Menkaure is the third pyramid in the Giza Pyramid complex that lies in Greater Cairo, Egypt. Smallest of the three, this beautiful structure rises to 66 metres (218 feet). Despite being short, Menkaure Pyramid houses some of the most stunning sculptures from Ancient Egyptian history.
- Location of Menkaure Pyramid
- When Ancient Egyptians Constructed Menkaure Pyramid?
- Why Ancient Egyptians built the Pyramid of Menkaure?
- Who is Pharaoh Menkaure?
- Dimensions of the monument
- Special features of the Pyramid
- Understanding the construction of the Pyramid
- Interior of the Pyramid
- Attempts of Demolition
Location of Menkaure Pyramid
The pyramid serves as a mausoleum to Menkaure, the fifth king of the fourth dynasty. Menkaure is the southernmost and the last pyramid built in the Giza necropolis.
Giza plateau is home to the famous structure along with its adjoining complexes. Part of the trio of pyramids, Menkaure is located in the southwestern outskirts of Cairo, Egypt.
Hence, visitors can sight this incredible pyramid just a few hundred metres southwest of its comparatively larger neighbour structures. Together, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Great Pyramid of Khufu and Menkaure shape the famous Giza Necropolis.
When Ancient Egyptians Constructed Menkaure Pyramid?
Historically we can presume that Ancient Egyptians built Menkaure in the 26th century BC. However, we can’t pinpoint the date of construction as the reign of the Pharaoh remains historically undefined. The Pharaoh of the fourth dynasty, Menkaure, ruled ancient Egypt between 2532 and 2515 BC. Hence, we can probably assume that he built this pyramid during that period.
Why Ancient Egyptians built the Pyramid of Menkaure?
The noble Pharaoh was the son and the successor of Khafre. Menkaure intended his mausoleum to be the last amongst the great pyramids. Moreover, Khufu was the grandfather of Pharaoh Menkaure. Therefore, the location of this monument was a well-thought choice.
Sometimes the pharaohs chose to construct their mausoleums near their fathers. Historians considered that the king wanted to be in the family lineage. Moreover, ancient Egyptians believed that pharaohs needed particular objects to succeed in the afterlife. Hence, the pyramid served as a burial place and monument to the king.
Who is Pharaoh Menkaure?
According to the Turin Papyrus, king Menkaure ruled ancient Egypt for nearly 18 to 22 years. Also known by his Hellenized name Mykerinos, the Pharaoh is famous for his tomb.
English army officers Richard William Howard Vyse and John Shae, an engineer, began excavations in the pyramid in 1837. They discovered a coffin and then removed it from the whole structure. Later, they shipped it to the British Museum in London.
The discovered basalt sarcophagus was beautifully rich with details. It also contained a bold decorative cornice. Apparently, within it, they found the bones of a young woman.
However, the merchant ship carrying the coffin succumbed in the Mediterranean Sea after departing Malta port. Consequently, after the unfortunate incident in 1838, Beatrice’s vessel disappeared in the ocean forever. Therefore, they shipped the remaining recovered materials separately. The basalt sarcophagus, for sure, was one of the rare remaining coffins from ancient Egypt to survive in modern times. Currently, the British Museum displays these materials with the remains of the wooden coffin among its exhibitions.
Dimensions of the monument
Initially, the pyramid rose to the height of 65.5 metres (215 ft). Therefore, making Menkaure the smallest pyramid out of the three structures.
With a base of 108.5 m (356 ft), the pyramid inclines approximately 51° 20’25” angle. Currently, it stands at the height of 61 m (200 ft). The measurements bring the structure quite close to a perfect pyramid.
Special features of the Pyramid
The ancient Egyptian language refers to this beautiful pyramid as “Netjer-er-Menkaure”, which translates into “Menkaure Is Divine”.
Despite the glorious name, there is evidence that the ancient Egyptians left this monument incomplete. The comparative difference in the size of Menkaure can be related to a new process in that period. Over time, the ancient Egyptians abandoned building pyramids; instead, they dug secret tombs into rocks with grand funeral temples.
Subsequently, Menkaure serves as a tool for archaeologists to discover how Ancient Egyptians erected these incredible structures.
Understanding the construction of the Pyramid
The Pyramid of Menkaure primarily constitutes limestone and Aswan granite. The pharaohs predecessors used limestone for the pyramids outer casing. However, Menkaure chose granite for the same purpose. The ancients quarried this granite in Aswan, located over 800 km away. The logistics in transporting the granite blocks to the actual location were mind-boggling in itself. Apart from that, the selected material had a much rougher structure than limestone.
However, the rest of the structure constitutes limestone, and only the bottom quarter uses granite. Before the ancient builders entirely constructed, the Pharaoh sadly passed away. Subsequently, they couldn’t smooth most of the pyramid’s granite casing blocks. Moreover, its adjoining valley temples intended to use limestone blocks encased in granite. However, they ultimately completed these structures with whitewashed mudbrick.
To summarise, the initial sixteen courses of the exterior compromises of red granite. The usual Tura limestone cased the subsequent upper portion.
Interior of the Pyramid
The entrance to the pyramid lies on the north face of the structure and is nearly four metres high. Subsequently, this entrance opens into a descending corridor partially clad in pink granite. Beyond the gallery lies a panelled chamber with niches carved into the walls. The original purpose of this decorative chamber remains unknown.
Furthermore, this chamber leads to a small, unadorned antechamber that sits below the pyramid’s axis. From this antechamber, a lower corridor connects into the burial chamber.
This room heads north to south. The chamber built with pink granite supports a gabled ceiling with a barrel vault shape. Moreover, Vyse discovered the colossal basalt sarcophagus right in this chamber.
Attempts of Demolition
In the twelfth century, the second Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt tried to destroy the Pyramid of Menkaure. However, this resulted in an unsightly gash on the north face of the pyramid. After eight months of struggle, the sultan decided to give up this cumbersome task.
The Menkaure pyramid continues to be a testament to the grandeur of the kings of ancient Egypt. Despite the size difference, this pyramid houses some of the most beautiful relics of the ancient world. The audience can also view the king’s various statues and stunning diads in the Boston Museum of the Fine Arts. No doubt, this beautiful structure continues to be one of the most impressive monuments of Ancient Egypt.