Pyramid of Pharaoh Mikerin (Menkaure)
The smallest of the three Great Pyramids in Giza was the tomb of Pharaoh Mikerin. In tourists it does not cause much interest because of its modest size. Visitors to the Giza plateau believe that there is nothing to look at, and they focus on the pyramid of Cheops and the pyramid of Khafre . But in vain, because this pyramid is unique, and it has several legends and interesting historical events. Let's begin with the story of its builder - Pharaoh Mikherine.
About the Pharaoh Mikerin
The main source of information about Pharaoh Micherine for us are the ancient Greek historians Herodotus and Manetho. Unfortunately, we do not have real written sources in the ancient Egyptian language. Judging by the descriptions of the Greeks, the fate of Mikerin was sad.
The real Egyptian name of this ruler is Menkaure. The name Mikerin is a Greek interpretation. Traditionally, in Russia we use the Greek names of pharaohs of the Ancient Kingdom. Let us recall the famous Cheops, who in fact was called Khufu.
Menkaure was the son of Pharaoh Khafre and his heir. He entered the throne after the death of his father, and probably at that moment already had an advanced age.
Menkaure abolished the policy of oppression and condemned his predecessors Cheops and Chefren, he tried to be a good ruler. He again opened the temples for the people, allowed the offerings to the gods. He tried less to force people to build the work of temples and pyramids. Herodotus notes that he was right in the court and paid compensation from public funds.
It is believed that the gods cursed Menkaure. He had only one son, and he died in infancy. Saddened by the death of the child, he ordered to make a gilded wooden statue of a cow and bury the child inside.
Once the priests gave him the will of the gods, they announced that Menkaure would live 6 more years, and on the 7th year he would die. Pharaoh asked: Why did the previous Pharaohs live and rule for so long, although they were tyrants, and he is a good ruler, but must die so soon?
The priests answered: the gods punished Egypt, the people must suffer for 150 years under the oppression of tyrants, and you by your pious rule violate the will of the gods. Menkaure was sad. He began to spend days and nights in idleness, demanded at night to light the lamps, so that it would be light, as in the day. He turned 6 years old at 12, but died later that time.
It is difficult to say how these legends are historically reliable. In problems with childbearing, you can certainly not doubt, and no curse here "does not smell." Pharaoh was married to his own sister, and incest has never ended well.
All other facts sound in the spirit of the ancient Greeks: tyrants and a good ruler, the curse and injustice of the gods, revelry and drunkenness. If in this legend to change the name to Greek, then we will not distinguish it from the myths of ancient Greece.
Most Egyptologists agree that this legend is based on historical facts interpreted by Herodotus and Manethon in terms of their ideology and culture.
How the Micherine Pyramid Looked Before
After the construction, the height of the pyramid was 66 meters, now the height of the building is 62 meters. 4 meters - this is a small loss, comparing with 10 and 7 meters, which decreased the neighboring pyramids of Cheops and Khafre. The length of the base is 109 meters, and it has not changed in the last 4500 years. The base of the pyramid was covered with sand, which ensured the safety.
Pyramid of Mikerin is located at a distance of 200 meters from the other two pyramids, and visually the difference in size is not so strongly felt. From some angles (see the photo on the right) it even seems that it is not much inferior in height to the pyramid of Cheops.
Greek historians write that she was the most beautiful of the three. Facing the first 16 tiers of the pyramid was made of red granite from Aswan, the lining of the middle of the structure was made of their white limestone from Tours, and the top was also red from granite. In terms of the composition of the flowers, it resembled the modern flag of Austria .
This pyramid shone in different colors and made an indelible impression on the ancient people. It's a pity, but Menkaure himself did not see this spectacle. According to the excavations of archaeologists it is already clear that he died before the end of construction.
This conclusion can be drawn by looking at the memorial temple of the pharaoh Menkaure, the ruins of which are located nearby. From the bottom it is made of limestone slabs, and on top is already built of bricks. That is, at the second stage it was built in the cheapest way. This decision could only take the heir of the pharaoh after his death.
There is an opinion of some historians that when the pyramid was finished after the death of Menkaure, then the middle of it was laid out not with the Turkish granite, but with a brick that was covered with a white solution on top.
This version is not consistent. There were no traces of these bricks, and they had to remain untouched. There is nothing of value in them, and the Arabs would not have taken them off and cleaned them of the pyramid.
Another feature of this pyramid was the use of blocks of a larger size than for the pyramids of Cheops and Khafre, and the blocks are less polished. These facts indicate the haste with which it was erected. Herodotus and Manethon write that Pharaoh himself ordered the blocks to be polished less thoroughly to make life easier for the workers.
What it looks like now, and what to see for tourists
The first important feature, which is worth paying attention to - the pyramid of Mikerin in several places remained facing. The largest untouched section of the cladding is near the main entrance.
On the pyramid of Cheops remained only a couple of copies of the facing stone. There are many facings on the pyramid of Khafre, but it is on top, and tourists can hardly be seen.
Only after looking at these granite slabs, you can understand how the whole pyramid looked before. This is "exclusive", and most tourists lose a lot when they do not approach the Pyramid of Micherine, considering it uninteresting. The photo on the right shows the cladding blocks at the bottom.
The pyramids of Cheops and Khafre stand on the flat base of the Giza plateau, and at the site of the construction of the Micerina pyramid the plateau is uneven under a slope. Of course, it was impossible to start construction on such a surface.
The builders have prepared a special stone terrace to erect a monument already on it. Unevenness is clearly visible, they emphasize the complexity of the construction of this pyramid compared with its neighbors.
Many tourists ask an interesting question: what is this big furrow on the surface of the Micherine pyramid on the northern slope? (see the photo on the left).
This is a very interesting story. Probably, many readers know Sultan Saladin - one of the most famous Egyptians . He had several sons, and one of them ruled Egypt. It was in the 12th century. His name was al-Melek al-Aziz Otman ben Yusuf.
He decided to become famous for a very unusual way - to dismantle the Egyptian pyramids.
How did he get such an idea? Why and to whom was it necessary? His contemporaries did not know the answers, and historians do not know now. The only reasonable assumption - he wanted to dismantle the pyramids in search of treasure.
He decided to start with the Pyramid of Mikerin as with the smallest, so to speak, "train on cats." He hired workers who worked for 8 months. This big furrow is the result of their activity.
The stones were separated with levers and wedges, and then pulled with ropes to drop down. Having landed, the stone sank into the sand, and it was very difficult to remove it from there.
Eight months later the foremen managed to convince the Sultan that it was not easier to destroy the pyramid than to build it. Furrow remained as a grandiose monument to human stupidity.
Remember the expression "break - not build"? This folk wisdom is valid in all cases, except the Great Pyramids of Giza.
Sultan al-Aziz ruled only 5 years and died while hunting in 1198. He did not leave any memory other than this furrow. We can say that the attempt to demolish the pyramids of Giza really glorified him, he achieved it. As far as we know, there were not even his portraits left, the more we had to show you a portrait of his father - Sultan Saladin.
Before the Pyramid of Micherine there are three small pyramids. They do not have names, but only numbers: G3A, G3B and G3C. Presumably, the G3A was intended for the spouse and sister of Pharaoh Micherine - the queen of Hamerarnebti II. The other two remained unfinished. During the excavation of the G3B, female bones were found inside, but dated from an earlier period. Apparently, someone decided to use the tomb again.
In the tradition of the Old Kingdom, it was accepted that the funerary complex consisted of large and small pyramids, and a memorial temple. Every Pharaoh of ancient Egypt was deified after death, and in his temple he was prayed and offered sacrifices.
The memorial temple of Pharaoh Mikerin has been preserved very badly. As we have already noted, the foundation of the temple was made of limestone blocks, and then it was finished building out of bricks. The brick part collapsed almost completely. But, blocks weighing up to 200 tons and today are amazing. Once the ancient Egyptians could move them?
The temple quickly fell asleep with sand, like the base of the pyramid. And it turned out to be a huge success for archaeologists. In 1908, a joint expedition of the University of Harvard and the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston unearthed the temple and found 7 large statues and a large fragment of the eighth. Sculptures are made of slate.
Four complete statues depicted the very Pharaoh Mikerin, accompanied by two goddesses. Such sculptural compositions began to be called "triads". It was a grand opening, as the statues were perfectly preserved in the sand.
In the photo to the right you see the most famous of them - Mikerin with the goddess Hathor and the goddess Bath. Her and two other triads of Mikerin can now be seen in the Cairo Museum . Another triad of Mikerin is now in the Boston Museum of Art.
In addition to these triads, a sculpture of a pair of Pharaoh Mikerin with his wife Khamerarnebti II and a statue of a sitting pharaoh in full size from alabaster were found. The discovery of these sculptures is one of the most striking events in the history of Egyptology. Only the autopsy of the tomb of Tutankhamen in Luxor in the Valley of the Kings or the opening of the Abu Simbel temple in Upper Egypt can be argued with.
Legends and Mysteries of the Pyramid of Micherine
A beautiful and somewhat romantic legend is connected with the pyramid. There is a hypothesis that the pyramid was originally built in a small size with a base of 60 to 60 meters. This hypothesis has indirect confirmation. The legend says that under the Mikerin it did not have time to complete it, and it stood for 400 years, until it decided to use Queen Nitokris already from the 6th dynasty of Egyptian pharaohs.
Nitrogris was the wife and sister of the pharaoh Meren II, who was killed as a result of the conspiracy. She recognized the names of the murderers, called them to a feast and locked them in a room where the waters of the Nile had been let into. All of them remained inside and drowned.
Those readers who know Russian history well, already experience a strong sense of deja vu. Somewhere it already was!
This is almost a complete copy of the legend of Princess Olga, only she did not drown anyone, but burned her husband's killers in a bath. This plot is found in different cultures, and completely independently. This is a classic - the wife takes the throne and avenges her husband and ruler.
According to legend, after the massacre, Nitroxris committed suicide by rushing into a burning building. According to the same legend, she managed to finish the pyramid, and there she was buried.
Superstitious locals believe that the soul of Nitrogris remained in the pyramid. The gods did not accept her, for she had no right to be buried there. At night, her spirit sometimes appears around the pyramid in the form of a beautiful naked girl. She fascinates men, falls in love with them. A man goes crazy and searches for her until the end of her unhappy life.
Most likely, this legend was invented by tourist guides in order to entertain tourists. In any case, it is better not to go to the Pyramid of Mykerin at night. Not only can Nitrogris drive mad, but local people can also rob.
This is a very interesting legend, but, unfortunately, there is not a gram of truth in it. About the queen they tell Herodotus and Manetho, but in the Egyptian texts her name is not. In none of the list of pharaohs that are available to us now, it is not mentioned.
Her husband, Pharaoh Merenra II, ascended the throne after his father Pepi II, who ruled 64 years! Think how old he was at the time of accession? Most likely, he died for quite natural reasons, and not as a result of conspiracy and murder.
Recall that Merenra II was the last ruler of the 6th dynasty. After him, the rule of the 7th dynasty composed of just one pharaoh Necherikar, and then began a troubled time in the history of Egypt , which modern Egyptology calls "the first transition period."
Ancient people have always associated the "dark times" with the sins of their rulers. And not only the ancients, remember Boris Godunov, who ruled just a little over 500 years ago. Naturally, all such legends are replenished with impartial details. To take this legend seriously is not worth it, most Egyptologists now consider queen Nitokris a fictional character. Treat this as a tourist attraction.
Some sources on the Internet write that the fragments of the sarcophagus Nitokris blue were found in the room under the funeral room of Pharaoh Mikerin. To understand, it's so true, you need to see what's inside the pyramid.
And by the way, what's inside?
The only entrance inside the Pyramid of Micherin is located at an altitude of only 4 meters from the north side. Behind the entrance there is a passage 32 meters long, leading at an angle downward (downward passage). Passage ends in a small room with dimensions of 3.63x3.16 meters. This room is called a "panel camera". She obviously had a protective function, there are several false doors.
A horizontal tunnel emerges from the chamber, which leads to a large room called the "vestibule". From the vestibule, a passage down to the funeral chamber of the pharaoh, there was a sarcophagus with the mummy of the ruler.
It would seem that everything is simple, quite a logical configuration of the internal premises. But there are several additional elements in it, which are a mystery for historians and archaeologists.
From the lobby to the top leads another descending passage, which ends in a dead end. It was clearly prepared as the main way to the burial chamber, but it was abandoned during the construction process. This passage is the basis of the evidence base for the hypothesis that initially the pyramid was smaller (with a base of 60x60 meters), and then it was already completed to the present size. However, this is an indirect proof.
Next to the burial chamber there is another room called the "side chamber". It has six niches measuring 2.5x0.6x1.4 meters. This room is the biggest mystery. There is not a single clear hypothesis about the appointment of this cell.
The funerary chamber of Pharaoh Mikerin is of modest dimensions - 6.5 meters in length, 2.3 meters wide and 3.5 meters high. It is noteworthy that the burial chamber could not be found for a long time. The tunnels leading from the lobby were disguised.
It is worth saying that the level of securing the mummy, the Pyramid of Mikerin stands in the first place among the three Great Pyramids of Giza.
Evidently, the evolution of the Egyptians' views on the rational construction of tombs is traced. They come to three important ideas: first, to dig a burial chamber deeper, secondly, to protect its doors more tightly, and thirdly, to disguise it all better.
It is noteworthy that similar conclusions were reached at the other end of the world - in China. If you enter the valley of the Ming Dynasty Tombs near Beijing and go down to the only open tomb of Dinlin , you will see a brilliant implementation of these three concepts. It is a pity that the builders of ancient Egypt did not achieve such mastery in the field of burial protection.
The first of the Europeans in the funeral chamber was Colonel Howard Weiss. Naturally, he did not find any treasure here. All the pyramids were robbed 4000 years ago during the "first transition period".
He found two sarcophagi here. The first wooden with the remains of bones. These bones were later able to date, and it turned out that they belonged to the era of the Roman Empire. That is, someone was peopled in the pyramid. This sarcophagus can now be seen in the British Museum.
The second sarcophagus was made of basalt, and this probably was the sarcophagus of the pharaoh. Now we do not know, as the sarcophagus went to the bottom of the sea somewhere in the Gibraltar Strait area, along with the ship "Biatris", which transported it to England.
Now inside the Pyramid of Mikerin is completely empty. Tourists are not allowed inside, but do not be disappointed, there is really nothing to watch there. If you want, you can go to the next pyramid of Cheops, the price of admission is 100 Egyptian pounds .
We hope that the Pyramid of Mikerin will not disappoint you. Read our other educational articles for tourists about Egypt ( links below ).
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