Manual Umm el Qaab – Ein prädynastischer Königsfriedhof (German Edition)

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The large panelled enclosure had been enlarged at least once before being abandoned, and had what was presumably intended to be a ritual mastaba tomb in its southern part. This had, however, been used for the burial of a 2year old child, probably during the Third Dynasty. Interestingly, two attempts had been made to cut the subterranean corridors. The first had been abandoned after 10m; the floor of the ramp was then raised and a new cutting begun, which formed the definitive entrance passage, leading to a burial chamber under the centre of the pyramid.

Beyond the doorway leading to the storerooms, a vertical shaft penetrated up through the superstructure, perhaps intended for a portcullis-slab of a kind common in tombs of the period. The roughly hewn burial chamber contained an alabaster sarcophagus of unique form, with a sliding panel at one end sealed with plaster, and the remains of what was interpreted as a funerary wreath on top pl. XIV: map 3A; fig.

Significantly smaller than that of Sekhemkhet, the layer Pyramid lies on the edge of a steep incline from the desert down to the edge of the fields, a rather different location from those of earlier monuments and one unsuitable for the kind of rectangular enclosure found around them. It may thus be at this point that the first major shift in the architecture of the pyramid-complex occurred, with a much less elaborate cult installation centred on the east side, and some form of ramp leading down to the edge of the desert.

Such an arrangement might explain its hitherto novel position on the very edge of the desert, with perhaps an as yet untraced causeway leading down to it. In the layer Pyramid, the entrance ramp was turned through 90 degrees so that at its bottom a right turn would lead direct to the store-rooms, and a left-hand one to the burial chamber. This basic conception was maintained through a number of modifications, all apparently intended to place the burial chamber still deeper underground. This may have been a result of poor quality rock. The final royal funerary monument that should probably be placed in the Third Dynasty is the Brick Pyramid at Abu rowash l.

I: map 2A; fig. This method of chamber-construction is not found in pyramids after the early Fourth Dynasty, while a high entrance is also a feature of that dynasty.

The most plausible reconstruction of the former brickwork would make the monument a step pyramid, some m square. This would make it by far the biggest pyramid yet begun, and the fourth largest pyramid of all time, although reverting to brick as had done El-Deir 14 — a material not to be used again for a pyramid until the Middle Kingdom.

The pyramid seems, however, never to have been finished, and by the end of the Old Kingdom enough of the rock core was exposed to allow the construction of tombs cut into it. They pushed a pole to the bottom of a lake, and the mud that stuck on it they collected and made into bricks. That is how they built me.

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Also, under the northern end of the pyramid enclosure were a number of galleries that might have been intended as royal family tombs. Perhaps a son of the king had died suddenly, and this represents an emergency arrangement; unfortunately no clear evidence exists. The Fourth Dynasty The Fourth Dynasty marks the last part of the experimental phase of pyramid design and construction.

The dynastic founder, Seneferu, was to build no fewer than three full-size pyramids, and was responsible for one, if not seven, smaller ones of uncertain purpose.

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Of the full-size monuments, the earliest was a step pyramid at Meidum l. The most credible explanation for its presence so far from the capital at Memphis may be that it was built near a country residence of the king.


In contrast to the wholly or largely tunnelled substructures of Third Dynasty pyramids, the chambers of the Meidum pyramid were largely built within the structure of the pyramid, only the lowest part of the descending passage and the following horizontal section being constructed in a cutting in the rock.

The actual burial chamber, entered from below, was entirely built inside the core of the pyramid, with a distinctive corbelled roof, a type of structure typical of the reigns of Seneferu and his successor, Khufu pl.

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Corbelled cavities, to relieve pressure on flat roofs, were constructed above the antechambers and the lower part of the descending corridor. No sarcophagus was included. A subsidiary pyramid, now destroyed, stood opposite the middle of the south face of the main pyramid, superseding the subsidiary mastabas seen at the pyramids of Djoser and Sekhemkhet; no trace of a secondary tomb has been identified at the other Third Dynasty royal tombs.

Finally, probably after a hiatus in construction see below , it was converted into a true pyramid. Presumably from the outset the complex was equipped with what is the earliest surviving causeway although see p. The final mortuary temple, contemporary with the third phase of the pyramid, comprised an offering place flanked by a pair of never-inscribed stelae, approached via a pair of vestibules, the whole a development of the arrangements at the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.

Built from the outset as a true pyramid, it is unclear whether the Bent Pyramid l. XIIIc 20 was begun in parallel with work on the stepped phase of the Meidum pyramid or whether it was begun as its replacement. A feature of step pyramids had been inward-sloping masonry, with the blocks laid at right angles to the slope of the face of the pyramid. This practice was continued with the new pyramid. This led to the angle — and so supercumbent weight — of the upper part of the pyramid being reduced, creating its distinctive shape and modern name, the Bent Pyramid; this part was built in horizontal courses, as were all later pyramids.

A subsidiary pyramid l. A similar mortuary temple was built on the east side of the main pyramid pl. XIVa , the causeway leading to the valley building leaving from the northeast corner of the enclosure. The valley building — the earliest surviving example — lay at the top of a wadi leading down to the desert edge. It was extensively decorated with reliefs and statuary. No stone sarcophagus was included in either the Meidum or Bent pyramids.

It is possible that the conversion of the Meidum pyramid to a true pyramid — using horizontal courses of masonry — was begun as an insurance after structural problems manifested themselves at the Bent Pyramid. XlIX: fig. XIVb was built entirely at the lower angle of the upper part of the Bent Pyramid. A rather more elaborate mortuary temple than those of the previous two pyramids was provided, but a proper causeway seems never to have been constructed.

The form of the valley building remains unknown, although possible parts were noticed during the nineteenth century. The substructure of the red Pyramid was built at ground level entirely within the body of the pyramid. It comprised three spectacular corbelled rooms pl. XVa , the third entered from high up in the wall of the second, clearly for concealment. The floor of the third chamber is now represented by an irregular cavity, and it is possible that a sarcophagus made up of a number of blocks had been built into the floor; fragments of a mummy, probably that of the king, were found in the pyramid.

Seven small step pyramids, apparently devoid of any chambers, appear to date to the end of the Third or the beginning of the Fourth Dynasty. One, at Elephantine pl.

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XVb ,23 has been dated to the reign of huni by the discovery of his name nearby, and another, at Seila, near Meidum,24 to that of Seneferu by an inscribed altar, statue and stelae in its chapel. The five others25 are therefore likely to belong to one or other of these reigns, but their purpose remains wholly obscure. XVIa , where he built what was to be the largest of all pyramids, the so-called Great Pyramid l. IV: fig. In addition, these subsidiary cemeteries were laid out on a formal gridded plan, with the cores of the constituent mastabas constructed by the central authority before allocation to and completion by their final owners.

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This kind of integrated necropolis was not repeated by any subsequent king, although the concept of royal family and senior nobility being buried close to their king would continue. A causeway led from the mortuary temple toward the valley building, some elements of which have been detected under modern buildings below the desert escarpment.

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This seems to have been abandoned when it was desired to include a stone sarcophagus in the burial, the passages being too low and narrow to introduce such a piece. This could have received the sarcophagus before its walls were built, but plans seem to have changed again.

The chamber is interesting, in that it replaces the corbelled roof with a new pointed type, which is subsequently standard for such rooms. A shaft was also built to allow workmen to exit down to the descending passage after releasing them.

Queen Neit-ikrety/Nitokris by V.G. Callender , Abusir & Saqqara 2010 Vol. I, pp.246-260

The corbelled room was then apparently greatly extended to become the Grand Gallery pl. XVIIb ; such hardstone containers would subsequently be standard for the vast majority of such sepulchres. A novel oval-shaped sarcophagus was adopted in what seem to have been the next two pyramids to be built. That of Djedefre at Abu rowash l. II: map 2A; fig. The relatively modest size of the pyramid, relative to the immediately preceding monuments, would thus have been more than offset by its visibility, its base lying some 20 m higher than the Giza plateau.

The structure is now very badly ruined, only the native rock core, plus a little masonry, being visible. Extensive remains of sculpture have been recovered, hinting that it was adorned with statuary to a degree not found in previous royal mortuary temples.

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