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Pyramid of Menkaure

Tomb of Mykerinos, Menkheres
Size, construction, Giza

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Smallest Giza Pyramid

The Pyramid of Menkaure, called 'Netjer-er-Menkaure' ('Menkaure is Divine'), is the smallest of the three Ancient Egyptian pyramids in the Giza pyramid field of the Memphite Necropolis.

It is also the youngest, as it was completed around 2510 BC.

The two other royal tombs on the Giza Plateau, are the Great Pyramid of Khufu completed 2560; and the Pyramid of Khafre completed about 2532 BC.

The pyramid was built to serve as the tomb of Pharaoh Menkaure (r.2530-2510 BC), who was the fifth king of the Fourth Dynasty.

His predecessors were: Pharaoh Sneferu, Pharaoh Khufu (his grandfather), Pharaoh Djedefre, and Pharaoh Khafre (his father).

These five kings pioneered Ancient Egyptian architecture, constructing at least seven pyramids between them. Only Pharaoh Djoser (r.2686–2648 BC), the king who built the first pyramid, known as the Step Pyramid of Djoser (completed by 2650), can claim precedence in the tomb-building rankings.

Size

The Pyramid of Menkaure is the shortest of the three main pyramids at Giza, and sits a few hundred metres southwest of its larger neighbours.

Originally it measured 65.5 metres (215 ft) in height, however, due to the erosion of its exterior casing and the loss of its upper layers, the pyramid is currently 61 metres (200 ft) tall. It's base measures 108.5 metres (356 ft).

Construction

Menkaure's pyramid was built out of limestone and granite.

Local Giza limestone was used for the foundations and core. But for the exterior casing, red granite from Aswan was used for the first sixteen courses, and the whitest Tura limestone for the rest.

Menkaure Pyramid Complex

Menkaure's pyramid complex, like that of his predecessor, Khafre, included a number of other buildings.

The foundations and inner core of the mortuary temple and valley temple were made with local limestone.

The floors were granite, and granite was also used on some of the walls, but both structures were finished with mud bricks.

Even so, they exemplify Egyptian megalithic architecture of the period.

For instance, the American archaeologist George Andrew Reisner, who excavated Mencaure's valley temple in 1908-1910, calculated that some of the huge blocks of stone in the walls of the mortuary temple weighed a whopping 220 tonnes.

The discovery of two stela in the mortuary temple, containing inscriptions from the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2181 BC), the final dynasty of the Old Kingdom, indicate that the Menkaure cult continued to be active for more than two centuries after his death.

This sheds important light on Egyptian Bronze Age culture of the time. In particular, it reveals how Egypt's temples worked, and how important funerary cults were.

See also: Ancient Egyptian Temples (3000-30 BC).

Subsidiary Pyramids

To the south of Menkaure's pyramid, but still within its enclosure, there are three smaller pyramids - known as the Queens' pyramids - each of which has its own mortuary temple.

However, only the most easterly pyramid was completed: the other two were left half-finished.

Additional elements of the Menkaure Pyramid complex, include a quarry, and several mastabas for high-ranking officials and members of the royal family.

Pharaoh Menkaure

Menkaure, who was also known by his Hellenized names Mykerinos and Menkheres, was both a patron of Ancient Egyptian art as well as the gods.

During his rule, he was keen to establish his divine authority by building temples and other religious structures, but he also commissioned several important works of ancient art, notably sculptures.

His best-known commission was a triad of statues depicting Menkaure flanked by the goddesses Hathor (mother to Horus, god of the sky), and Bat (the cow goddess).

Other Famous Pyramids

Other famous pyramids not mentioned above, include:

NEXT: See Mesopotamian Art & Culture (9000-539 BC).

References

(1) Lehner, Mark (2008). The Complete Pyramids. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN-13 : 978-0500285473.
(2) Verner, Miroslav (2001). The Pyramids: The Mystery, Culture and Science of Egypt's Great Monuments. New York: Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-1703-8.

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