The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three large pyramids of Giza located just outside of Greater Cairo. It is believed to have been built as the tomb for Pharaoh Menkaure of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt. It was the last of the great pyramids and despite being the smallest, it is unique with much to teach about the history of the ancient pyramids. The pyramid of Menkaure has a vast burial chamber and a chamber with decorative panels inside it. Visitors can explore inside the pyramid.
As the Pyramid of Menkaure was not fully completed and some of the stones were left unfinished. It has helped in understanding how the pyramids were built (and there are still a number of theories). The pyramids were all part of larger funerary complexes with temples, smaller pyramids, causeways, and even the Sphinx. It is useful to understand how the Pyramids looked when they were first built.
Why The Pyramid of Menkaure Is The Smallest
The pyramid is the smallest of the three pyramids and has gotten shorter over the years. When it was first built, it had a height of 215 feet or 65.5 meters, today that has been reduced to 200 feet or 61 meters. The base area is around a quarter of the other giant pyramids.
- Height: 200 feet or 61 meters (originally 215 feet or 65.5 meters)
- Base: 356 feet or 108.5 meters
- Angle: 51°20′25″
It was built from limestone and Aswan granite (much like its neighboring pyramids). The granite forms its base section, while the upper parts are made from Tura limestone.
It was built between around 2532–2503 BC and is massively overshadowed by the other two pyramids that are of comparable size to each other. In fact, the Pyramid of Khafre is smaller than the Great Pyramid but looks larger because it is set 10 meters higher on the plateau.
- Built: Circa 2532–2503 BC
The size of the Pyramid of Menkaure was limited by a few things. It was limited by a couple of factors including there being only a limited amount of space left on the Giza Plateau. The other limitation was that it used more granite than the others - the granite was heavy and quarried from Aswan over 800 kilometers away and proved a massive logistical challenge.
The Pyramid of Menkaure Was Left Unfinished
It is thought the builder was Menkaure who was likely the son of Khafre (builder of the second pyramid of Giza) and the grandson of Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza). If that is true, then the three pyramids of Giza were built successively by grandfather, father, and son.
- Giza Pyramids: Built Successively By Grandfather, Father, and Son
The Pyramid of Menkaure has three smaller satellite pyramids built next to it as part of its funerary complex (much like the Great Pyramid). These auxiliary pyramids were likely used for the burials of Menkaure's queens.
Interestingly, Menkaure died before the pyramid complex had been completed. As a result, the granite casing blocks were left unsmoothed while the mortuary and valley temples were complicated with whitewashed mudbrick instead of the intended colossal limestone blocks encased in granite.
Today one can see the visibly unfinished granite casing blocks next to the entrance as work likely abruptly ceased due to the death of the pharaoh.
Attempted Destruction of The Pyramids
In AD 1196 the Muslim rulers of Egypt attempted to demolish the pyramids. They started with Menkaure with the workmen laboring to dismantle the pyramid for 8 months. But this was a surprisingly mammoth task and they could only remove one or two blocks a day and found it was almost as expensive to demolish as to build.
- Attempted Destruction: In AD 1196
- See: The Large Gash On The Pyramid's Northern Face
Eventually, they gave up but one can see a large vertical gash on the pyramid's northern face where it was extensively damaged.
Visit The Pyramid of Menkaure & Go Inside The Pyramid
Today anyone can visit the Pyramid of Menkaure as part of exploring the Giza Necropolis.
- Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 5.00 pm
- Admission Fee: 100 EGP or $5.50
- Entry Into The Pyramid: Extra 100 EGP or $5.50
One can go in and explore Menkaure’s pyramid chambers for oneself. The pyramid has three distant levels and is more complex than the Khafre Pyramid. There is a chamber with decorative panels and another with six large niches. Additionally, there is a vast burial chamber lined with massive granite blocks.
When the burial chamber was excavated, a large 8-foot-long black stone sarcophagus carved with niched panels was discovered as well as a coffin with the name of the pharaoh Menkaure (it is now on display at the British Museum).