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Fact file: Menkaure's pyramid

Height: 65.5m

Built for: Menkaure (son of Khafre)

Name: Menkaure is Divine

Date: around 2520BC

Width of the edges: 102.2m X 104.6m

Angle of each face: 5120'

Volume: 235,183 cubic metres

Made of: limestone (mainly), Tura limestone (casing), pink granite (bottom 16 rows of the casing - these were not finished, i.e. cut to a smooth face)

 

diagram of Menkaure's pyramid showing the chambers inside, the mortuary temple (see below), and the queens' pyramids


The Pyramid of Menkaure

Menkaure was the son of Khafre and grandson of Khufu. His pyramid was built at Giza next to his father's, but much smaller. It has only 1/10th the amount of stone as the Great Pyramid, and is less than half the height of the two larger pyramids.

Why did the Egyptians start building much smaller pyramids? One idea is that they decided the temples were more important, as places to worship the king's soul. Indeed we see that Khafre's mortuary temple is very large. Another possibility is that Egypt's resources had been used up by the enormous size of the last pyramids, and so they had to scale down this time. Perhaps the workers were fed up!

Menkaure's name

Menkaure's name is shown in the cartouche above. The circle is Re (the sun god); below is men, a game board. The other three shapes are arms raised, which we read as kau (ka means spirit or life force, and three of them means plural, or spirits. In Egyptian, plurals were written with u on the end.) All together we read Menkaure (Re is written first because it was a god), which means 'the spirits of Re are established'.

  

 

Menkaure's pyramid. Below: the entrance.
The granite casing can be seen on the bottom.

Very fine statues of Menkaure were found in his valley temple. Above he is standing with his wife, Khamerernebty. Below he is standing with the goddess Hathor (on the left) and a goddess of a nome (a district of Egypt).

Inside the Pyramid

A tunnel runs down from the opening on the north side of the pyramid to a series of chambers. At the end is the burial chamber, lined in granite. It is 6.6m X 2.6m, and 3.4m high. A beautifully carved sarcophagus (stone coffin) was found inside by an early explorer. He attempted to bring it back to Britain, but the ship sank, so it now lies at the bottom of the Mediterranean sea.

 

Menkaure's burial chamber

  

What the sarcophagus looked like

Queens' Pyramids

Next to Menkaure's pyramid are three small pyramids, used to bury three of Menkaure's queens. One is a true pyramid and the other two are step pyramids, with four steps each. Some experts think the step pyramids were unfinished, and were going to be made into true pyramids. They were about 30m high when first built.

 

 

The true pyramid (on the right of the photo) was probably for Queen Khamerernebty. The names of the other two queens are not known

  

The queens' pyramids: looking down from Menkaure's pyramid

 

Menkaure's pyramid from above, showing the mortuary temple