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pyramid of Menkaure

Journey to the Past: Discovering the Pyramid of Menkaure

The Pyramid of Menkaure is one of the most important monuments you can see during your trip to Egypt. We are in the Giza Necropolis, a unique archaeological site, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, just a few kilometers from the Egyptian capital, Cairo.

In this article, we want to lead you to discover the third largest Pyramid in Giza, the burial place of Pharaoh Menkaure, who ruled ancient Egypt during the Fourth Dynasty.

We will find the details of its history and construction and are curious to know more about this colossal funerary statue on the side of the Nile as the sun sets. This structure is believed to have been completed at the end of the 26th century BC.

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History of the Pyramid of Menkaure

That Pyramid’s original height was 215 feet, which has now been reduced to 204 to remove some structural elements. The lower section of the Pyramid is clad in pink granite, while the upper section is in Tura limestone like other pyramids in Giza and other sites.

Who was Menkaure?

Pyramid of Menkaure

Menkaure was Khafre’s son. During the 4th dynasty of the Ancient Kingdom of Ancient Egypt, he ruled Egypt. People also think Pharaoh Menkaure took over from Pharaoh Khafra, who built the Great Sphinx and the second Pyramid on the Giza plateau. Still, historical accounts don’t match archaeological proof that this is true.

We don’t know when the Pyramid was built because there is no information in history books about when the Pharaoh Menkaure was in power. He was the successor of Chephren, his father of him, and grandson of Cheops, who had the highest Pyramid built on the Giza plateau, the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world to have survived intact up to us today.

There are not many certainties about the years in which Menkaure was Pharaoh. Some Ptolemaic writings declare that he reigned for 63 years, but as we can imagine, this data is not very credible for the time.

In the Egyptian Museum of Turin, on the other hand, we can observe the Royal Canon, a document that should contain the count of the exact years of his reign but which, unfortunately, is damaged.

From what has been interpreted, Egyptologists have deduced that he reigned for about 18 years. Furthermore, his unfinished Pyramid may indicate an early death, but we know little about his life.

Among the most illustrious past historians from whom we have received some information on the life of the pharaohs, we must name one of the fathers of history, Herodotus.

In his writings, Di Lui Storie di Lui, the kinship between the pharaohs who owned the Pyramids of Giza is highlighted as how Mycerinus had an unhappy life full of misfortunes, such as the premature death of his daughter. However, Egyptologists rarely regard Herodotus’ writings as reliable historical sources, believing them excessively fanciful.

Where is the Pyramid of the Pharaoh Menkaure located?

Pyramid of Menkaure

The Pyramid of Menkaure is located within the Giza Necropolis, 25 km from the capital Cairo, Egypt. This monumental funerary sculpture is placed in the southern part of the plain, next to the Pyramid of Chephren, who, according to historians, was his father. Its complex comprises two temples, a processional ramp, and satellite pyramids known as the Pyramids of the Queens.

The construction of the Pyramid

The smallest of the main pyramids within the Giza Necropolis, which in turn has three other satellite pyramids of Queens and other structures used for the cult of the Pharaoh after his death. Legend has it that Menkaure is the smallest Pyramid because a pact between Cheops and Chephren stipulated that no pyramid could exceed that of Cheops in height.

Mycerinus had his house built 450 m south of his father, Chephren, and his structure also shows less precision than the other two built before, both in the technique and materials used.

Its construction dating has been identified as about 2510 BC, an. Its blocks, more significant than the others, worked imprecisely and superimposed according to a not precisely harmonious order.

An unfinished work

Pyramid of Menkaure

As we can observe, even today, the Pyramid of Menkaure has numerous inaccuracies and less careful artistry than the other great pyramids of Giza. According to Egyptologists, this would be due to the premature death of Pharaoh Menkaure, thus forcing the work to be concluded in a hasty and not very meticulous way.

According to scholars, the original design of this Pyramid had to include a cover in red granite, a precious material from Aswan. Instead, it was covered during construction with the white limestone of Tura.

Only in the northern part of the structure can we observe the original cover; moreover, one thing that certainly catches the eye when we are in front of this Pyramid is a significant breach.

This mutilation of the structure was caused by the son of the Kurdish leader Saladin, who in 1196 attempted to search for the treasure of Menkaure, but without success, as the work for the demolition of the structure had too high costs.

Recent discoveries and the Pyramid of Menkaure today

The most recent excavations inside the Pyramid of Menkaure began in 1817, supervised by Belzoni. To obtain the first discoveries about it, however, we have to wait for 1837, when through the breach created by the son of Saladin, the Egyptologists Perring and Howard Vyse managed to penetrate the Pyramid of Menkaure without being able to find the chamber of the.

Only after clearing another part of the structure could Egyptologists find the entrance, a wooden coffin, and a mummified body. In another chamber, the explorers found the sarcophagus decorated in the style of a palace facade with grooved molding, typical of this Egyptian era, made of basalt. The Pharaoh’s body was missing, and the lid was damaged.

Unfortunately, this precious historical testimony sank in the sea near Cartagena, Spain, during its transport to the British Museum.

In the early 20th century, American Egyptologist George Reisner began excavating the Valley Temple of the Mycerinus pyramid complex.

Inside it, they found perfectly preserved and well-sculpted statues representing Menkaure and the goddesses Bat and Hathor, a symbol of the Pharaoh’s power over the people, even after death.

Today, it is possible to visit the inside of the Pyramid of Menkaure, even if it is an experience not recommended for those with claustrophobia, given the confined spaces. Instead, it is impossible to visit the interior of the Pyramids of the Queens, given the not excellent state of conservation.

The characteristics of the Pyramid of Menkaure

Pyramid of Menkaure

Initially, the Pyramid of Mycerinus was about 65 meters high, while today, due to atmospheric erosion and the damages suffered by man and earthquakes, it does not exceed 62 m.

Its base per side is approximately 103 m and has a total volume of 252 500 m³. Now, we will see its internal and external characteristics in detail, delving into its content.

The outside of the Pyramid

Due to the demolition attempt that the Pyramid underwent in 1196 AD by the then-sultan Al Aziz Uthman, son of Saladin, the structure has a long lateral breach on the northern side. Furthermore, from the outside, the system has much less precision in artistry than the pyramids of Cheops and Khafre, most likely due to the short time to complete the work.

Furthermore, in a few parts of the Pyramid, we can still see the original white limestone cover from Tura, which we can best observe on the apex of the Pyramid of Khafre.

The interior of the Pyramid of Menkaure

Unlike its rough exterior, the interior of the Pyramid of Menkaure is highly complex. Its main entrance is 4 m above the ground, and we immediately find ourselves in front of a descent covered with precious pink granite, which descends for about 30 m.

From here, we come to a richly detailed vestibule decorated with bas -reliefs using the palace facade style. After that, we come to a corridor reaching the first burial chamber, and this room is located 6 m below the ground and not inside the Pyramid, as is believed.

A subsequent corridor opens from this first room, which probably initially housed the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus. We find a new descent in front of us, and we can reach the definitive burial chamber of the Pharaoh, where the now-lost sarcophagus of the Pharaoh Mycerinus was found.

The quality that makes the smallest of the main pyramids of the Giza necropolis genuinely precious is the presence of pink granite, much more complex than Tura stone and very complicated to carve and work.

Furthermore, its internal structure is much more complex than the Pyramid of Chephren, reporting three levels and rich decorations inside.

The Valley Temple

A valley temple also accompanies the funerary complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure: a place that was in the past dedicated to the cult of the Pharaoh after his death, as well as being the place where the priests, for months, took care of all processes for embalming the king’s body, such as the rite of opening the mouth. This temple is located inside the valley, near the river Nile.

This temple was mainly composed of mud bricks, and its construction was completed by the Pharaoh’s son, according to the Egyptologist Reisner, who discovered it in 1908.

From this building, it was possible to reach the mortuary temple via the 600m processional ramp. Inside the valley temple were storerooms, a vestibule, four tall columns, a courtyard with its colonnade, and a sanctuary. In this place, the sculptures representing various triads of the Pharaoh with ancient deities were found, which we can observe today in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Pyramids of the Queens

The Valley Temple

The complex of the Pyramid of Menkaure is completed with three other minor pyramids, known as the Pyramids of the Queens, built south of the structure.

Scholars have not yet fully understood who these secondary burial sites were dedicated to: it is assumed that they were of Menkaure’s wife and sister, Khamerernebty II and Shepsetkau. However, her daughter’s tomb is near the valley temple, and her second wife’s is in another area of ​​the Giza plateau.

Information about the Pyramid of Menkaure

The pharaohs thought there was eternal life after death, and they also thought there was a world of the afterlife. This is why the great pharaohs at that time decided to build a place or temples through which they could save death and corpses.

The idea came from their traditional beliefs, which religion and science say are wrong. Three pyramids were based on their height, length, volume, and shape, and an alien king built each.

Archaeologists think the Pyramid was never finished because part of the base’s granite lining is still missing.

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Secrets you’ve never heard of the Pyramid of Menkaure

  • Al-Malek Al-Aziz Othman ben Yusef, son of Saladin and ruler of Egypt for part of the 12th century, cut a big hole in the Pyramid’s north face. He also ordered the pyramids and the stones used in other building projects to be taken apart. The Pyramid of Menkaure was the first structure to be taken down, but the job was impossible. They worked for eight months and could only make this gap.
  • The Egyptian monuments you see today have stood up to natural disasters and the passing of time. The man also hurt the temples and monuments, like the Pyramid of Menkaure.
  • The building is 65 and a half meters tall, 103.4 meters long, and 250 thousand m3 in size.
  • Egyptologists found that the Pyramid of Menkaure was made of bricks in the western Egyptian desert near the Nile River. This is because the sun sets directly behind the pyramids.
  • There was a coffin for an unknown king from the Pharaonic era in the Pyramid of Menkaure. It was made of Basalt stone from the Gulf of Baskay and moved from Egypt to England.
  • According to recent research and statistics, they used mud and heat to shape the ground in wooden molds, then warmed them in the sun to give the pyramid stones their unique shape.
  • In the 12th century, Sultan Osman Bey tried to find the main entrance by destroying the Pyramid of Miquerinos. However, he failed.
  • In the 19th century, the explorer Vyse tried to go further but failed.
  • Caviglia, an explorer from the 1800s, also moved up the north face but found no galleries.
  • Scientists working for Bonaparte took apart part of the Pyramid in the third annex to study it. Luckily, they didn’t have time to finish.

Damage has been done to the Pyramid of Menkaure and other parental monuments for thousands of years. This fantastic piece of history still stands, so we can look at it and learn about it today.

About the author

Egypt Planners Team is a highly experienced travel agency specializing in memorable trips to Egypt. The team comprises expert travel planners and tour guides with a deep knowledge of Egypt's history, culture, and top tourist destinations.