb-sed chapels, upper temples and a serdab. Each of these component has a specific function to serve and maintain the cult of the king.

Djoser's enclosure imitates that of his father at Shunet el Zebib, near Abydos. While the father's monument marks our earliest standing mud-brick wall, the son's marks the first use of limestone for building material.

Djoser's successor, Sekhemkhet, attempted to build a large step pyramid southwest of Djoser. Sekhemkhet could be the Horus name of King Djoserty who ruled for only six years. The former Egyptian Chief Inspector at Saqqara,. Zakaria Goneim, found this pyramid, known as the Buried Pyramid, in 1951. Work continued here under Lauer in the 1960s. Sekhemkhet's enclosure is 545m long and 190-194m wide. Goneim discovered six courses of the outer casing of the enclosure's north wall reserved to a height of 3.10m The masonry is the same as that of Djoser's pyramid suggesting that Sekhemkhet's architect is none other than Imhotep. The pyramid's base is 120m long and presently raises to a height of 7m. Lauer found the south tomb of Sekhemkhet in 1965-67 and the upper temple on the north side of the pyramid.

Within the debris above the tomb's shaft, Goneim found a pit containing layers of bones and horns of dogs, rams, goats and oxen in addition to faience amulets and wooden animal figurines. Beneath all this lay 62 Demotic papyri dating to Dynasty XXVI. He also found several layers of cups, vases and plates made of alabaster, diorite, schist and porphyry; a gold case; 21 gold bracelets; an electrum needle; and 420 gilded faience beads, 32 gold tubes, and 388 gold beads. But the most interesting discovery was a number jars with mud stoppers, six of which had eight serekhs of Sekhemkhet.

Within the burial chamber lay an intact alabaster sarcophagus. Goneim was confused that the burial chamber was intact but the mummy was missing. Lauer believes that the sarcophagus had a wooden coffin inside and that the mummy was stolen. Goneim met a sad end. One day, after department officials had accused him of responsibility for the disappearance of an object from, the storeroom, he sat by the Nile and pushed himself into the waters. One week after his death, officials found the missing artifact.

Sekhemkhet's successor, Khaba, built the Layer Pyramid at Zawyet el-Arian, 7km north of Saqqara. Although described by many scholars, only Reisner and Fisher have excavated here in 1910. The pyramid's superstructure is typical of Dynasty III .and its substance is similar to that of Sekhemkhet. Now 16.17m high, we can estimate that, originally, the pyramid was about 45m high and had five steps. The burial chamber is located under the pyramid's centre. The king's body has not been found inside but he is identified based on stone bowls bearing the Horus name Khaba found in a nearby mastaba. The tomb artifacts and the pyramid's construction support a Dynasty III date, and it is our only example from this period.

About 1km to the northwest of the Layer Pyramid is the so-called Unfinished Pyramid. It now resembles a large hole but we can still discern a square room cut from the rock with, a sarcophagus inside the room. The ownership of this pyramid remains unidentified but some Egyptologists believe it belongs to Neferka (Re) Nebka while others believe it belongs to Djedefre of Dynasty IV.

In addition to these Saqqara complexes, there are seven other step pyramids in Egypt. Petrie found one at Sila in 1891, but knowledge of the owner came to light only in 1987-88 when N. Swelim, an Egyptian archaeologist working with Brigham Young University, uncovered two stelae bearing the name of King Snofru. Another step pyramid is located at Zawiet el Amwat at Minya, near the ancient site of Hbnw. Next is the Zenky Pyramid for Ahmose at Abydos, 5km from the great temple of Seti I. Then there is a series of step pyramids far to the south: at El-kola, about 200m southeast of Naga el Miamaria, Aswan; at El-gonamia near Edfu; at Elephantine and at Naqqada. The Zenky pyramid captured Vyse's attention in 1842, Maspero's in 1846, Capart's in 1946 and has been the subject of a modem study from 1962 until 1983. The pyramid of El-gonamia has been studied by Kaiser and Dreyer who also studied the Elephantine pyramid. The Naqqada pyramid, known as Nwit pyramid was first excavated by Petrie in 1896.

All these pyramids have the same construction: a core and two mastabas or, in the case of the Naqqada pyramid, three mastabas. All are made of limestone, and most are cased with it too, except for the Elephantine pyramid with its granite casing and the El-gonamia pyramid with its sandstone casing.

Despite their conventional appearance, these pyramids perplex Egyptologists. None sit within a cemetery and two of them, the Elephantine and Zawiet el Amwat pyramids, are not even built in the western desert. Moreover, these pyramids do not have burial chambers, passages or attached structures. Kaiser and Dreyer believe that they are symbols or towering monuments of the king's power in the province. They also attribute all the pyramids except Sila to Huni, the last king of Dynasty III because they found his name on a granite block at Elephantine. Other scholars believe that the pyramids represent the mounds of Horus, and Seth, which the Pyramid Texts mention as helping the king climb skyward. Other scholars believe that they represent the bebent or the primeval mound. Yet examining the structures themselves we see that the pyramids represent the king's palace or his resthouse which he used for the supervision of tax collection and provincial business.

Although Huni was prolific in pyramid construction, we now consider Snofru, the first ruler of Dynasty TV, as the great builder of the Old Kingdom because he built four great pyramids: one at Sila, one at Meidum, and the Bent and the North pyramids at Dahshur. The Meidum pyramid presents an interesting study. There is doubt that Snofru is its builder based on an inscription inside the mastaba near the pyramid. New Kingdom texts written on the complex indicate this ownership also. Furthermore, Meidum was known as Djed-Snofru, meaning "Snofru Endures." Stadelmann developed a scenario, now adopted by Lehner, that Snofru started the Meidurn pyramid. as a step pyramid and later returned at the end of his reign to transform it into a true pyramid. Thus, the Meidum pyramid represents the start and end of Snofru's reign.

In between these constructions at Meidum, Snofru moved to Dahshur in year 15 of his reign. Here his architect started the first true pyramid of Egypt. Indeed, with sides 183.5m long it would be much larger than any of the stepped pyramids; but during construction the architect faced many structural problems and he had no choice but to change the angle of his 54 degree slope, reducing it to 43degree21' and creating the so-called Bent Pyramid.

Mildelson believes that the Bent Pyramid and the Meidum Pyramid were constructed simultaneously. His theory supposes that the Dahshur architect had learned that the Meidum pyramid was collapsing and so decided to, change the angle at Dahshur. This theory has many factors against it: the Meidum pyramid was considered by Egyptians of the New Kingdom as a glory, and it seems that the collapse happened in the last century when farmers took stones to build modem constructions nearby.

Snofru then built a true large pyramid just 2km. North of the Bent Pyramid. Known as the Red or North Pyramid, its angles also measure 43 degrees. The pyramid's entrance is on the north side about 30m high. Stadelmann found a pyramidion here and remains of the upper temple. South of the Bent Pyramid is the satellite pyramid and the lower temple found by Fakhry.

In Snofru's last 15 years, he sent a crew to finish the Meidum pyramid as a true pyramid. The Meidum. pyramid stands as the only example in Egypt showing the. transition from the step pyramid to the true pyramid. Presently, the Meidum pyramid consists of a mound of debris and above it three step towers. Even in its ruinous state this structure dominates the plateau. I believe that Snofru built the Meidum pyramid as a lasting cenotaph to his reign.



In 1992/3, I conducted excavations at the upper temple of Queen Iput I, wife of King Teti the first king of Dynasty VI. During these excavations two interesting pieces of limestone were uncovered in the pavement of one of the rooms of the temple's offering hall; but it was obvious that this was not their original purpose. When connected, the two parts form a unique door jamb dating to the time of King Nytr-kht, known as "Djoser". since Dynasty XII.

Joined, the block is decorated on the front and two sides, while the back is blank. The front of the stone is divided horizontally into 18 compartments capped by a large lunette and separated into two sections by another large panel: 12 compartments run down the upper section and six down the lower.

The lunette has a carved serekh, or palace facade, upon which sits a falcon representing the god Horus. Within the serekh is written Djoser's Horus name, Ntry-ht. The compartments containing the recumbent jackal and lion or lioness figures are thoughtfully arranged.

The monument is unique and cannot be considered as a free-standing artifact. The original location of the monument within Djoser's pyramid complex is more problem atic. The undecorated rear face suggests that the fragments were attached to a wall. We might suggest that the monument is one of two, placed within the Sed festival court, bordered on the East and West by sanctuaries which imitate the shrines of the North and South. Since the north side of Djoser's complex remains partly unexcavated, this feature might be located amidst the sands there.

As our archaeological research continues, we will be enlightened and, no doubt, we will be perplexed just as this piece leads us to wonder where it once stood.



Imhotep gains fame as the architect of the first stone pyramid, known as the Step Pyramid. He is also one of the few common people who became a legend. His achievement of the pyramid construction and as inventor of the stone building instead of mud-brick earned him renown among Egyptians for centuries.

His name and titles are found written on the base of a lost statue of Djoser. First among his many titles, Imhotep is "The Overseer of the Seers"- a unique title that connects him with the priests of the famous religious centre at On, called Heliopolis by the Greeks. He also appears as a vizier, Director of the public construction in Upper and Lower Egypt, the first for the King, recorder of the annales, keeper of the seals of Lower Egypt, and Supervisor of the great palace.

Educated Egyptians considered him a wise man and their protector. They recited his before writing their scripts. Egyptians of the Late period worshipped him as a god. Egyptianized Greeks connected him with Imouthes and Asklepios, god of wisdom and medicine. They built for him a chapel at Philae and worshipped him a the Asklepion near the Serapeum at Memphis.

Even his parents names are recorded for perpetuity: his father was Kaneferu; his mother was Ankh-kherdu. Neither a prince nor a royal relative, Imhotep was a common man whose science and culture made him the second after the king. Thus, not only pharaohs reached the peak in Egyptian society - they could be joined by the common people.



Khufu, called Cheops by the Greeks, built his pyramid at the northern end of the Giza plateau. This limestone plateau is part of the Mokatam Formation which dates back 50 million years to the Eocene period when waters engulfed northeast Africa and deposited layer after layer of marine sediments.

Khufu's great pyramid, called Akhet-Khufu or "Horizon of Khufu," creates the nucleus of the necropolis. To the East, he is surrounded by four subsidiary pyramids and a field of mastabas for his family. To the West, is a second field of mastabas for some of his officials.

Several pieces of evidence point to the fact that this pyramid belongs to Khufu. His cartouche and the names of the gangs who were involved in the pyramid's construction are inscribed on the inside walls of the second room of the revealing chamber. Also, the nearby tombs of family and nobles contain inscriptions that refer to Khufu and his pyramid.

The pyramid's main entrance leads to a passageway that slopes downward to the first unfinished burial chamber. The architect of the pyramid, HemIwno, enlarged his original plan and in the process cut a hole in the masonry roof of the descending passageway, at a-point about 20m from the entrance. Then he constructed a new passageway hewn upwards through the core, ending with a level pas sage that leads directly to the second burial chamber, the so-called "Queen' s Chamber" which was left Unfinished. On the north and south walls of the room are channels, commonly referred to as air shafts but which are actually model corridors created go that the divine soul of the king might pass through the pyramid to reach the boats or the northern stars.

The German Institute in Cairo in cooperation with the Giza Inspectorate of the Egyptian Antiquities Organization, created a ventilation system to preserve the pyramid. During the work, we sent a robot through the so-called air shaft from the second chamber. It went 65m inside the pyramid where it was forced to stop by what looks to be a door with two cooper handles. We are still uncertain whether this is a door or a blocking stone. Further investigation is needed.

Continuing the ascending passageway, the overseer built a corbel-roofed grand gallery that gives access to a low narrow passage leading to the king's chamber lined with red granite imported from Aswan. At the western end of the chamber lies the granite sarcophagus of Khufu. The revealing chambers, reached through a small opening from the grand gallery, were probably built to take the enormous weight of the pyramid off the roof of the burial chamber.

On the east side of the pyramid is Khufu's upper temple with its basalt base. From the temple a causeway leads off in a straight line at an angle 140 North of due East. The causeway descends along the gradual slope of the desert plateau for 280M and ends abruptly at the vertical edge of the escarpment overlooking the Nile valley. During construction of a new sewage system for the village of Nazlet-es-Samman located at the base of the escarpment, we found the continuation of the causeway with some of its paving slabs still in situ and remains of the lower temple. The total length of the causeway from the east face of the great pyramid to the site of the lower temple is not less than 810m. After 750 metres the angle of the causeway changes to 32 degrees North of due East. It seems that the overseer had. to change the causeway's angle slightly when he reached the escarpment; but, as he approached the lower temple he had to turn the causeway more abruptly.

At the lower temple site we found a black-green basalt pavement 56m long and set at about 14m above sea level, which is about 4.5m below the present ground level in the area. At the pavement's edge we found part of a mud-brick wall that may be as wide as 8m. The configuration of the basalt blocks indicates that this monumental building is the remains of the lower temple.

Back up on the plateau, East of the pyramid, are the subsidiary pyramids of Khufu. The first, labeled G1a by Reisner, belongs to Khufu's mother Hetepheres. It has a boat on its south side and the remains of a chapel on its east side. The second, G1b has similar features and belongs to Queen Merey-it-es. G1c, belonging to Henutsen, has the chapel on the East but lacks a boat. In Dynasty XXVI the chapel was transformed into a temple for the goddess Isis. A fourth pyramid was found recently Southeast of the main pyramid. Labeled G1D, it functioned as a satellite pyramid.

Khufu's pyramid complex also includes five boat pits. Two pits on the South contain wooden boats while the three pits on the East are boat shapes cut into the rock. One of the south boats is restored and exhibited 'in the Museum, providing a magnificent view of a Pharaonic barque. A similar boat lies dismantled in a nearby pit. A team from The National Geographic Society spied on this barque in 1987 by drilling a small hole through the massive covering blocks and inserting a camera into the chamber. 'Both of these barges, purposefully oriented East-West, are solar boats for Khufu as Re to use in his daily voyages across the sky. Of the other three boats cut into the rock on the east side of, the pyramid, two flank the upper temple in a north-south orientation. They were used by Khufu as Horus, whose power extended from North to South. Their location near the temple further suggests that the barges were connected with the living King because the upper temple may correspond to the palace of the living King as Horus. The other boat pit, located adjacent to the causeway, may have some connection with the cult of Hathor who belonged to the triad of deities worshipped at Giza.

On the south side of Khufu's pyramid, Junker found a passage cut into the rock known as the Neben pyramid. Perhaps this structure was planned as a queen's pyramid. On the east side are other archaeological features, such as the substructure of an unfinished pyramid located just east of pyramid G1a. About 12.70m North of this, almost on the east-west axis of Khufu's pyramid, is the shaft of Hetep-heres I, G7000X. G1-X is a T-shaped cutting in the rock, consisting of an open trench sloping from North to South and measuring 6.35m wide. On the basis of the relationship between G1X and G7000X, it is suggested that these are features of the same subsidiary complex. G7000X was dug first and G1-X was started later - only to be abandoned when the plan of the eastern field was changed.

The trial passages and the narrow trench are corridors cut out of the rock. They lie 87.50m from the eastern base of Khufu's pyramid and 43.50m North. of the east-west axis. The narrow trench is located about 6m West of the trial passage. It is believed that the trial passage is the substructure of the satellite pyramid. This substructure was abandoned because the original plan of the eastern field was changed; it was then built on the south-east comer of Khufu's pyramid.

Archaeologists continue working around the pyramid, revealing new evidence that sheds light on the mystery of the great pyramid of Khufu.



In 1991 we excavated an area on the east side of Khufu's pyramid to prepare, the site for visitors. Unexpectedly, we uncovered the ruins of yet another subsidiary pyramid, later distinguished as a satellite pyramid.

This pyramid extends over an area of some 34 square metres. Among its ruins we have the fine, Tura-quality limestone blocks from its outer casing and perimeter foundation, large blocks of the cruder limestone, and debris that once filled its core. The substructure is also preserved, featuring the T-shaped intersection of the passage and burial chamber that is normal for satellite pyramids dating to the period of Khafre and after Khufu.

Interestingly, we discovered that the ancient Egyptians had removed the masonry of the pyramid's core that once lay above the passage and chamber. These features lay unroofed and open to the sky due to plundering. The surviving superstructure, as we found it, consisted of two courses of irregular crude blocks set in a U-formation encircling, debris fill on the west, south and east sides. On the east and south sides, the pyramid's casing blocks of fine Tura limestone are preserved.

Written in red paint on the inside surface of one block set in the south wall is the notation, "imy rsy S3." This graffito, meaning "on the south (back) side," instructed the stone movers where to place the block.

The function of the satellite pyramid is debated among scholars. The many explanations include: it is for the king's Ka; it represents the king as the ruler of Upper Egypt; it is for the viscera of the King; it is a dummy room for the Sed festival, or it has a solar function. I believe that the room of the satellite pyramid was used symbolically as a changing room for the Sed festival.



Over 65 tombs were discovered recently on the west side of Khufu's pyramid, among the field of mastabas for his officials. One of these tombs belongs to Kay, the priest of Snofru, Khufu, Djedefre and Khafre.

The tomb is painted with beautiful scenes of daily life. Among them we see scenes of boats led by the deceased, an offering scene and an offering list. On the left side of the tomb's entrance is a touching and unique scene of a lady embracing Kay with her two arms.

To the right of the entrance, Kay leaves us a biographical detail:

It is the tomb makers, the draftsmen, the craftsmen and the sculptors who built my tomb. I gave them beer and bread. I made them to take an oath that they were satisfied.



Unique among the Old Kingdom pyramid complexes stand those of Khafre and Menkaure, known as Khephren and Mycerinus to the Greeks. Khafre's complex is most unique because its temple is complete, while Menkaure's temples were found almost intact.

The architectural components of Khafre's complex with its pyramid, upper temple, causeway and lower temple give us our most complete understanding of an Old Kingdom funerary complex. Much of the complex remains almost complete; even the enclosure wall rises to a height about 3 metres. The complex was first excavated by Mariette in 1869 and Holscher in 1909-10. Systematic excavations of this huge site continue to this day.

Khafre's pyramid is called "Khafre is Great." Indeed, the pyramid itself is great as it rises from a 215m-wide base to a height of 143.20m along an angle that measures 5307'. Still crowning its top is a fine limestone capstone and casing. The pyramid has two entrances, but tomb robbers cut two additional tunnels to aid their quest. Each entrance opens to a passage that slopes downwards to join a horizontal passage leading to a chamber. The first chamber contains Belzoni's record of his opening of the pyramid on 2 March 1818; the second contains Khafre's red granite sarcophagus.

Adjacent to the pyramid stands Khafre's upper temple, the most complete of all Old, Kingdom temples. It is built of local limestone with its outer wall faced with granite. The pillared hall, two long narrow rooms, open court and five niches are the most important features of the temple. The court may have contained a seated statue of the king recording his titles. Evidence found near the pyramid's base proves the existence of a platform that may have supported a stela and an altar.

Around the upper temple are found five boat pits: two located on the north side and three on the south.

Remains of a subsidiary pyramid. lie on the north-south axis of the main pyramid. Evidence proves that it belongs to a queen rather than a being satellite pyramid. To the West of the subsidiary pyramid was found a serdab that may have contained a statue for the Ka of the King.

West of the main pyramid, Petrie excavated an area that he called "the workmen's barracks." He believed that the area contained 91 rooms. Following his hypothesis, others estimated that the site housed 5500 workmen. New evidence, however, proves that the site was a storage area and a workshop.

Linking the per and lower temples is a causeway about 494.60m long and 5m wide. It runs at an angle of 106 degrees. There is no evidence to prove that the causeway was as roofed or decorated. At the lower temple there are two en entrances trances. The north entrance bears the, inscription, "Khafre beloved by Bastet," while the south reads, "Khafre beloved by Hathor." The temple has a large T-shaped hall. Along the west wall of this room one counts 23 sockets to secure the bases of 23 statues. A series of three double rooms open off the southwest comer of the east-west "bar" of this hall.

This temple was found by Mariette in 1853 and re-excavated by Holscher.

The entire complex of Khafre contained about 58 statues, including four colossal sphinxes, each more than 8.5m long, that lounged in pairs flanking each door of the .lower temple. Other statues stood in the temple niches: 23 in the lower temple, 12 colossal statues around the courtyard and ten inside the sphinx temple, and seven large statues inside the inner chamber of the upper temple.

The smallest of all the Giza pyramids belongs to Menkaure and is called "Menkaure is Divine." The pharaoh died before the complex was complete so his son, Shepseskaf, was left to finish the job.

The pyramid, surrounded by two enclosure walls, was once about 73m high; now it measures 62.2m high and each side measures 108.7m at the base. Berring and Vyse entered the pyramid in 1837 and Reisner excavated the whole complex.

The entrance is on the North, and the burial chamber is located at the end of the passage. 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 by Vyse which bears the name of Menkaure. It is in the British Museum.

At the pyramid's entrance there is an inscription thought to be dated to Dynasty XXVI. It records that Menkaure died on the twenty-third day of the fourth month of the summer and that he built the pyramid. It is also thought that this inscription dates to the reign of the New Kingdom restorer, Khaemuas, son of Ramesses the Great.

The. pyramid, once cased with 16 courses of granite, was left unfinished due to the untimely death of the king while the other complex was completed with mud-brick by his son. The many additions made to the complex in Dynasties V and VI prove that his cult continued until the end of Dynasty VI.

The upper temple is one of the components completed during the reign of Shepseskaf. The temple is divided into two parts: the public part which ends to the West of the pyramid's first enclosure wall, and the private part which is situated between the pyramid's eastern face and the enclosure wall. The large statue of Menkaure found inside the temple is now in Boston. Seals, cult objects, inscriptions and statues were also found here.

South of. Menkaure's pyramid are three subsidiary pyramids. They stand just outside the inner enclosure wall and within the outer enclosure wall. The three pyramids lie on the same east-west axis. GIII-b lies 10-15m West of GIII-a and GIII-c lies 13.6 m West of, GIII-b.. On the east side of each is a mud-brick temple. Reisner suggests that GIII-a belongs to Queen Khamerernebty II, Menkaure's main queen, who is portrayed with him in a group statue found in the lower temple.

GIII-b is for an unknown queen since the skeletal remains of a young woman were found inside. I believe that GIII-c is a satellite pyramid because no evidence of a burial was found. 'There are no boat pits, but we are excavating on the west and south sides of the pyramids where we may find the remains of a supply ramp and boats.

The causeway runs to a distance of about 608m. Its foundation is made of local limestone but was completed with mud-brick and was not roofed. Shepseskaf also finished the lower temple in mud-brick. The temple has an open court and southern and northern magazines. Triad -statues of the King with Hathor and with various Nome goddesses were found inside.

Evidence of a basin. and a well might mark the location of Menkaure's purification tent. The lower temple's vestibule contains a decree of Pepi II 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 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.

About 73m South of the causeway of Menkaure, A. Saleh found what he calls the industrial area consisting of a long narrow foundation in the shape of a reversed L and a second shorter foundation Northwest of the first. The two foundations are built of stone rubble mixed with mortar. Saleh labels these foundations as embankments and suggests that they are parts of the ramps used to transport blocks to building sites. Other discoveries prove that the whole area could be the workshop the pyramid complex.



Before Khafre's lower temple once stood a modem limestone stage. It was built in 1960 for Om Kalthom, a famous Egyptian singer, for a grand celebration. Later Frank Sinatra, Pearl Bailey and even the Grateful Dead used the platform. Little did they know what was beneath them.

When the stage was removed this year as part of the conservation plan for the site, we found a limestone ramp in front of each entrance. The ramp is 40m long and slopes downwards to the East suggesting that a harbour may have existed here. Mud-brick walls abut each side of the ramp's end - perhaps the remains of a pylon. On the top of each ramp there are sockets for a door or a kiosk.

At the other end, near the temple, we found two tunnels, under each ramp. I believe that they once contained boats which the King as Horus symbolically used to control the two lands, Upper and Lower Egypt. The tunnels are similar to the boat pits of Unas. We also found evidence near the temple wall proving that the purification tent was set in front of the lower temple.



In our excavation to the West of the great pyramid, we found a tomb of a dwarf. The tomb is solid with burial shafts on the top. In one of them, we found the skeleton of the dwarf. In front of the east side of the tomb there is an inscription with the titles and names of the dwarf and his wife.

On the north side, we found a serdab containing a beautiful statue of a dwarf made of basalt. It's inscription reads:

He who pleases his majesty every day.
The dwarf Pr-Ny-Ankhw.

Apparently, the dwarf used to dance for the king to make him happy. The tomb and the statue are dated to the reign of Khafre, based on the artistic style of the statue.



The Sphinx presides over the Giza necropolis and ancient art as the first colossal royal statue of Pharaonic Egypt. It was once a symbol of Egyptian kingship; it remains a symbol of the nation. As an archetype of antiquity, the image of the great Sphinx has stirred the imaginations of poets, scholars, adventurers and tourists for centuries.

The Sphinx is a composite of a lion's body with a king's face and head that symbolically wear the nemes headdress and a false beard. The beard, now lost, must have been sculpted with the head because it would be impossible to add it as a separate piece. A small portion of the beard found by Caviglia is now in two parts: one in the British Museum and one in the Egyptian Museum.

This magnificent creature is carved from a rock knoll that is part of the Mokatam Formation. Despite suggestions to the contrary, the location of the Sphinx is not a chance occurrence of a knoll or quarry nodule: the overseer of the project chose its location carefully in relation to the pyramid of Khafre.

Geologists suggest that the Sphinx consists of three members or layers. Member I is the lowest stratum. Most of the Sphinx's south wall and its lion body are carved in Member II. The neck is carved in the base of Member III which is the strongest member.

The weak composition of Member II necessitated the Sphinx's body be covered with large stones similar in quality to those that encased Khafre's pyramid. The Dynasty IV architect and sculptor worked together in the gross modeling of the mother rock and in the final modeling of the exterior casing of large stones that we see today. So rather than being the work of later restorers, the fine limestone covering the mother rock was already in place in the Old Kingdom. Only the head and neck were carved from the mother rock and left without a covering because here the rock belongs to the stronger Member III.

The Sphinx sits surrounded by the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, but it is intimately connected to Khafre's causeway and lower temple. This connection suggests that Khafre had it built as part of his pyramid complex.

The Sphinx belongs to Khafre's pyramid complex for several reasons. First, the south side of the Sphinx's ditch forms the northern edge of the Khafre's causeway as it runs past the Sphinx and enters the lower temple. A drainage channel runs along the north side of the causeway and opens into the upper southwest comer of the Sphinx's ditch, suggesting that the ancient quarrymen formed the ditch after Khafre's causeway was built; otherwise, they would not have designed the drain to empty into the ditch. Secondly, Khafre's lower temple sits on the same terrace as the Sphinx temple. The fronts and backs of the temples are nearly aligned, and the walls of both are built in the same style of large limestone blocks with harder red granite added as a finish.

This Old Kingdom monument remained sacred to later generations as evident in their great restoration ration projects undertaken to save the Sphinx. In Dynasty XVIII, Tuthmosis IV removed the accumulated sand from the Sphinx's body. He discovered that the Old Kingdom covering stones had fallen off, so he reset all the stone upon the body. Later, possibly during the Saite period, a second major layer of restoration masonry was added to the Sphinx's body. Then in the Roman period, between 30 BC and the second century AD, there was yet another program to restore the Sphinx. This crew covered most of the body with small stones.

Read about the History of the Conservation of the Sphinx HERE

Some Egyptologists regard the Sphinx as the guardian of the Giza plateau; but, Ricke, a German Egyptologist. believes that the Sphinx has, a solar function and that its Dynasty IV sculptors actually created the image of Hor-em-akhet, "Horus of the Horizon" This is the name given to the Sphinx the New Kingdom. The Old Kingdom sculptors, however, carved the Sphinx to represent Khafre as Horus giving offering to his father Khufu as Re, who rises and sits above the Sphinx temple.

Before the Sphinx is its temple which runs East-West and may have had two entrances on the North and the South. Inside, the east and west walls have stepped recesses. It is believed that the eastern set are for a ritual of the rising sun while the western recesses are for the setting sun. The 24 pillars around the hall, six on each of four sides, may represent the 12 hours of the day and the 12 hours of the night, while the two pillars in front of each of the two sanctuaries represent the arms and legs of the goddess Nut. The temple's open court is also connected with the solar cult.

As noted above, in the New Kingdom the Sphinx is called Hor-em-akhet-a fitting name considering that as Horus, the Sphinx lies between the "horizon" formed by the pyramids of Khufu (which is called 'akhet', horizon) and Khafre.

After 1550 BC, the Sphinx once again becomes a symbol of kingship and the symbol of the nation. From this time through the Roman period, pilgrims would leave behind temples, artifacts, ear tablets, shrines, rest houses and dream stela in reverence.



In homage Thutmose IV erected before the Sphinx the Dream Stela, named for the hieroglyphic story it tells.

As a prince, but apparently not the crown prince, Thutmose approaches the Sphinx while on a hunting expedition in the vicinity of Giza. He calls the Sphinx "this very great statue of Khepri and of Khepri-Ra-Atum"; the first is god of the rising sun while the second is the sun god in all its aspects-rising, zenith and setting. Thutmose also calls the Sphinx "Hor-em-akhet" as do the inscriptions in Amenhotep II's temple and on the numerous smaller New Kingdom stelae. This name, "Horus of the Horizon," may derive from the fact that anyone approaching Giza from Memphis saw the huge head of a pharaoh, the incarnation of Horus, framed by the two large pyramids which look like the two mountains in the hieroglyph for "horizon" but here the Sphinx head substitutes for the hieroglyph's sundisk.

As the sun reaches its apex, Thutmose falls asleep in the shadow of the monument. The Sphinx appears to the prince in a dream and tells him that its body is in a ruinous state and that the sand of the desert has invaded its lair. It offers Thutmose the throne in exchange for his assistance. What must have been a good part of the remainder of the story is missing, but Thutmose did indeed become king in the year 1401 BC. In that year, he etched on the top of the stela a double scene of himself giving offerings and libationso the Sphinx.

Likely the stela was originally the main door of the upper temple of Khafre. It was moved here by Thutmose to be set between the two paws of the Sphinx and to proclaim the dream political story.



People always look for secret passages and tunnels under the Sphinx. Caviglia came to work around the Sphinx in 1816 and had in his mind that he would find a tunnel from the Sphinx to the pyramid. Some believe that the Sphinx is the remnant of an advanced civilization that is otherwise lost to archaeology. A few even believe that the whole record of this civilization is located under the right paw of the Sphinx.

It is most important that archaeologists excavate around the Sphinx to reveal artifacts that may shed light on the Sphinx's history and function. In cooperation with Mark Lehner, the Egyptian Antiquities Organization excavated inside the Sphinx and found three tunnels under it which had been found before and entered by an archaeologist but never published.

The first tunnel is located behind the Sphinx's head. It goes inside the body of the statue for a distance of -about five metres. The second is located in the Sphinx's tail. It is about nine metres long. The third was opened by M.& Baraize in 1922 and is located on the north side of the statue. AD the evidence shows that these passages are dated to Pharaonic period.



The kings of Dynasties V through VIII built outstanding pyramid complexes at Saqqara and Abusir. Yet despite their monuments these kings do not share the fame and renown accorded to their colleagues of Dynasty IV, so we might call them the forgotten kings.

Although they lack fame, the kings of this period did introduce new trends. For example, the last king of Dynasty V, Unas introduced the Pyramid Texts that extensively decorate the walls of later kings and queens. The Pyramid Texts are. magical spells written in vertical columns of hieroglyphic inscriptions on the walls of the pyramid's vestibule and sometimes on the burial. Based on solar and Osirian religious beliefs, the texts seek to ensure an abundant afterlife for the king or queen. So powerful was the magic of the written word that its presence alone made the expressed thought a future reality.

Dynasty V kings also introduce sun temples. Their new creations, located 1 km North of Abusir, are based on the style of the sun temples at Heliopolis. They have a lower temple, an upper temple and a connecting causeway. The temple welcomes its honoured deity, the Sun, through an -open court to the altar which faces the bnbn, the obelisk set on a platform. Each temple is identified by its own name, such as "Horizon of Re" and "Field of Re." Only two sun temples have been found: Ricke found the one built by Wsrkaf and Borchardt found another built by MywsrRe. We know that at least six kings of Dynasty V each built a sun temple, so at least four remain undiscovered-as yet.

As noted in Development of the Royal Mortuary Complex, pyramid construction and decoration changes in Dynasty V. At the same time, the bureaucracy becomes more complex as evidenced by the increased number of titles in Dynasties V and VI and the increased size of noble tombs. For example, at Saqqara the Dynasty V tomb of Ti is 40m long and the Dynasty VI tomb of Meruruka has 32 rooms. Egyptologists believe that the organizational and technical skills that developed during the construction of the Dynasty IV's enormous pyramids evolve in Dynasty V into more skilled craftsmen and the elaboration of the state cult. This corroborates my hypothesis that the decreasing volume of stones used during the period of the Forgotten Kings does not reflect an economic decline in the period. Instead, the economy seems to be prospering as kings can afford the high labour costs of a league of artisans - a price much higher than the cost of a gang of stone movers.

Pyramid design also changes in Dynasty V. At Saqqara and Abusir, the pyramids of Userkaf, Sahure, Neferirkare and Neuserre all have their entrances at ground level unlike the Giza pyramids. Also, temples become large and contain numerous magazines, rooms and cult objects. The courts of the upper temples change from their north-south orientation of Dynasty IV to an east-west alignment. Grinsell notes other unique features:

1. the entrance leads to a short ramp inside the pyramid;

2. the vestibule becomes wider and higher than the ramp;

3. the ramp is connected with a passage that has an horizontal shape;

4. the passage connects with an antechamber at its end;

5. West of the antechamber are situated a corridor and the burial chamber with a sarcophagus;

6. the sarcophagus is placed near the west end of the chamber, and the chamber's walls are decorated with designs of a palace facade, pyramid texts and alabaster veneer.

The founder of Dynasty V, Userkaf, returns to Saqqara to build his pyramid near the northeast comer of Djoser's enclosure. For topographical reasons his upper temple is situated on the pyramid's south side, but a small chapel maintains tradition on the east face. West of Userkaf's pyramid is a satellite pyramid, while further South, lies the pyramid attributed to his main queen. We have yet to find his valley temple but a section of the causeway, paved with basalt, leads, the way. In the court to Southwest of the upper temple, a beautiful red granite head of Userkaf was found. Measuring three-times the usual size, it ranks among the largest royal statues - second only to the Sphinx.

The next four kings - Sahure, Neferirkare, Neferefre and Neuserre - move their pyramid complexes to Abusir. Sahure's complex is best preserved with its upper temple, causeway, remains of the double-entranced lower temple, and a subsidiary pyramid to the South.

Neferirkare's pyramid complex is remarkable because here Egyptologists discovered the extremely valuable Abusir papyri. Found in several fragments in the western rooms of the upper temple, the papyri encompass almost 200 years of the royal funerary cult's organization and daily record. Beginning in the reign of Neferirkare and through to the time of Pepi II in Dynasty VI, the papyri document temple activities. Monthly duty rosters outline the tasks that must be performed on a daily basis; other rosters detail duties for special occasions, such as feasts, and lists of temple personnel document their responsibilities in the cult of the king. This important document also references the Egyptian names for the various elements of temple architecture.

More texts come to us from the temple of Neferefre which also preserved, almost intact, a number of cult objects and a group of royal statues made of wood. These and other statues of the king, including one of basalt, can be seen at the Egyptian Museum. Neferefre's wife, Queen Khentkawes I also has a pyramid complex at Abusir, recently unearthed by Verner. The inscriptions refer to her as wife and mother of the king.

In building his funerary complex, Neuserre reuses Neferirkare's lower temple and part of his causeway. Then, the last two kings of Dynasty V return to Saqqara: Djedkare Isesi to South Saqqara, and Unas to North Saqqara. The ancient Egyptians record the name of Djedkare Isesi's pyramid as "Isesi is beautiful" while Unas's pyramid is named "Beautiful are the places of Unas" Unas sets his pyramid just off the southwest corner of the Step Pyramid. It has an extraordinarily long causeway to the valley temple and harbour, the ruins of which are just beside the ticket office at the entrance to the archaeological site.

Teti, the first king of Dynasty VI, also has his pyramid complex here. Next to Teti, I excavated the temple of Queen Iput I and found the Djoser monument as well as many New. Kingdom artifacts. We also found near the temple of Iput a tomb of Teti-Ank-Km, meaning "Teti Ankh the Black," who is the son of King Teti. Our excavations revealed beautiful relief decoration and a false door with an inscription identifying the owner and his job as the overseer of Upper Egypt. Some 12m beneath the surface we found his burial chamber with its large limestone sarcophagus still containing his mummy. Also, we have excavated the temple of Queen Khwiet and expect to find her pyramid soon.

Joining Djedkare Isesi in South Saqqara are the Dynasty VI kings Pepi I, Merenre and Pepi II. The name of Pepi I's pyramid, Men-Nefer is the origin of the name of the Old Kingdom capital, called Memphis by the Greeks and Mit-rahina by modern Egyptians.

Currently, J. Leclant, a French archaeologist assisted by A. Labrousse, is excavating around the three pyramids. During their work to restore and study the pyramid texts in the inner chambers of these pyramids, they found three subsidiary pyramids nearby: one for Queen Nwbwnt, another for Queen Inenek-Inty, and the third for an unidentified queen. In addition, in 1995 they found a mastaba subsidiary pyramid for Queen Meryites and, in 1996 a mastaba tomb of a prince with an inscribed false door bearing the name of a Queen named Mehaa who has the title hmt-nswt, meaning "king's wife." The four named queens were unknown to us before these excavations.

The pyramid complex of Pepi II contains a scene of the king smiting a Libyan., Accompanying the king are his wife and two named children. Since this scene first. appears in Sahure's pyramid complex at, Abusir, the scene may not reflect an historical event, but rather is simply part of a decorative programme emphasizing the might of the king.

South Saqqara also is home to a number of later constructions. Next to the pyramid complex of Pepi II is the small and poorly preserved mud-brick pyramid belonging to Ibi of Dynasty VIII. Its small size indicates the dramatic disintegration of the Old Kingdom. Ruins of the mud-brick upper temple exist, but no causeway or lower temple have been found. Probably other Dynasty VIII pyramids are in the area and I believe that the pyramid of Queen Meryites dates to this period. East of the pyramid of Teti lie the remains of another small pyramid that may date to Dynasty IX or X.

Our search continues to find the pyramids of Menkauhor from Dynasty V, Neferirkare from Dynasty VII and Ity from Dynasty VII or VIll.



In 1996, Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities decided to open the site of Abusir to visitors. Me began the project by clearing the causeway and restoring the columns of the upper temple belonging to Sahure's funerary complex.

Some 30m of wind-blown sand had accumulated over the causeway since 1907-8 when Ludwig Borchardt excavated here. The workman assigned the difficult task of removing the sand made a surprising discovery: 20 blocks. carved with delicate relief.

One scene spread over several blocks portrays men dragging a pyramidion to cap Sahure's pyramid. Despite the fact that we are missing the portion depicting the pyramidion, we have the accompanying inscription which says, "bringing the pyramidion covered with white gold to the pyramid."

The surviving blocks portray the wooden sled on which the pyramidion was dragged. A man bends in front of the sled and pours water on the ground to ease its passage. Behind him stands the overseer who holds a sceptre shaped like a human arm. In later ancient times, a visitor to Abusir defaced the image of the man pouring water by sketching over top an archer shooting at the pyramidion.

Other blocks depict male courtiers holding batons and bending in homage to the king while group of young female dancers, members of the hnr royal dancers perform to their right. A similar scene depicts men bent in homage but carrying long objects that may be rolls of linen with, a group of young male dancers. The inscriptions identify the men as members of two different crews.

Perhaps the most evocative scene captures the image of a group of men bending in the direction of the pyramid. To the right of the vertical line, courtiers and high officials fill the space. Then there are men with their hands placed on their knees or raising their hands in a begging gesture. These are Bedouins, weakened by hunger. The inscription written above them reads, "pyramidion in three great halls." This scene is a prototype for one found in the causeway of Unas at Saqqara that is known as "the famine scene" even though a famine did not starve Egypt during Unas' reign.

These reliefs, found under surprising circumstances, are unique. Nothing like them exist at any other Old Kingdom pyramid complex.



Two interesting tombs came to light in 1996 during excavations conducted by Czech Egyptologist Mirsolav Verner assisted by L. Bares.

The first tomb, belonging to a man named Qar, is interesting because it is set apart from the cemetery of other nobles. Qar was a vizier for King Pepi I of Dynasty VIA, as inscribed on the western wall of the tomb's first chapel. His tomb has a open square court before it. Inside, a series of passages lead the visitor from the first chapel to the main chapel containing Qar's tomb. In his huge limestone sarcophagus, bearing his name and titles, archaeologists found the remains of human bones.

On the west wall of this chamber is the false door, unique for its beautiful inscriptions and many colours. The third line of one inscription shows Qar's other titles as Overseer of the Six Houses and Vizier of Nkhen. The tomb's serdab contains pieces of a wooden coffin, statue fragments, and a small wooden statue.

The second tomb belongs to Iuf-aa, the lector priest and director of the palace in Dynasty XXVI. Entering the tomb is an interesting experience and a scary adventure because the entrance shaft plummets 42m below the surface. Once inside the entrance to the burial chamber is so small that it bars more than one person from entering.

Here archaeologists found papyrus fragments, an amulet in the shape of Osiris' crown, another amulet in the shape of the crown of Upper Egypt, and a wooden box containing many small ceramic and faience vessels. Each vessel bears a label in hieratic script to identify the oil or perfume it once held.

But more wonderful was the unique discovery of two wooden boxes along the north and south walls. The north box contained 203 beautiful faience shawabti while the other box contained 205. These figurines represent helpers for Iuf-aa in his afterlife.

Read about the tomb and mummy of Iuf-aa HERE

We must always remember that we never know what secrets the sands of Egypt may hide.



The large pyramids of Dynasty IV and the expansive wall reliefs of Dynasties V and VI do not characterize constructions of the Middle Kingdom when mudbricks shape the pyramids.

The ancients learned the lessons of the past. Seeing that the design of the huge Old Kingdom pyramids did not protect the king's mummy, Middle Kingdom architects created interiors with mazes of chambers and corridors to deceive tomb robbers. They also set traps along the corridors to catch these bandits of the night. Their success is testified by early archaeologists who unexpectedly happened upon the ancient corpses hanging from their legs. Today, none of the Middle Kingdom pyramids are open to the public.

Complexes of this period have the following unique features:

1.    all Dynasty XII pyramids have elaborate substructures;

2.    although still cased with fine Tura limestone, pyramid cores are built of mud-brick and sometimes the superstructures are made of limestone;

3.    for unknown reasons, Amenemhet I's pyramid at Lisht contains many blocks removed from the Old Kingdom pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Unas;

4.    entrances to the pyramids now pierce the east or south sides rather than the north;

5.    all burial chambers are small and lined with quartzite or red granite;

6.    the enclosure wall has two parts: an outer one made of mud-brick and an inner one built. of limestone - sometimes, decorated with the king's titles;

7.    small wooden boats encircle the pyramid of Senwosret III;

8.    beautiful caches of jewelry and individual pieces of lapis lazuli, amethyst and carnelian are found around the pyramids of princesses such as Khnumet, Ita, Sat-Hathor and Meret;

9.    Coffin Texts now appear to fulfil the same function as the Old Kingdom. Pyramid Texts, and

10.  the largest of the Middle Kingdom pyramids, that of Senwosret III, covers about 14 1/2 acres.

After a long period of civil war, Neb-hepet-Re Mentuhotep, moved the Egyptian capital to Thebes and there built his tomb on the west bank. In 1900, H. Carter was riding his horse in the valley and the horse tripped. The accident led to the discovery of the seated statue of Mentuhotep wrapped in fine linen. Shortly thereafter, E. Naville and H. Hall excavated the site in 1903-7 and D. Arnold worked here in 1966-71. Mentuhotep's complex has the same elements as an Old Kingdom complex. Naville,  believed that the tomb once lay under a now disintegrated pyramid; but Arnold finds no evidence to support this hypothesis and believes that the tomb was a mastaba. It seems that Carter's find-known as Bab el-Hosan in Arabic, meaning "Door of the Horse"- is actually a cenotaph or a dummy tomb for Osiris rather than the king's burial.

Dynasty XII marks the peak of the Middle Kingdom. The dynasty's rulers are easy to remember: four kings are named Amenemhet, three are named Senwosret - called Sesostris by the Greeks, and the last ruler is a queen, Sobek Neferu.

The name Amenemhet means "Amun is at the Head." The first Amenemhet began his reign at Thebes but later moved the capital to It-tawi, meaning "Seizer of the Two Lands." We have not located -It-tawi, but based on the Old Kingdom examples, Lisht is probably its site because here we find the King's tomb. His complex imitates the Old Kingdom style with its upper temple, cause way and lower temple. His pyramid is cased with Tura limestone and its core is constructed of limestone from the plateau.

South of Amenemhet I's pyramid is that of his son, Senwosret I. This complex has three unique features. First, the causeway Ay is fined with statues of the King in Osirid style, similar to that of Mentuhotep at Thebes. Secondly, this is the first complex to have some ten subsidiary pyramids. Lastly, the pyramid is surrounded by beautiful statues. Noteworthy are the ten seated statues of the King and other wooden statues. We can identify the pyramid's owner thanks to Maspero's find in 1882 of a number of alabaster objects inscribed with Senwosret's name.

Following Amenemhet I, three kings join the mighty Snofru at Dahshur Amenemhet II, Senwosret III and Amenemhet Ell. The pyramid complex of Amenemhet IL known as the White Pyramid, is famous for the treasures of princesses Khnumet and Ita found by J., de Morgan. Senwosret II, however, chose El-Lahun at the entrance to the Fayoum for his pyramid. Here Petrie excavated portion of the workmen's quarter and the pyramid city that housed the priests and officials who maintained the cult of the king. The name of Rameses II was later inscribed on a temple block. Within the complex, on the north-east side, is the mud-brick subsidiary pyramid used for the burial of a queen. On the southeast and west sides of the temple, the architect planted trees in round holes. Egyptologists believe that the trees numbered 42 possibly representing the 42 judges who sat in Osiris' hall of justice.

Amenemhet III has two pyramids. The entrance of the first pyramid at Hawara is located on the south side. The other, at Dahshur, has the entrance is on the east side and the pyramid towers above the burial of five members of the royal family. This is the first time in the Middle Kingdom for relatives to be buried with the king following Djoser's Old Kingdom example. Amenemhet III is the most important king of the period because of his achievements and beautiful portraits. He is famous for his upper temple at Hawara with its myriad rooms. It is known as the Labyrinth after the mythical tales of Minos' palace on Crete.

Senwosret III selected the area North of his grandfather's pyramid for his complex. The lower temple remains hidden, but we have uncovered the causeway decorated with beautiful reliefs. Although the northern chapel follows the plan of predecessors from Dynasties V and XII, Arnold believes that the pyramid's style follows the much earlier plan of Djoser's Dynasty III pyramid. similarity in features is remarkable. Here, too, de Morgan made the surprising find of boats and caches, of the finest Middle Kingdom jewelry for the princesses Sat-Hathor and Meret. just 5km South of Dahshur is the site of Mazghuna and the burials of Amenemhet IV and Sobek Neferu, the last ruler of Dynasty XII.

Two Dynasty XIII pyramids are situated at the southernmost end of Saqqara. One belongs to a king named Khendjer. The end of Dynasty XIII heralds the period of darkness known as the Second Intermediate Period. No pyramids rise for 100 years until Ahmose, the first king of Dynasty XVIII, builds a cenotaph in the shape of a pyramid and a dummy pyramid for his grandmother Teti Sheri at Abydos. The Iput papyrus mentions that there were mud-brick pyramids built for the princess of Thebes.

The kings of the New Kingdom learned from the past. Realizing that the huge pyramids of the Old Kingdom and the complicated corridors of the Middle Kingdom did not preserve the kings' mummies, they resolved to find an alternative. On the west bank of Thebes they found a natural rock formation rising about 300m and shaped like a pyramid. Here, beneath the "pyramid" they carved their pharaohs' tombs and separated the tombs from the temples. The queens, once buried in subsidiary pyramids, now he in the adjacent valley, known as the Valley of the Queens. The satellite pyramids of the Old Kingdom now become part of the tomb and the valley temples of old are reflected in the temples of Karnak. No longer are the tombs of the nobles and officials attached to the pyramid-now they have their own valley; and the Old Kingdom tombs of artisans recently discovered at Giza seem to be prototypes for the private tombs at Deir el Medineh that are also topped with a pyramid shape.

Egyptians are not the only people to build pyramids. There are Sudanese examples at Dongola and Kush. Their small steps rise at a very sharp angle. They are built of sandstone and are much smaller than the Egyptian pyramids. At El Kurru, there are pyramids built of mud, sand and stone rubble. The most important example is the tomb of Piankhy dated to 747 BC. All the Merotic pyramids are built of stone except those built after AD 200. After the fall of the Merotic Kingdom ca. AD 250, neither the Egyptians nor the Sudanese build pyramids, but the pyramid shape becomes popular in many countries, such as Indonesia, Mexico and South America.

I participated in a conference held at the Museum of Natural History in Denver which sought to find the relationship between the pyramids of the New World those of Egypt. We did not find any evidence for contact. A single similarity links them, that is their purpose as tombs. Throughout time the Egyptian pyramids continue to captivate mankind on the spiritual level with their power and magic.



The Supreme Council of Antiquities opened the site of Dahshur to the public for the first time in July 1996. This important site houses 11 pyramids ranging in date from Dynasty IV through Dynasty XIII. Three of the pyramids are known by the modern names Red, White and Black.

The Red Pyramid, named after the red graffiti that inscribes it, is the earliest at the site and is one of two belonging to Snofru - the other being the so-called Bent Pyramid. The White Pyramid belongs to Amenemhet II of Dynasty XII.

The Black Pyramid belongs to Amenemhet III. it rises like a mud-brick tower from the desert landscape. Here the French archaeologist de Morgan excavated in the late nineteenth century. Dieter Arnold of the German Institute then excavated and restored the interior between 1976 and 1983.

The interior is a complicated maze of corridors and 15 rooms that wind through the mud-brick structure - the design of a Middle Kingdom architect hoping to deceive tomb robbers. The burial chamber of this last great king of the Middle Kingdom holds a beautiful sarcophagus made of red granite.

But this pyramid houses more than the burial of the king; he is joined here by his royal family. Inside one chamber, archaeologists found the bones of a queen who died at the age of 25 years old. Her chamber also contained an obsidian vase, three alabaster boxes, jewelry, and granite and alabaster mace heads. Another chamber bears the name of a second queen, Aat. It, too, contained funerary artifacts. There is also a chamber of a third queen in which Arnold found an inlaid shrine and a fine canopic chest with four cavities holding the viscera. Each queen has a separate entrance leading to her tomb. Only one other king shared his final resting place with his queens - that king was Djoser in Dynasty III. The Black Pyramid will be opened next year so that visitors might experience the wonder of its interior just as I experienced when I entered with American Egyptologist Kelly Simpson and Dieter Arnold.



After working for several years at the pyramid and upper temple of Senwosret III, archaeologists from the Metropolitan Museum of Art discovered the tomb of Queen Weret under the pyramid. Until this discovery, we knew of the Queen only through a statue fragment found at Elephantine and an inscription in the pyramid of her husband at Kahun.

Weret was esteemed as the mother of King Senwosret III, the wife of King Senwosret II and the daughter of Amenemhet II. Her limestone burial chamber and red granite sarcophagus reflect this esteem through the centuries, but what shines more is the discovery of her gold jewelry, hidden in a niche in one of the tomb's passages.

On the day of its discovery, this cache of jewelry was quickly transported to the Cairo Museum under tight security. The artifacts were in many pieces-indeed, there were some 7000 beads of various sizes. After careful restoration, the jewelry is now exhibited in the Museum.

This is hot first discovery of jewels at Dahshur. During his 1894-1895 dig season, de Morgan also discovered beautiful jewelry in the gallery near the north-east comer of the pyramid in the tombs of Princess Sat-Hathor and Queen Mereret. This jewelry is also at the Egyptian Museum.

The new cache includes two beautiful amethyst scarabs that look like finger rings. Each scarab, measuring 2.5cm in length, bears the two names of King Amenemhet III surrounded by what appear to be two snakes. Two finely detailed gold lions, a mere 1.77cm long, once formed part of a bracelet and now reveal the skilled craftsmanship of the Middle Kingdom artisans. They stand among the seven gold beads that the artisans crafted in the shape of cowrie shells and two amulets in the shape of leopard's claws that might have been worn around Weret's ankles.

The discovery drew much attention from the. media and from some clandestine sorts. Two months after the expedition dosed and the excavation team had returned to New York, we learned that thieves attacked the expedition's storage area at Dahshur. Rushing to the magazine we determined that the thieves did not steal anything;. They were looking for the gold treasure, now safely in the Egyptian Museum.



During he early excavations at Dahshur, de Morgan found three boats moored within a large vaulted building attached to the southwest comer of the enclosure wall for the pyramid of Senwosret III. Later, he reported that he had found another three boats about 100m nearby and that he left them in situ. This total of six boats conflicts with a newspaper report that counted five.

Although some Egyptologists believe that these boats were made for non-royal persons there seems to be a direct tie with King Senwosret III. Opinions also differ on the function of these boats: some believe that they were for funerary ritual purposes, while others believe that the king used them for transportation in the netherworld. I believe that these boats are solar boats, used by the king and the god just as Khufu did in the Old Kingdom.

We know that of these boats, one is now housed in the Carnegie Natural History Museum in Pittsburgh. The second boat, painted red, is in Chicago's Field Museum; while two more boats, both white, remain in Cairo's Egyptian Museum. We know that the person who moved the boats outside the country was Emiel Bruch who assisted de Morgan, but we don't know the location of the fifth or sixth boat. It seems that they are still in their original locations at Dahshur. So exists another mystery to be solved by future Egyptologists.


by Dr. Zahi Hawass

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