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Pyramid of Khafre

Memphite Necropolis, Giza
Construction, key facts, dates

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Summary

The pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) is the second tallest and second largest of all the Ancient Egyptian pyramids, after the Great Pyramid of Giza (completed 2560 BC).

It is the tomb of the Fourth-Dynasty Pharaoh Khafre, who ruled between 2558 and 2532 BC.

Khafre was the son of Pharaoh Khufu (r.2585–2566 BC), the builder of the Great Pyramid, and he ascended the throne after Pharaoh Djedefre (r.2566–2558 BC), as the second successor to his father.

Khafre's construction of the pyramid was a reflection of his ambition to leave an imprint on megalithic architecture, as monumental as that of his father.

Khafre's pyramid is now part of UNESCO World Heritage Site known as 'the Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur.'

Height and Weight

Construction

The pyramid was one of three constructed on the Giza Plateau. The first was Khufu's Great Pyramid, the second Khafre's, and the third was the Pyramid of Menkaure, which was built 40-50 years later.

Together, they represent the most famous assemblage of Ancient Egyptian architecture created during the Bronze Age culture (3000-1200 BC).

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Burial Chamber

Khafre's burial chamber sits underneath the centre of the pyramid. It was accessed by either of two passageways.

Both passageways descend into the bedrock, where they meet before proceeding horizontally to the burial chamber under the centre of the pyramid.

En route, both passageways pass a secondary chamber, whose function remains unclear. It may have been intended as a serdab chamber or a place to store offerings, or other funerary materials.

The burial chamber itself was hollowed out of the bedrock. The chamber is rectangular, and measures 14 X 5 metres. Its roof is made of gabled limestone beams. The sarcophagus was carved out of granite and sunk into the floor.

Layout of Pyramid Complex

During the Old Kingdom, a number of other buildings traditionally made up the pyramid complex.

Khafre's mortuary complex consisted of five main components: (1) The main pyramid; (2) A small cult pyramid; (3) The mortuary temple; (4) The valley temple; (5) A causeway leading from the valley temple to the mortuary temple.

Khafre's temples are better preserved than Khufu's, especially the valley temple.

The mortuary temple, where rites and rituals were performed in honor of the deceased pharaoh, was made from megalithic blocks weighing up to 400 tonnes in weight. It is now mostly in ruins, although its layout is clear enough.

Its five main features would become standard features in later years. These features are: an entrance hall, a courtyard fringed with columns, storage areas for pharaonic supplies, offerings, and statues of the pharaoh, and an inner sanctuary.

Originally, the temple contained more than fifty life size statues of Khafre, but these were reportedly removed and the stone reused, by Ramesses II.

A 494-metre causeway links the mortuary temple to the valley temple.

The valley temple hosted various ceremonies before the pharaoh's mummified body was taken up the causeway to the mortuary temple and eventually interred within the burial chamber.

It has a weathered limestone exterior and an interior made of red granite, with floors paved in alabaster.

Unusually, it has no relief sculptures on its interior walls. By contrast Khufu's valley temple contained 100 metres of carvings. Khafre's valley temple did contain numerous statues of the pharaoh but all have been looted.

Other elements of Khafre's pyramid complex include a number of mastabas and rock cut tombs, and a stone quarry.

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

Special Features

Close to Khafre's valley temple is one of the most extraordinary examples of Ancient Egyptian art of the Old Kingdom.

It consists of a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx - a mythical animal with the head of a human and the body of a lion - and is known as the Great Sphinx of Giza.

It measures 73 metres in length, 20 metres in height at its highest point and 19 metres in width.

Dated to the time of Khafre's pyramid, it was originally believed to represent Pharaoh Khafre himself, but modern research has cast doubt on this.

The Great Sphinx is the oldest known item of megalithic art in Egypt and one of the most famous sculptures in the world.

What Happened to Khafre's Pyramid?

Other Famous Pyramids

Other famous pyramids not mentioned above, include:

NEXT: See: Ancient Art (from 3,400 BC).

References

(1) Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids (2008) Thames and Hudson. ISBN-13 : 978-0500285473.
(2) Siliotti, Alberto. Guide to the Pyramids of Egypt (2003). American University in Cairo Press. ISBN-13: 978-0760707630.

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