Khafre (Khefren, Chephren)

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We know only little about the rule of the Pharaoh Khafre. He ruled approximately from 2,500 BC to 2,494 BC and Egyptian legends consider him as a ruthless tyrant. His coming to the throne meant, that a rightful stem of the royal dynasty could rule again. This line was disrupted by the rule of Djedefre.

Khafre, Khufukhaf before his coming to the throne, likely usurped the throne when he let murder Djedefre. He received the title "Son of Ra"- Sa Ra as the first ruler. He partly gave up some of the absolutist manners in the year of his coming to the throne.

Rachef - the second largest pyramid in Giza

The pyramid of Khafre seems to be the highest of the pyramids in Giza nowadays, because it is placed considerably uphill and its gradient angle is slightly sharper (53° 10´) than by the two other pyramids. The vertical height is about 136.4 meters nowadays, but originally it was 143.55 meters. The side lenght of isosceles triangle was originally 109.25 meters, it is 4.7 meters more than today.

Its area is 4.6354 hectares and lenght of the base is 215.3 meters. Its capacity is 2.22 mil. m3, so the pyramid weighs 5.1 mil. tons. It was incased with 2 types of facing stones. The limestone facing stayed almost unbroken around 10 to 15 meters under the top. According to reliable evidences this case was made from white Tura limestone on the top and red granite down. It was preserved almost on the whole surface of the pyramid case in 18th century.

Pharaoh Khafre's pyramid complex

The complex of the pyramid belongs to the most well-preserved, even if the southern satellite pyramid (with size of 20.9 x 20.9 meters) is almost ruined. The chantry temple is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved monumental buildings of the Old Kingdom. We can see there segmentation into 5 parts for the first time. Fives holes for ships were discovered at the pyramid, in which Selim Hassan didn't find anything in the first half of the thirties of the 20th century.

A ramp originally 494.6 meters long exceeded the elevation difference of 46 meters and it led into a squared valley temple, the most well-preserved of the Old Kingdom. Similarly to the Sphinx temple (39 x 39 meters) it was remarkable, because its particular monoliths weigh from 50 to 200 tons. The pyramid was surrounded by a wall that formed a yard 10 meters wide.

According to historical reports destruction of this complex started under 19th dynasty rule, but the vast part of the casing was used as facing stones to building Hasan's mosque in Cairo around 1356-1362.



Djedefre (Djedefra, Radjedef)

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An unknown ruler ruled between Khufu and Khafre - Djedefre (Radjedef). By all appearances he was a son of Khufu and a Libyan woman. Djedefre allegedly murdered Kawab, the eldest son of Khufu and an Egyptian woman, who was a rightful crown prince. He let build himself a pyramid, which was customary. The pyramid should have been showier than Khufu's to be equal to his successor.

Pyramid construction in Abu Rawash

Pyramid of Djedefre (Radjedef) is the most northerly pyramid of that kind in Egypt, it is located 7.5 kilometers to the north-west from Giza near a contemporary village Abu Rawash. Originally it was called "Djedefre's Starry Sky". Present remains are only little examined. Terrain reconnaissance started in 1842, when Lepsius visited this area. The pyramid was 17 meters high at that time (or rather the remains of it), but it was gradually dismantled in eighties of the 19th century and the stones were transported on camels to Cairo for its development. Today the construction is only 11.4 meters high and only 15 horizontally laid layers of the base are preserved from it.

It is considered, that experiences from the Great pyramid building could be used there. So we can suppose, that the funereal chamber (hole), 24x11 meters, was made from red granite and had flat ceiling. On the other hand a preserved hole with "T" shape and a descending corridor (5.7 meters wide and 48 meters long) doesn't indicate that. This hole is fully filled nowadays.

The base with the ground plan 106x106 meters and supposed gradient of 60 degrees is partly made of stone core and partly of local limestone blocks. The pyramid should have been built with so-called open trench method. The complex around the pyramid remains isn't totally examined, so we don't have detailed information about it.


Djedefre (Djedefra, Radjedef)

Khufu (Cheops)

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Khufu (he is also known as Cheops, that is a Greek form of his name) ruled around 2,592 - 2,567 BC and he was a son of Sneferu (founder of the 4th dynasty) and queen Hetepheres I. - daughter of Huni, the last Pharaoh of the 3rd dynasty. His whole Egyptian name was Khnum-Khufu, which means "Khnum, he protects me". He allegedly had nine sons, two of them were his successors. The first one was Djedefre, whose mother we don't know, the second was Khafre.

Khufu was despot

Whereas Sneferu was allegedly admired and loved by everybody, Khufu was know as a cruel and authoritarian despot, who should moreover neglected his religious duties. However, he was reputedly very educated, took up especially the magic and occultism and he also allegedly wrote very detailed elaboration about alchemy. Reputedly he wasn't very touched by the fact, that a lot of people died during his grandiose pyramid construction.

His son prince Djedefhor told him about magician Djedi abilities, who allegedly could bring back to life creatures, that were beheaded before. Khufu wanted to see this miracle by his own eyeball and didn't hesitate to sacrifice one prisoner for this attempt. Dismayed magician cried out: "Not a human being, oh master and lord of mine! Surely, it is not permitted to do such a thing to the noble cattle!" Strongly annoyed Khufu had to settle for an exhibition with a bull and little farm animals.

Khufu, builder of the Great Pyramid shrouded in mystery

Khufu built the Great Pyramid, but about him, we know very little information. There are only several hieroglyphic signs found in Wadi Maghara and one stele, which was discovered in diorite quarries in Nubian desert to the west from Abu Simbel. The only extant depiction of great Pharaoh is an ivory statuette, which was found by the archaeologist Petrie in Abydos in 1903. The statuette is formed as a Pharaoh sitting on the throne, wearing a short kilt. Any other bigger statue of Khufu wasn't found, even if there was a great boom in sculpture at the time of the 4th dynasty.

Khufu was undoubtedly the greatest builder of all Pharaohs. At the beginning of his rule he let adjust the whole northern hook of Giza table, which was a strategic point for crossing the delta towards the Nile valley. The capital Mennefer was situated to the south-east from there, which was founded by a legendary ruler Menes. The city became an important river transport junction. Khufu started the construction of the Great pyramid on Giza table (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and together the only one, that withstood the ravages of the time). It is the largest tomb a Pharaoh let build ever. There were other structures as well, whose ruins were found in Tell Basta, Dendera and Qift.

As a ruler of Both Lands Khufu let build temples in the Upper Egypt, that reminded, that he himself was the ruler of unified Egypt (Both Lands were re-unified symbolically with every ruler, who came to the throne). A great amount of material was needed for these structures. The mining in cupreous and turquiose mines was constantly more intense.

Chain of fortifications

Khufu let build up a chain of fortification to protect the eastern frontiers. Similarly he let fortify craftsman villages in the mining neighbourhood as well to protect them from Bedouin incursions. A channel was dug on the western Nile bank for raw material importing to building site in Giza. The big channel probably also used the net of power ponds on the western Nile bank, it was boatable the whole year and even heavy cargo ship could sail near the pyramids at the time of floods. There were also channels and dikes build up along the Nile to reduce the effect of the floods, which were devastating sometime. Khufu let build the first dam ever in Wadi Gerawi on the eastern Nile bank above Memphis (Mennefer), which should hold back storm water. Rainstorm endangered the settlement in this area.

But the construction of a huge pyramid and chantry cults foundation pumped out material and working sources of Egypt. It paradoxically meant the beginning of increasing economical and social difficulties right at the time, when it seemed, that the fame and greatness of the pyramid was reaching a peak. The unexpected death of the crown prince Kawab (the eldest son of Pharaoh Khufu) led to a schism inside the family and contributed to a gradual decline of this dynasty and in the end to its downfall.


Sneferu and his pyramids

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We don't know why just Dahshur was the favourite place of Sneferu, but he wanted his tomb right there, several kilometers to the south from Saqqara. This pyramid is called Bent pyramid and it was the very first non-level pyramid. The angle inclination of the walls changes steeply around the half of its height.

Bent pyramid

Original inclination was too steep (over 58°), probably because of not enough solid subsoil, which was not solid rock. The builders decided to change the inclination and decrease the arch load because of walls dismounting and cracks in the upper chamber, which appeared inspite of struts. So the inclination changed to 43°22' at an approximate height of 50 meters above the ground.

Even then the pyramid didn't seem safe to Sneferu's advisers. According to time data the finishing work on Bent pyramid ran at the same time as the start of Meidum pyramid alterations. The final decision was to begin with the third pyramid construction, approximately 2 kilometers to the north from Bent pyramid.

Red pyramid

The builder preserved the inclination of 43°22' this time and constructed the first genuine pyramid with smooth walls, which was a predecessor of great pyramids in Giza. White limestone used for facing the pyramid disappeared as time went on and reddish stone appeared, that originated from a nearby quarry. That's why this pyramid is called Red pyramid. Sneferu was buried in this pyramid in the end.

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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