Black Pyramid

King Amenemhat III built the Black pyramid during the Middle Kingdom of Egypt (2055-1650 BC). It is one of the five remaining pyramids of the original eleven pyramids at Dahshur in Egypt. Originally named Amenemhet is Mighty, the pyramid earned the name the Black pyramid for its dark, decaying appearance as a rubble mound. The Black pyramid was the first to house both the deceased pharaoh and his queens. Jacques Jean Marie de Morgan, on a French mission, began the excavation on the pyramids at Dahshur in 1892. The German Archaeological Institute of Cairo completed excavation in 1983.


The pyramid was originally about 75 meters tall with a base 105 meters long and an incline of 57°. Typical for pyramids of the middle kingdom, the Black Pyramid, encased in limestone, is made of mud brick and clay instead of stone. The ground level structures consist of the entrance opening into the courtyard and mortuary temple, surrounded by walls. There are two sets of walls; between them, there are ten shaft tombs, which are a type of burial structure formed from graves built into natural rock. The pyramidion, which is the capstone of a pyramid, was covered with inscriptions and religious symbols. Some of these were scratched off, leading researchers to conclude the pyramidion was never used or it was defaced during Akhenaton’s rule.

Below ground level in the subterranean structure lay a network of complicated passages. The king’s section remains mostly intact with a sarcophagus and canopic jar; however, the king was not buried here. The section for the queens was broken into and looted. There are four other burial chambers in the subterranean structure; who they belong to, however, is unknown. Two are thought to belong to King Amenemhet IV and king Sobekneferu.

Structural Problems

The Black Pyramid, with all its grand passageways, had multiple structural deficits. The pyramid was built in one of the lowest regions of Egypt, only 10 meters above sea level. There are myriad corridors and chambers underground, and there are not enough stress relievers to hold up the ceilings. The pyramid is not very sturdy, as it was built with mud brick instead of the traditional stone. The low elevation, corridors, and unstable building material allowed groundwater from the Nile to seep into the walls, causing the entire pyramid to sink into the ground and crack. This dilapidated appearance, however unappealing, gave the pyramid its name and its fame.

Works cited
  • Encyclopedia Britannica. "Dahshur". 2007. <>
  • Hooker, Richard. "The Middle Kingdom." World Civilizations. June 1999. <>
  • Kinnaer, Jacques. The Ancient Site. September 2007. <>
  • Winston, Alan. The Pyramid of Amenemget III At Dahshur. InterCity Oz, Inc., 1996.

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