All ancient Egyptian pyramids today are ruins - the pyramids were once gleaming with polished limestone coverings and were once part of much larger funerary complexes. The pyramids of Egypt once looked very different to what they do today. But some pyramids are more ruined than others, one of the most eye-catching pyramids that has sunken and collapsed is the Black Pyramid.

Whereas the Great Pyramid of Giza only as a few very secret passageways and chambers, the Black Pyramid once had many of them. Today one can visit the Black Pyramid and see how the Ancient Egyptians didn't always get their engineering right.

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What is The Black Pyramid?

The Black Pyramid is one of the five remaining pyramids of the original eleven pyramids found in Dahshur in Egypt.

  • Built: By Pharaoh Amenemhat III Between Circa 1860 BC and 1814 BC
  • Period: The Middle Kingdom of Egypt

The Black Pyramid is also known as the Pyramid of Amenemhat III, but has been dubbed the Black Pyramid because of its dark, decaying appearance as a rubble mound today. While most of the pyramids were made out of stone, the Black Pyramid was constructed out of mud brick.

  • Height: Originally Around 75 Meters (Yards) Tall
  • Capstone: One Can See the Pyramidon or Capstone at The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Today the original Pyramidon or capstone has been discovered and is on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo The capstone has inscriptions and religious symbols - some of which have been scratched off. It is possible it was never used or was later defaced in Akhenaten's reign.

Related: Here Are Some Theories On How The Egyptian Pyramids Were Built

The Passages, Tunnels, and Subterranean Structures of The Black Pyramid

The Black Pyramid is filled with a complicated network of passages. The passageways were wide and had a number of structural problems. Whereas the Great Pyramid has very few tunnels, passageways, and chambers, the Black Pyramid has many of them.

Despite having sunk, the king's section is still these thousands of years later mostly intact with a sarcophagus and canopic jar (although the pharaoh wasn't actually buried there).

Like most other pyramids, the pyramid has been broken into and looted over the years. Still archeologists have managed to find and recover a number of artifacts left behind like one of the Queen Aat's canopic jars.

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The Collapse of The Black Pyramid

The Black Pyramid has largely collapsed because was built with a number of engineering problems. The mudbrick it was made of is weaker than the stone used in other pyramids. It was built only 10 meters (30 feet) above sea level), and had countless corridors and chambers underground.

The corridors and chambers were not built with enough stress relievers to hold up the ceilings. This meant the pyramid wasn't very sturdy.

  • Engineering Problems: Local Altitude, Extensive Chambers Without Proper Structural Support, Mudbrick In Construction
  • Tip: While In Dashur, Visit The Bent Pyramid - Another Pyramid With An Engineering Mistake

As it was only 10 meters above sea level, groundwater from the Nile seeped into the walls. Eventually the whole pyramid cracked and sank into the ground. There wasn't any internal walls and the pyramid was built on clay (others were built on a bedrock). Workers did attempt to install some supporting beams and mud brick walls to support the structure, but it wasn't enough. As the pyramid began to sink and crush the underground chambers it was abandoned.

Related: This Is What You'll See When Visiting Saqqara, Egypt

Tours of the Black Pyramid

There are many day tours to the Black Pyramid from Cairo just a short distance away. The Black Pyramid is part of the Dahshur Necropolis, so tours explore the whole site an not just the Black Pyramid. One can expect the tour to include the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.

One example of a tour is this Emo Tours' Cairo Day Tour to Memphis Sakkara & Dahshur Pyramids. The tour starts at 8.00 am with a pick up from one's hotel in Cairo or Giza. First one will explore the Sakkara Pyramid just 27 km southwest from Cairo and then visit Dahshur with the Bent, Red, and Black Pyramids around 40 km from Cairo.

After that visit Memphis - the ancient capital of Egypt - and see the colossal statue of Ramses II and the great Alabaster Sphinx.

  • Includes: Private Car + Tour Guide + Entry Fees + Lunch
  • Duration: 5 Hours
  • Availability: Runs Every day upon Request

Cost:

  • Single Person: $90
  • 2 People: $55
  • From 3 to 5 People: $50
  • Above 6 People: $40