Khafre's Pyramid

Coordinates: 29°58′34″N 31°07′51″E / 29.97611°N 31.13083°E / 29.97611; 31.13083

The Pyramid of Khafre, also known as the Pyramid of Chefren, is the second-largest of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza and the tomb of the fourth-dynasty pharaoh Khafre (Chephren).

Size

The pyramid has a base length of 215.5 m (706 ft) and rises to a height of 136.4 metres (448 ft) (originally 143.5 m/471 ft). The Pyramid is made of Limestone blocks (weighing more than 2 tons each). The slope of the pyramid rises at an 53° 10' angle, steeper than its neighbor, the Pyramid of Khufu which has an angle of 51°50'40". The pyramid sits on bedrock 10 m (33 ft) higher than Khufu’s pyramid which makes it appear to be taller.

History

The pyramid was likely opened and robbed during the First Intermediate Period. During the 18th dynasty the overseer of temple construction robbed casing stone from it to build a temple in Heliopolis on Rameses II’s orders. Arab historian Ibn Abd as-Salaam recorded that the pyramid was opened in 1372. It was first explored in modern time by Giovanni Belzoni on March 2, 1818 and the first complete exploration was conducted by John Perring in 1837.

Construction

Like the Great Pyramid built by Khafre’s father Khufu, a rock outcropping was used in the core. Due to the slope of the plateau, the northwest corner was cut 10 m (33 ft) out of the rock subsoil and the southeast corner is built up.

The pyramid is built of horizontal courses. The stones used at the bottom are very large, but as the pyramid rises, the stones become smaller, becoming only 50 cm (20 in) thick at the apex. The courses are rough and irregular for the first half of its height but a narrow band of regular masonry is clear in the midsection of the pyramid. Casing stones cover the top third of the pyramid, but the pyramidion and part of the apex are missing.

The bottom course of casing stones was made out of pink granite but the remainder of the pyramid was cased in Tura Limestone. Close examination reveals that the corner edges of remaining casing stones are not completely straight, but are staggered by a few millimeters. One theory is that this is due to settling from seismic activity. An alternative theory postulates that the slope on the blocks was cut to shape before being placed due to the limited working space towards the top of the pyramid.

Inside the Pyramid

Two entrances lead to the burial chamber, one that opens 11.54 m (38 ft) up the face of the pyramid and one that opens at the base of the pyramid. These passageways do not align with the centerline of the pyramid, but are offset to the east by 12 m (39 ft). The lower descending passageway is carved completely out of the bedrock, descending, running horizontal, then ascending to join the horizontal passage leading to the burial chamber.

One theory as to why there are two entrances is that the pyramid was intended to be much larger with the northern base shifted 30 m (98 ft) further to the north which would make Khafre’s pyramid much larger than his father’s. This would place the entrance to the lower descending passage within the masonry of the pyramid. While the bedrock is cut away farther from the pyramid on the north side than on the west side, it is not clear that there is enough room on the plateau for the enclosure wall and pyramid terrace. An alternative theory is that, as with many earlier pyramids, plans were changed and the entrance was moved midway through construction.

There is a subsidiary chamber that opens to the west of the lower passage the purpose of which is uncertain. It may be used to store offerings, store burial equipment, or it may be a serdab chamber. The upper descending passage is clad in granite and descends to join with the horizontal passage to the burial chamber.

The burial chamber was carved out of a pit in the bedrock. The roof is constructed of gabled limestone beams. The chamber is rectangular, 14.15 m by 5 m (46.4 ft x 16 ft), and is oriented east-west. Khafre’s sarcophagus was carved out of a solid block of granite and sunk partially in the floor. Another pit in the floor likely contained the canopic chest.

The Pyramid Complex

Along the centerline of the pyramid on the south side was a satellite pyramid, but almost nothing remains other than some core blocks and the outline of the foundation.

To the east of the Pyramid sat the mortuary temple. It is larger than previous temples and is the first to include all five standard elements of later mortuary temples: an entrance hall, a columned court, five niches for statues of the pharaoh, five storage chambers, and an inner sanctuary. There were over 52 life size statues of Khafre, but these were removed and recycled, possibly by Rameses II. The temple was built of megalithic blocks (the largest is an estimated 400 tonnes), but it is now largely in ruins.

A causeway runs 494.6 metres (541 yd) to the valley temple. The valley temple is very similar to the mortuary temple. The valley temple is built of megalithic blocks sheathed in red granite. The square pillars of the T shaped hallway were made of solid granite and the floor was paved in alabaster. The exterior was built of huge blocks some weighing over 100 tonnes., There are sockets in the floor that would have fixed 23 statues of Khafre, but these have since been plundered. The interior made of granite of the Valley temple is remarkably well preserved. The exterior made of Limestone is much more weathered.

The pyramid was surrounded by a terrace 10 m (33 ft) wide paved with irregular limestone slabs behind a large perimeter wall.