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Ancient Egypt
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Date ________________________ Hour _______
The Pharaohs
The Pharaoh Khufu
The Pharaoh Khufu, or commonly known as Cheops, ruled in the 4th Dynasty (2551-2528
B.C.) He was the second Pharaoh of the period and he ruled for approximately 23 years. He was
the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres. During the peak of King Khufu’s life, he was married
to two women, Queen Merey-it-is and Queen Henutsen. One of his many sons, Djedefre, also
known as Khafre, became king after his death. While the great Khufu was in charge, he was found to
be a cruel, yet organized leader. It was assumed that during his life, Egypt was a highly structured
society and that Pharaoh Khufu must have attained great wealth. Not much else is known about the
Pharaoh’s personal life or his accomplishments. His most known and famous undertaking was the
Great Pyramid of Egypt.
Before King Khufu started the construction of his pyramid, large
tombs were not as popular. Until this time, pharaohs were buried in
small bench-shaped mounds called Matsabas. Khufu’s father, Sneferu
started before him by building first step-pyramids and later tried for his
own great pyramid, called the bent-pyramid, which failed because it
was built on a loose, sandy, foundation.
There are two main theories surrounding the construction of his
pyramid. The first theory, suggested by experts, suggests that slaves were forced under daily hard
labor to work until the task was completed. The more logical and more supported theory, however,
suggests that the Great Pyramid of Egypt was built by hundreds of skilled workers who camped near
the pyramids and worked for a salary until the construction of the pyramid was completed.
King Khufu’s Great Pyramid was made of some 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite. The
limestone was found on the plateau on which the pyramid is located, and the granite was found
almost six hundred miles away at Aswan. The blocks had an average weight of 2.5 tons; some of
them weighed up to fifteen tons. King Khufu chose the site of the pyramid himself. The Great
Pyramid lies on the west bank of the Nile, to the north of the remainder of the pyramids. The great
king’s final resting-place was built in the location it was because of the vast plateau of limestone. The
limestone from the plateau was the limestone that was used in the construction of the pyramid. The
pyramid’s base is 568,500 square feet. Each side was originally 754 feet, but the walls are now all
nine feet shorter. When King Khufu’s great tomb was finally completely constructed, it was 481 feet
tall. Currently, the pyramid only stands at 449 feet because the smooth limestone cap on the outside
of the pyramid has either eroded or been removed.
Although he organized the construction of the pyramid, not much is known
about his life due to the fact that his tomb was robbed. No remains of the
mummy have ever been found and there is only an empty sarcophagus that
lies in the center of the King’s Chamber located inside the pyramid.
However, a statue was found in the temple of Abydos and it is thought that
maybe this might give a slight insight into the Pharaoh’s world and who he
really was.
The Pharaoh Khafre
Pharaoh Khafre was the son of Khufu. Pharaoh Khafre is best known as the owner of the
second pyramid at Giza. As with the other Kings of that dynasty, written records that tell exactly
when he was king are scarce. It is known that he also had two wives; Meresankh II, the daughter of
his brother Kawab, and his chief wife, Khamerernebty. His eldest son, Menkaure, who was builder of
the third pyramid at Giza, succeeded him to the throne and became the next pharaoh.
Pharaoh Khafre built his pyramid at Giza next to that of his
father. His pyramid complex has survived better than many others,
in part because he used core blocks of limestone. Next to Khafre’s
valley temple, the Great sphinx lies inside its own enclosure. Its
position next to Khafre’s pyramid and certain architectural details
indicate that it was an important part of the Kharfre’s pyramid area.
The Sphinx, which is a colossal lion statue with the head of the King,
carved out of a sandstone outcrop, represents Khafre as the god Horus presenting offerings to the sun
god. The face on the sphinx is believed to be that of Pharaoh Khafre.
The Pharaoh Menkaure
Menkaure is the son of Khafre and the grandson of Khufu. He built the smallest pyramid at
the Giza plateau. The pyramid is remarkable because it is the only pyramid in Dynasty IV that was
cased in 16 layers of granite. Menkaure planned to cover the whole surface with granite, but he
could not because of his sudden death. He died before his pyramid was finished. The pyramid
complex of Menkaure was completed by his son and successor Shepseskaf. Shepseskaf completed the
pyramid complex of his father with mud-brick and left an inscription inside the Valley Temple
indicating that he built the temple for the memory of his father.
At the pyramid's entrance, there is an inscription that records that Menkaure died on the
twenty-third day of the fourth month of the summer and that he built the pyramid. Egyptologists
had found a sarcophagus inside the pyramid with a skeleton of a young woman in it. The
sarcophagus was lost in the Mediterranean Sea when the ship that was transporting it to Europe sank.
It is unknown who the mummy was, but Menkaure's main queen and wife was Khamerernebty II,
who is portrayed with him in a statue found in the Valley Temple. She is believed to also be buried
in Giza. Archeologists do still have the lid from the wooden coffin found inside the pyramid, which
bears the cartouche of Menkaure.