The Northern (Bent) Pyramid Of Senefru
Short Note about Dahshur:
– It is located 20km south of Cairo.
– It represented the 2nd major pyramid field after Saqqara.
– The largest of these pyramids are those belonging to Senefru (Bent & Red)
– There are three smaller pyramids of the Middle Kingdom belong to (Amenmhat II, Senusert III, Amenmhat III).
His name is s-nfr-w which means “the one who has been made perfect”.
He was the founder of the 4th dynasty.
He followed king Huni (the last king of the 3rd dynasty), being possibly his son by queen Meresankh I.
He ruled for 24 years according to Turin Canon or probably he ruled for 44-48 years, this not confirmed.
The Southern Pyramid Complex:
The southern pyramid has been variously named the “The Bent Pyramid”
Original Name: Senefru is shining in the south.
Angle & Height: 54° 27’ (49.38m)
43° 22’ (52m)
Mysteriously the pyramid started at an angle of (54° 27’). Then at a point somewhat above half its height, the angle suddenly changes to (43° 22’). This unusual arrangement provides this pyramid with a distinctive and unique appearance.
The Pyramid’s Construction:
The southern pyramid was first investigated by archaeologist Ahmed Fakhry in 1951-5.
The pyramid construction experienced a number of transformations.
The original attention was to build a pyramid covering a smaller area and having a slope of a bout (60°). At a height of a bout (38.14m) signs of structural instability were noticed by the builders when cracks appeared in the casing and in the chambers. At this point a supporting enlargement was added to the bottom courses resulting in a new base length of 188.98m and new angle of (54° 27’). With this angle the pyramid was built up to height of (49.38m).
At this height a curious change occurred. The angle was reduced to (43° 22’) and the blocks from this point up were laid on a horizontal plane. The pyramid was raised up for (52m).
This change in angle allowed for a reduction in the size and number of blocks. At the same time it resulted in a marked bend in the shape of the pyramid and the present day appearance of the pyramid.
The scholars’ opinions regarding the sudden change of angle:
1. According to many scholars this change in angle was due to continuing structural problems as evidenced by additional cracking. Also within some of the chambers there are cedar wooden beams which may have been placed to support the chamber from instability.
2. Some believe that the sudden death of the king may have been the motivation for this sudden change.
3. Egyptologist John Legon suggested that this arrangement must have been planned from the beginning and gives the impression that the architect had attempt to create “two pyramids in one”.
Yet, most scholars agree with the first theory because it is also believed that the Red Pyramid, which has the same exact angel of 43° 22’ as the upper portion of the Bent Pyramid, was begun at the same time as this sudden change in angle.
1. The Pyramid’s Internal Design:
The Bent Pyramid is the only known pyramid from the Old Kingdom to have two separate entrances on two different faces. One in the traditional north face, while the other is on the west face.
Access to the pyramid is through the north entrance which has recently been fitted with a metal door.
Each of its two entrances leads to separate set of passageways and chambers.
– The north entrance leads to an antechamber that has a corbelled roof. The burial chamber also has a corbelled roof. Both chambers are located within the bed rock.
– The west entrance leads to a level passage that has a portcullis blocking system. This then leads to an upper burial chamber also with a corbelled roof. This passageway, the blocking system and chamber are all located within the body of the pyramid.
The two chambers would be completely separate, except for a hewn tunnel that connects them.
Reasons for having two sets of chambers inside the Bent Pyramid:
1. Probably the western passages and chamber represent something similar to the South Tomb of the Step Pyramid of Djoser.
2. Probably one set of chambers is a trap whose discovery would then discourage the robbers from looking for other chambers within the pyramid.
3. Probably the pyramid was originally intended for the burial for the burial of more than one body, perhaps the king and his wife, Hetepheres.
4. Probably the chambers having a religious significance, for instance representing the various locations on the path of the king’s regeneration after death.
The Funerary Complex:
2. The Satellite Pyramid:
– To the south of the Bent Pyramid and within its stone enclosure wall a second and much smaller Pyramid was built.
– The entrance of this Satellite Pyramid is located above underground-level in the northern face. It opens in a steeply descending corridor, followed by a short horizontal passage with a portcullis. Then an ascending passage opens westwards into a corbel-roofed chamber.
– In front of the entrance stood a small single- roomed chapel with a pit in the center of the floor.
– Two round-topped limestone stela were erected between the eastern side of the pyramid and the enclosure wall.
– Between the stelae, traces of brick altar were found. Yet, the date of this alter couldn’t be ascertained.
3. The Mortuary Temple:
– It’s a small cult chapel on the east side of the Bent Pyramid.
– It consists of an open offering place with an altar flanked by two limestone stelae.
– Fragments of the stela were inscribed with the names and titles of Senefru.
The altar was formed like the ḥtp “the hieroglyphic sign for offering”. It consisted of three limestone blocks with an alabaster offering table.
– North Chapel:
– It was built outside the northern pyramid to house a limestone offering table.
4. The Causeway:
– This causeway longer than that of the Meidum Pyramid.
– Also unlike the Meidum Pyramid, the causeway of the southern pyramid joined not to the eastern enclosure wall but to the northern wall near the eastern end.
– Two deep recesses were constructed at the upper end of the causeway, the eastern recess was provided with a doorway in its north wall through which priests who lived near the pyramid could reach the mortuary temple without having to go first to the lower end of the causeway and then return between its walls.
5. The Valley Temple:
– It’s built out of local stone and faced with Tura limestone.
– It consists of a rectangular structure surrounded by an enclosure wall.
– In front of the entrance, which was in the middle of the southern façade, lay a narrow court.
– The building was divided into three main parts:
1. An entrance hall flanked on each side by two chambers.
2. An open court.
3. Six shrines at the back of a pillared portico.
– Scenes were carved in bold relief on the walls of the entrance hall and statues of the king, larger than life size, were attached to niches.