IV. The Pyramid

The Eckley B. Coxe, Jr., Expedition Excavations at Meydûm, 1929-30

By: Alan Rowe

Originally Published in 1931

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From the evidence afforded by the graffiti in its funerary temple [Plate XXXV, 2], it has been generally assumed that the Meydûm pyramid was made by Seneferu, the first king of the Fourth Dynasty,1 who died about. 2900 B. c. On the other hand, Dr. Reisner [53] suggests that it may have been made by Huni, the predecessor of Seneferu. However this may be, it is quite certain that Seneferu had two pyramids both of which were called “Seneferu appears,” the southern one being distinguished from the other by the more specific title, “The Southern Pyramid, ‘Seneferu-appears’.” From a decree issued by Pepi I of the Sixth Dynasty and found by Dr. Borchardt near the northern stone pyramid of Dahshûr, it is evident that that particular monument is none other than Seneferu’s northern pyramid. The decree in question was issued in honour of Seneferu, and exempted forever the tenants in the two pyramid towns of Seneferu, one of which was doubtless Meydûm, from carrying out any building works for the royal house, from giving food to any passing messenger, from paying irrigation taxes, and so on. It was addressed to certain high officials and is dated in the twenty-first year of the reign, about 2570 [5 and 76].

It has been suggested that one of the two pyramids of Seneferu was perhaps a cenotaph and the other a tomb, and in this connection some evidence showing the existence of a double cult of the king seems to be forthcoming from the inscription of Qed-shepses, a son of Seneferu, on a stela from his tomb at Dahshûr, from which we see that the prince was a “Priest of Horus Neb-Maāt” and a “Priest of Seneferu” [74; 14 : 22]. Neb-Maāt was the king’s official name, which had something to do with his ka [22 : 72], while Seneferu was of course his personal name. Similarly, Ka-nefer, the eldest son of Seneferu, buried at Dahshûr, was “Director of the priests of Seneferu,” and “Master of the secrets of Horns Neb-Maāt” [14 : 23]. Also, the following kings appear to have had two “tombs”: Zoser, at Saqqâra and Befit Khallâf; Senwosret III at Dahshûr and Abydos: Amen-em-hat III at Dahshûr and Hawâra; and Eye (Ai) at Tell el-Amârna and Bibân el-Mulûk, Thebes; the first monarch belonging to the Third Dynasty, the second and third to the Twelfth Dynasty, and the last to the Eighteenth Dynasty. Kings of Ne-wesr-Rā, Nefer-iri-ka-Rā, Men-kau-Hor, and, possibly, Wesr-ka-f, of the Fifth Dynasty, each had both a pyramid and a solar sanctuary. Further than this, according to Borchardt and Sethe [4], the Nefer-Maat associated with Meydûm mastabah Number 16 — the eldest son of Seneferu, if we may believe these authorities — is to be identified with the Nefer-Maāt who had a tomb at Giza, which means that be had two sepulchres. This idea, however, is not accepted by Reisner [54], who thinks the Giza Nefer-Maāt was not the same person as the Meydûm Nefer-Maāt, and that the former was a son of Khufu.

The question which of the two pyramids could have been used for the burial place of Seneferu has been gone into at some length by Borchardt £6 : 14-161, who has come to the conclusion that it is not likely that the body of Seneferu was buried in the Meydûm pyramid. On the other hand, however, as we shall see later, Petrie found in the Meydûm pyramid some pieces of a wooden coffin of “the early plain style,” which is surely evidence that a burial had been made in the pyramid during the Ancient Empire. Borchardt shows from the architectural details that the Dahshûr pyramid is later than the Meydûm one, and states that the beginning of the new sepulchre at Dahshûr was “bound up with the removal of the royal residence from the district of Meydûm to that of Dahshûr; which was the signal for the royal family, ministers of state, and officials to make their tombs around the new pyramid of their sovereign. It is remarkable what a number of members of the family and high officials are to be found there. . .; there are also some of later periods, mortuary priests of Seneferu and persons who describe themselves directly as his descendants, or whose funeral inscriptions show them to be in some way connected either with him or with his place of burial. At the Meydûm pyramid . . . cemetery . . . no traces have been found of the burials of funerary priests, who generally liked to be buried on the scene of their work. It may therefore be assumed with certainty that the cult of the dead was principally practised at Dahshûr, and it was, therefore, there that King Seneferu was buried. This did not mean that the town of the Meydûm pyramid was altogether forsaken or that the estates bequeathed to the cult of the dead there were given up; part of the cult of the dead was carried on there too. This explains the charter of King Pepi I for `Both pyramid towns’ for sacrifices brought, monthly services offered, and divine ceremonies fulfilled for King Seneferu.” Such are Borchardt’s ideas concerning the two pyramids of Seneferu. He offers no opinion as to who could have been buried in the coffin discovered in the Meydûm pyramid. Could it not have been Seneferu himself, who perhaps died before the Dahshûr pyramid was completed, and whose body was perhaps afterwards transferred to Dahshûr when the new sepulchre was completed? If we do not accept this theory, here postulated for the first time, it is difficult to explain, first, why it was necessary to carry on the cult of the king in both places, and second, why Qed-shepses and Ka-nefer called themselves both “Priest, and so forth, of Horns Neb-Maat (a name associated with the royal ka)” as well as “Priest of Seneferu.” Perhaps it was believed that the ka of Seneferu visited the original tomb from time to time (it could hardly have been believed that it remained there after the removal of the body), and, such being the case, it was necessary to carry on the cult of the king both at Meydûm and at Dahshûr. In connection with transferred royal burials of the Ancient Empire, one remembers that Khufu removed the burial of his mother Hotep-heres, the queen of Seneferu, from Dahshûr, probably, to Giza (see below). We shall observe presently how the Egyptians of later times apparently thought that the Meydûm pyramid was the burial place of Seneferu, and also how the pyramid itself shows distinct traces of a removal of funerary equipment.

The following are the known officials who were connected with the pyramids of Seneferu; that is to say, those officials whose inscriptions directly mention the pyramids of the king:

Fourth Dynasty

Ka-nefer, an Overseer of the pyramid of Seneferu, Director of the priests of Seneferu, Master of the secrets of Horus Neb-Maat, and so forth, eldest son of Seneferu, buried at Dahshûr [14 : 23 and 79, Plates 4, 5]. Although the inscriptions do not state whether Ka-nefer was priest of the Dahshûr or of the Meydûm pyramid, the position of his tomb would surely indicate that he was attached to the former pyramid. Nefer-Maat of Meydûm was also an “eldest son.”

Fifth Dynasty

Duā-Rā, concerned with the king’s affairs, and Overseer of the two pyramids of Seneferu, buried at Dahshûr about the time of Sahu-Ra nie [34 :190 and 6 : 15, note 4].

Ankh-mā-Rā, concerned with the king’s affairs, and Overseer of the Southern (that is, probably, Meydûm) pyramid of Seneferu, the son of Dua-Rā (see above) buried at Dashûr [34 and 6].

Henka, a Great One of the Ten of the South, Judge, Domain-administrator, Overseer of all the works, and Overseer of the two pyramids of Seneferu; end of the Fifth Dynasty. He is mentioned on a statue in the Vienna Museum and on a statue in the Berlin Museum, both of which are reported (without definite proof) to have come from Meydûm [80; 2; and 6 : 15, note 5].

Ḏaḏa-ern-ānkh, a Libationer priest of the pyramid of Seneferu, buried at Saqqâra [27 : 196-201]. The inscription does not indicate whether the priest was attached to the Dahshûr or to2 the Meydûm pyramid, but it was probably the former one.

The only other known mention of the pyramids of Seneferu is in the Sixth Dynasty decree of Pepi I, referred to in the first paragraph of this chapter, and the following New Empire hieratic graffiti found in the Meydûm pyramid temple; these graffiti also mention the temple itself.

Eighteenth Dynasty

Aa-kheper-ka-Rā-senb, a Scribe, and son of Amen-mesu, the Scribe and Ritualist of the deceased king Thothmes I — “came tc see the beautiful temple of the Horus Seneferu. He found it as though heaven were within it and the sun rising in it. Then he said: ‘May heaven rain with fresh myrrh, may it drip with incense, upon the roof of the temple of the Horns Seneferu.’ ” Dated in the forty-first year of Thothmes III, about 1460 [42 : I, 40, 41, Plate XXXIII, v]. The above rendering is after that by Mr. Gunn.

Mey, a Scribe, “came to see this very great pyramid of the Hams . . Seneferu . . .” Dated in the thirtieth year of Amenophis III, about 1381 [42 : I, 41, Plate XXXVI, xvii].

Unknown person, a son of Pi-nahsi. This graffito, now damaged, once mentioned the temple of Seneferu, in words somewhat similar to those of Aa-kheper-ka-Ra-senb [42 : I, 41, Plate XXXV, xvi].

Graffiti somewhat similarly worded to the above three, and also of late date, are found in Twelfth Dynasty private tombs at Beni Hasan; that is, those of Khnum-hotep and Ameni-Amen-em-hat. Curiously enough, these particular graffiti say the visitors came “to see the temple of Rd-Khufu” (Cheops). The mistake may have occurred through the mention in the original inscription of Khnum-hotep of the city “Nurse of Khufu, ” a city already referred to in Section II above. One of the visitors was the “Royal Scribe, Amen-mes,” whose name and titles remind us of the “Scribe Amen-mes, ” who wrote one of the graffiti on the ceiling of the Meydûm pyramid passage [Plate XXXIX, 2]. Compare, too, the name of the father of Aa-kheper-ka-Ra-senb. The Beni Hasan graffiti are published by Maspero [31 : IV, 127, 128].

From the above graffiti it will be seen that the scribes of the Eighteenth Dynasty certainly believed that the Meydûm pyramid was erected by Seneferu. Other references to the king in the graffiti in the pyramid temple of Meydûm are as follows:

An unknown person of the Sixth Dynasty, or earlier, mentions that the name of Seneferu is Wenen-neferu (Onnophris). “He who exists thrice beautifully” [42 : I, 10, 40; Plate XXXII, I]. Long after Seneferu died the title Wen-nefer, “He who exists beautifully,” became a favourite title for Osiris, a god who is never met with in the inscriptions until the end of the Fifth Dynasty. Concerning this title, Mr. Gunn writes me that “the nfr is not simply adjective, nûfer, but pseudo-participle, nofrew or nofrej; wnn is of course the participle, so that we have something like ‘he who is good’ (literally, ‘he who exists beautifully’ or, ‘he who exists well’).”

An unknown person of the Sixth Dynasty, or earlier, mentions that “the name of the Horus-Seneferu . . . is Wenen-neferu.” Noticed by the writer on east wall of the chamber. The great age of this graffito and of the one above-mentioned, which are scratched on the walls, is testified by the fact that they are exactly the colour of the stones of the temple.

Netri-mesu, of the Eighteenth Dynasty, an Attendant at the feet(?) of the Lord of the Two Lands, mentions Seneferu in association with various gods, all of whom, including Seneferu himself, he prays, may give him (Netri-mesu) glory in heaven, power on earth, and drinking water upon the . . . of the river, and a smelling of the sweet air of the north wind [42 : I, 41; Plate XXXV, xiv]. The above rendering is after that by Mt Gunn.

The name of the king also appears in the following proper-names found at Meydûm: Menāt-Seneferu, “The Nurse of Seneferu,” a village-name of the Fourth Dynasty; . . . Seneferu, perhaps also Menāt-Seneferu, a Fourth Dynasty village-name found in the same mastabah as the preceding; see above; Seneferu-khety, a lady of the Twelfth Dynasty: and Seneferu-ānkh, scratched on the ceiling of the passage in the pyramid temple, and noticed by the present writer. (See above page 13, footnote 4.) According to Mr. Gunn, the hieratic graffito in the temple, published by Petrie [42 : Plate XXXIV, vi], does not read Senefer(u?) but sesh qedwt, that is, “the draughtsman.”

A queen of the king who built the Meydûm pyramid was perhaps buried in the small pyramid seen in Plates I and III. Seneferu seems to have had three queens: Meres-ānkh, mentioned in the graffito of the Eighteenth Dynasty scribe Āa-kheper-ka-Rā-senb, in the Meydûm pyramid temple, and possibly in an inscription in the Cairo Museum; Hotep-heres, the mother of Khufu, whose transferred burial was found at Giza in 1925, during the time that the present writer was with the Harvard-Boston Expedition; and, lastly, Merititebes, named on a stela from Giza on a statue at Leyden, and on a vase from Byblos, in Syria. On the subject of these queens see: 37; 47 : I, 46, 49, 51; 53; 55.

So far as we know it, the history of the Meydûm pyramid, which as long ago as A. D. 1737 (see above), was known as El-Haram el-Kaddâb, “The False Pyramid,” by the Moslems, and El-Haram el-Kebir, “The Great Pyramid,” by the Christians, is as follows: it was probably built at the commencement of the Fourth Dynasty by king Seneferu, who placed a pyramid temple, a causeway, and a valley temple on its eastern side. The existing evidence clearly shows that, at one part of its career, it was a seven-staged building, and that later it was made into an eight-staged building, and later on still, into a true pyramid in form. From the fact that the faces of both the inner stages referred to are smooth-dressed, and possess sockets for the metal bars supporting the door seals, it would certainly appear that the structure was originally intended only to be staged; some support for this theory is perhaps given by the quarry marks showing the building in stepped form [Plate VI]. Borchardt, from the evidence afforded by these quarry marks, thinks that the first plan may possibly have been a two-staged small pyramid about forty metres long on each side; this may, on its completion, have been reconstructed into a larger three-staged pyramid3 (the four-staged pyramid quarry mark was not found at the time Borchardt wrote his account), and so on. This idea is a very plausible one, but it is a peculiar thing that of the ten “accretions” found by Wainwright in the base of the pyramid [44 : 25, Plate XIV], only the joints of the outer faces of the seven and eight-staged parts of the pyramid are visible in the sloping entrance passage [Plate X]. Petrie thinks that the pyramid may have been built around a central mastabah [42 : I, 5, and 46 : 142, Figure 110], and this may possibly have been the case, for it certainly seems that the idea of a stepped pyramid was derived from the idea of a stepped mastabah, such as that of king Sa-nekht of the Third Dynasty at Beit Khallâf [Plate IX, 17] and that of the unknown person of the Fourth Dynasty for whom Mastabah 17 was built at Meydûm [Plate II]. The stepped pyramid of Zoser, the predecessor of Sa-nekht, of the third Dynasty at Saqqâra, shows more clearly its derivation from a mastabah than the Meydûm pyramid, for it is elongated in plan like an ordinary mastabah. From the section in Plate X, it will be seen that the platforms of the Meydûm pyramid stages slope slightly inward. Various loose blocks found in the debris against the side of the pyramid are dated in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth years of the reign, and as these blocks perhaps formed part of the outer casing, they possibly afford evidence as to the time the pyramid was completed [Plate XXXVIII, 2; also see 43 : II, 2, 9, Plate V, and 48 : 10ff]. Reisner [53] states that “the length of the reign of Sneferuw is still uncertain. In the Turin Papyrus, one of the later lists of kings and dynasties, Sneferuw is given twenty-four years under the accepted arrangement of the fragments. In the version of Mane-tho’s list preserved by Africanus, he receives twenty-nine years. M. Daressy estimates that the space assignable to Sneferuw in the Annals (Palermo Stone) would represent twenty-four years, while Sethe estimates it at thirty to thirty-two years or less. The fifteenth year of Sneferuw is the highest preserved in the Annals, and the calculated space in the same document allows not more than thirty-two years. Thus the evidence indicates a reign of about twenty-four to thirty years, slightly longer than the general average.”

From the details given in Plate VI, it will be observed that we have identified seven gangs of quarrymen who were associated with the building of the Meydûm pyramid and neighbouring structures. These gangs are the “Stepped Pyramid Gang,” the “Boat Gang,” the “Vigorous Gang,” the “Sceptre Gang,” the “Enduring Gang,” the “North Gang,” and the “Sound Gang. ” It is quite possible, as in the case of the gang names of the Fourth Dynasty known at Giza, that these names in their full forms were compounded with that of the king. Thus, the third gang might well have been called “How Vigorous is Seneferu,” the fifth, “How Enduring is Seneferu,” and so on. However, the full name of one of Seneferu’s gangs of workmen, namely, “The craftsmen-crew, How beloved is the White Crown of Seneferu,’ ” is met with on a copper adze of the Fourth Dynasty published by Petrie [43 : II, 43, Plate XXXVII, 40, and 42 : I, Plate XXIX]. Khufu, the son of Seneferu, had a gang somewhat similarly named: “The craftsmen-crew, ‘How powerful is the White Crown of Khnum-Khufu ‘ ” ; this name appears among others in one of the upper chambers of the Great Pyramid at Giza, and was copied by Vyse in 1837 [72]. Other crew names of later date have been found in the sanctuaries at Abusîr, south of Giza. Another quarrymen’s expression found on the limestone blocks at Meydûm [43 : II, Plate V], and also at Giza, is Wer-sa, namely, “The Great One of the Company [of Quarrymen].” This of course must be the title of the chief quarryman. As will he seen from Numbers 2 and 4 in the same plate, and from Number 3 in our Plate VI, some of the blocks had the names of two gangs on them, and this may be accounted for by assuming that two gangs had to deal with each of the blocks in question. Other quarry marks are given in Plate VI of Petrie’s work. Mention has already been made above of the pyramid blocks dated in the fifteenth, sixteenth, and seventeenth years of the reign of the king. The names and dates were certainly placed on the blocks before the stones left the quarry, probably with the object of making a tally of the number of stones turned out by each gang at the end of each day. Compare the daily quota of bricks which the Israelites had to supply (Exodus v : 8-19). One interesting fact must be mentioned, and that is that all the quarrymen’s inscriptions referred to above are found only on the good limestone blocks.4 These blocks obviously came from the hills on the eastern side of the Nile. This means of course that the marks in question belonged solely to the quarrymen in the eastern hills, and not to the men who removed the coarse local atone found in the quarries near the pyramid itself, and who, in certain instances and with only one known exception, used a few meaningless lines on their stones. The exception referred to looks something like the place-name Per-Ma, “The Residence.” (See, in this connection, Gauthier, 23; II, 81.) The first person to have remarked on the unusually frequent appearance of the quarry marks at Meydûm was Perring, who visited the site in 1837; while Lepsius, 1843, noticed many marks shaped like a circle with a cross in it; see the chronological list above. Petrie found a piece of stone there bearing some “accounts” of the pyramid builders [43 : II, 2; Plate XIV, i). At Beisan in Palestine we noticed that the Byzantines used letters of the Greek alphabet for quarry marks. Bricks from the Canaanite fort of Rameses II at the same place bore peculiar signs which are possibly gang emblems [60].

In connection with the original storied appearance of the pyramid and of Mastabah 17 at Meydûm, it is very interesting to bear in mind the stepped appearance of the mortuary buildings shown as determinatives to the word ia, “to mount,” in the pyramid texts of the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties [Plate V, 42-46]; these stepped buildings sometimes interchange with buildings of mastabah-like shape in elevation [Plate V, 20-41]. The great importance of these analogies should be borne in mind, as they tend to show that the known stepped funerary buildings, such as those at Meydûm, the stepped pyramid of Zoser at Saqqâra, the stepped mastabah of Sa-nekht at Beit-Khallâf [Plate IX, 17], and the peculiar stepped buildings at Abydos surmounted with two stelæ like those in our pyramid temple [Plate V, 2, 3], were by no means the only buildings of their kind extant under the early dynasties.

How long ago the Meydûm pyramid was first used as a quarry for stone we do not know exactly, but it may possibly have been entered in that period following the close of the Ancient Empire known as the First Intermediate Period, that is, from the Seventh to the Tenth Dynasty, about 2475-2160 [13 : 168], at which time no doubt a certain amount of destruction took place not only on the pyramid at Meydûm but also on the pyramids elsewhere. Petrie, Maspero, and Borchardt think that it was Rameses II who first largely trespassed on the pyramid;5 we know for a fact that the pyramid passage was open about this time, because of the presence on its ceiling of the graffiti of the scribes Sekri and Amen-mes, which, according to M. Cerný, date from the first half of the Nineteenth Dynasty, not from the Twentieth Dynasty as stated by Maspero and Newberry (see references in description of Plate XXXIX, 1). A “royal scribe, Amen-mes,” who wrote a graffito in a tomb at Beni Hasan has already been referred to above. The destruction by Rameses II does not seem to have affected the pyramid temple by covering it in with debris, because graffiti dating as late as the Twentieth Dynasty (M. Černý’s dating) are found inside it. After that period, however, the temple seems to have been covered in, for some burials of the Twenty-second Dynasty were found in the debris over its roof. As a matter of fact, the majority of the intrusive burials in the debris against the sides of the pyramid date from about the time of this dynasty. According to the witness of Sheikh Abû-Mohammed Abdallah, who visited Meydûm in 1117-1119 (see above, Section II), there then existed five stages in the pyramid, two of which have disappeared since his time, which happened certainly prior to 1737, the time of Captain Norden’s visit, when, as his sketches show, there were three stages. Perring mentions in 1837 [73 : III, 78-80] that the bridge at Tahme, thirty kilometres north of Meydûm, was built of blocks from the Meydûm pyramid, while Petrie, in 1891, writes “the pyramid of Meydûm is the quarry of all the neighbourhood. Large piles of stone are to be seen in the villages, all taken from there. The desert is furrowed with cart tracks in all directions from the pyramid. Every decent Medûmi that dies has a stone tomb built of pyramid casing” [42 : I, 4]. When Borchardt visited the pyramid in 1926 he found that much damage had been done to it since his previous visit in 1897 [6 : 6]; as will be seen from the chronological list given above, the pyramid was first opened in modem times by Maspero in 1881-1882 and subsequently examined by Petrie in 1891.

The clearing out of the pyramid passages and chambers was a long, tedious, and suffocating job, and our men were only too pleased when this part of our excavations was completed. The chief objects found in the pyramid are shown on Plate XV, 10-16. Other objects consisted of small pieces of wood, fragments of Roman bricks, Arab clasp-knives, pieces of broken bottles and so forth. Evidence was forthcoming that bats and owls once lived in the pyramid. In many places the debris reached to within a metre of the ceiling. Our plan and section of the interior are given in Plate X, which also shows the ancient builders’ level lines, cubit signs, and pyramid centre lines [Petrie, 49], all of which are self explanatory. The cubit used in the pyramid appears to be fifty-two and one-half centimetres. It is interesting to note, as mentioned before, that the platforms of the inner stages slope slightly inward, the inner end being fifteen centimetres lower than the outer end. From the evidence at present visible, it is certain that the courses of masonry in the many accretion stages in the four sides of the pyramid are not horizontally laid but slope inwards to a common centre. The under part of the base at the north has not yet been cleared, so the foundations of Stages I and II in our drawing are restored from Petrie’s section. The lower part of the passage and antechambers bear an exact analogy to a number of large Fourth Dynasty tombs [Numbers 204, 202, 251, 277] to be described later, which were excavated by the Expedition at Meydûm, for in each instance a trench was cut in the rock and afterwards lined with masonry. The slots in the sides of the pyramid passage [Plate X] are D-shaped and probably held metal bars for the purpose of preventing the blocking stones6 from sliding down the passage. No such slots appear inside the present entrance (the sides of which were cut away so as to hold a wedge-shaped block), but are found in the entrance of the eight-story stage; one slot is found in the east wall near the entrance of the seven-story stage. The average angle of the outer sloping casing is 51° 52′, while that of the faces of the “accretions” is variable, being said to average 73° 20′ for the upper portions and 74° 21′ for the lower portions [42 : I, 6, 7]. In the same place Petrie says that the original height of the pyramid was 301 feet 7 inches, and the present height, 214 feet 8 inches. The angles of the “accretions” and the height of the pyramid will be checked by us after we have made our pyramid ladder, for the figures here given were made from the ground.

The entrance passage descends 57.85 metres (sloping length) to the first ante-chamber. It is not a uniform slope, but has a dip in it; from the commencement of the floor at the outer entrance to a distance of 13.35 metres (that is, to the face of the seven-staged part of the pyramid) it is 30° 23′, and from the latter point to a distance of 20.55 metres from the entrance it is 29° 22′, while from the last mentioned point to the first ante-chamber it is 27° 36′. The direct slope between the entrance and the end is 28° 29′. This error, here noticed for the first time, probably arose in part through the additions of the pyramid “accretions”. The outer faces of the seven-story and eight-story stages in the construction of the pyramid can be detected by the broken joints in the walls, floor, and ceiling of the passage. The original right-angle height of the whole of the passage was about 155 centimetres, while the perpendicular height was 185 centimetres. Near the lower end of the sloping passage, at 53.95 metres from the entrance, we found a small pit in the floor; this pit extends for the whole width of the passage, is 55 centimetres across from north to south, and 292 centimetres deep, of which the lowest 78 centimetres are in the rock. It was unnoticed by previous explorers, and was perhaps used for funerary offerings; one would hardly expect it to have been used for a portcullis, because there is no corresponding slot in the ceiling. About 125 centimetres beyond the pit, to the south, we found a small slot, 14 centimetres wide and 20 deep, running round the sides, ceiling, and floor of the passage. This was evidently for a wooden door, for we observed pieces of wood in the floor slot. Incidentally, a wooden door was discovered by Petrie in the Fourth Dynasty mastabah of Nefer-Maat at Meydûm [44 : 25, Plate XVI], and traces of a great double door of wood at the end of the pyramid causeway (see below). A little to the south of the wooden door in the pyramid, the sloping passage enters the first antechamber, the horizontal floor of which is 15 centimetres below that of the passage end. The dimensions of this chamber are: north to south, 260 centimetres; east to west, 220 centimetres; original height, about 180 centimetres. A door to the south measuring 60 centimetres from north to south and 85 centimetres from east to west, that is, having the same width as the passages, leads into the second ante-chamber, the dimensions of which are: north to south, 265 centimetres; east to west, 210 centimetres; original height, about 180 centimetres. In both these chambers were found some rectangular blocks of limestone measuring 52.5 centimetres by 42 centimetres by 36.5 centimetres, which must have formed part of the sealed masonry doors of the chambers. A small passage, 365 centimetres in length, runs from the second ante-chamber to the base of the shaft ascending to the sarcophagus-chamber. The shaft at the base is 117 centimetres from north to south and 85 centimetres from east to west. The floor stones have been removed from the base of the shaft and partly from the south end of the passage, where there is a slot in the rock, while the southernmost ceiling-stone of the passage is partly broken away. It looks as if all this destruction had been carried out, by priests or by robbers, as the case may be, in order to facilitate the removal of the funerary equipment. Compare the remarks of Maspero, who states that “an apparatus of beams and ropes still in place above the orifice [when he opened the pyramid in 1881-1882] shows that the robbers took the sarcophagus out of the chamber back in antiquity.” From the present (rock) floor of the shaft to the top of the paved floor of the sarcophagus-chamber is a distance of 665 centimetres. It will be noticed from the section that there are wooden baulks in the shaft. There are three of these in all, one on the west and one on the east side (for the purpose of holding up the overhanging rock), supporting a third against the face of the south aide. The floor of the sarcophagus-chamber is of rock paved with stones, many of which are now removed. The sarcophagus-chamber itself is not very large; it is 590 centimetres long, 265 centimetres wide, and 505 centimetres high. The acute slope of the corbelled roof exaggerates its actual height. In the south wall is a small recess made by robbers. Two baulks, of which only the stump of one now remains (indicated by the two XX’s side by side in the section) were fitted not far above the spring of the roof at the north end; a third (now missing) was almost between and just above them, and a fourth, a short one (Y), in the angle of the roof. [See the Plate XXV, 1, 2.] Another baulk ran across the top of the south end of the chamber. A stump, which is in the north wall of the shaft, and level with the floor of the chamber, shows that a baulk once lay across the eastern part of the shaft in line with the north-south axis. All the baulks are heavily impregnated with the salts which have come out of the stone blocks. Not a fragment of a stone sarcophagus was found in the chamber or elsewhere in the pyramid. Petrie [42 : I, 11] records that at the bottom of the shaft were lying pieces from a wooden sarcophagus, of the early plain style, which had been very violently wrenched open and destroyed.

The objects found in the debris against the sides of the pyramid and in the debris near the pyramid temple are shown in Plates XIV and XV. These objects were found either by themselves or associated with poor burials of the late period, say from about the Twenty-second Dynasty onwards.

Apart from the objects shown in the plates, there were discovered among the debris against the north face of the pyramid some fragments of mummy cloth, plaited human hair, and some fibre ropes, all from disturbed burials. Near the present top of the outer casing was a primitive rectangular coffin made out of palm-leaf stems which were knotted together, at distances of 12 to 15 centimetres, with fibre. Inside the coffin was the mummy of a child of about two years of age. Further down in the debris and about 13 metres from the pyramid face, was a skeleton of an adult wrapped in cloth and encased with palm-leaf stems tied with ropes. Its head was to the west. Apart from a small, blue bead, a spindle-whorl rod, and some pieces of charcoal from the child’s burial, nothing was found with these two interments. A quarrymen’s inscription from here is shown in Plate XXXVIII, 2; another such inscription reads: “Year 16(?), first month of the winter season.” Among the debris on the west face there were found the scattered remains of a late burial, which included a Hellenistic lamp [Plate XIV, 19], a bronze coin of the third century B. C. (Ptolemy II—IV), broken wooden hair combs, a piece of plaited human hair, a sacred-eye amulet, a broken faience bead-spreader, a few beads, pottery fragments, a piece of a mat used for mummy covering, some cord, and pieces of wood. From the debris against the east face and on and around the pyramid temple there came a mummy encased with reeds from a point high up in the debris to the north of the pyramid temple, about two metres from the pyramid face. Its head was to the north. The body was protected from the debris by flat stones laid around it. A little lower down was another reed burial, head to north, also protected by stones; a shell and two small faience beads were the only objects found with it. From further south and close to the pyramid came the steatite scarab shown in Plate XV, 3. Above and a little to the north of these burials were four rather large two-handled water jars of red ware covered with a yellowish wash. They were standing upright in a line close to one another and next to the pyramid face; see the note in Plate XV. Three of the jars had flat stones over their mouths, while the fourth had a mud stopper. At a somewhat lower level, the body of a child was found wrapped up in a fibre-string bag. Higher up in the debris, and still to the north of the temple, were some palm-leaf stem encased burials, with heads to the north. Two of these belonged to children and two to adults; of the latter, one had a newly born infant with it and had an outer covering of palm fibre. Some shell beads came from one of these burials. Not very far away was another palm-leaf stem burial of an adult, with the head to the south; near its feet was lying part of a fishing net. Four more poor burials were discovered in the debris north of the temple. The first was a mummy encased in reeds, and the second a mummy in palm-leaf stems; in both cases the heads were to the north. The third burial consisted of a child in a fibre bag, and the fourth in a reed-encased mummy. The most important object from the above mentioned northern debris is the seal of Sheshonk IV of the Twenty-second Dynasty [Plate XV, 4]. The debris above the roof of the temple had not been cleared by Petrie, and in it we found a number of burials. Lying close to the top of the north wall of the temple, and at right angles to it, was a broken wooden coffin; it was some six metres from the pyramid. Near the top of the southeast corner of the roof was a reed-encased mummy, head to the north. The mummy was in good condition originally, having been carefully bandaged. Over the outer wrappings was a thin skin or leather covering, of which the part over the head showed some stitches.7 By the side of the burial was a two-handled reddish ware jar, with the mouth broken. It contained some organic matter. Against the south wall was a poor anthropoid coffin of late date, which held a few bones. From near the roof came a broken hippopotamus-vase. This may well represent the hippopotamus goddess of the Fayyûm, who was called The White [81 : III, 2121. Near the northeast corner of the temple and on the roof was a reed-encased mummy with head to the south. Outside the northeast corner was a poor mummy wrapped in fibre mats. The head and chest were protected by a flat rectangular fibre basket. Next to the head were a small round basket of fibre and a jar containing an infant; the jar was standing upright and originally had a mud sealing. The three-handled jar shown in Plate XV, 7, was lying nearby. From the same area came the jar Number 22 on the above plate; when found this was lying on its side with the mouth to the south. It contained the mummy of an infant.

This concludes our account of the excavations inside and about the outside of the pyramid; the pyramid temple and the pyramid causeway will be dealt with in the next section. Nothing need be said here about the constructional ramp to the east of the pyramid [Plate VIII], as this was not touched by us during the season and has been fully described by Petrie8. For other ramps found at Meydûm and for the great ramp upon which, according to the pyramid texts, king Unis of the Fifth Dynasty was supposed to ascend from earth to heaven, see Chapter V.

1 Some authorities regard him as the last king of the Third Dynasty

2 Other priests of Seneferu, not all of his time, are mentioned by Petrie [47 48. 491; Maspero [32 383, note 3]: and Borchardt [6 : 15, notes 3, 4].

3 Borchardt’s conjecture [6:10[ that “the block with the two-step mark was destined for the building in the two-step stage; those with the three-step mark for the next three-step design,” is not supported by our new evidence, which shows that the various classes of pyramid signs were used indiscriminately on the stones. See description of Plate VI in the present work.

4 The same remarks apply to the quarry marks found at Giza.

5 Compare Petrie [42 : 5, 9, 19, 34]; Maspero [32: 360], who thinks the stone was used for buildings at Heracleopolis, in the Fayyûm; and Borchardt [6 : 6].

6 Borchardt [6 : 12; Abb. 2] thinks the entrance block of the eight-story stage was pivoted, but there is no direct evidence of this. On the contrary, we are inclined to agree with Somers Clarke and Engelbach [13 : 168], who write as follows on the subject of pyramid doors: “Strabo, referring to the Great Pyramid, relates that there is ‘a stone that may be taken out, which being raised up, there is a sloping passage.’ This has been taken to mean that there was a stone, hinged at the top of each side, which opened flap-wise. Some support is given to this idea by an examination of the south pyramid of Dahshûr . . . ; but the entrance to the Third Pyramid at Giza shows no recesses at all, and it cannot be believed that, once kings were buried in their pyramids, they were in any way open to the priests or to the public; their temples were the places where the offerings and the prayers were made. . . By Strabo ‘s time, however, it is not impossible that the entrance to the Great Pyramid may have been fitted with some such door as he describes.”

7 It is interesting to compare the statement of king Senwosret I (Twelfth Dynasty, 1980— 1935) to the official Sinuhe: “‘Thus shalt thou not die abroad, nor shall the Asiatics bury thee. Thou shalt not be placed in a sheepskin” [20 and 35]. The text perhaps indicates that burial in a sheepskin was an Asiatic (perhaps nomadic) custom. Herodotus, History II, 81, writes: “Nothing of woollen, however, is taken into their temples or buried with them, as their religion forbids it. Here their practice resembles the rites called Orphic and Bacchic but which are in reality Egyptian and Pythagorean; for no one initiated in these mysteries can be buried in a woollen shroud, a religious reason being assigned for the observance.” Maspero adds: “Sheep¬skin was occasionally made use of in burials; one of the mummies of Deir-el-Bahari (Number 5289) was wrapped in a white skin with the fleece attached. As this mummy is that of a name¬less prince who appears to have died of poison, it may be asked whether the sheepskin was not reserved for people of a certain class, prisoners or executed criminals who were condemned to be impure, even in the tomb. If this were the case, it would explain the position occupied by the mention of a sheepskin in the royal rescript. Pharaoh, in promising to Sinuhit that he should be carried to the tomb with solemn dignity of princes or of the wealthy, and that his mummy should not be wrapped in the sheepskin of condemned persons, assured him of complete pardon in the future life.” Compare also Maspero [30 : 363, 424, 427, 467, 469] when he de¬scribes the Fifth Century Christian covered with linen and sewn leather; the mummy of king Set-nekht, Twentieth Dynasty, encased in red leather: the mummy of the Eighteenth Dynasty, sewn in white sheepskin, and leather from the “braces” of the mummies of the high-priests of Amen found at Deir el-Bahri. See also Smith and Dawson [65 : 142, 143].

8 Compare 43 : 2, 6, 8, where it is referred to as “the approach.” Borchardt believes another ramp existed to the south of the pyramid (see Plate VIII of the present work); he also thinks that the shallow grooves on the present east face of the pyramid (see pyramid section on the same plate) do not indicate the “ka-chamber as thought by Petrie [42 : 10; 43 : 1, 21. but merely the end of the eastern ramp of construction. lie found a similar groove on the south face which perhaps belonged to the ramp on that side of the pyramid 6 : 20-241.

Cite This Article

Rowe, Alan. "IV. The Pyramid." The Museum Journal XXII, no. 1 (March, 1931): 15-28. Accessed May 18, 2024. https://www.penn.museum/sites/journal/9304/

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