Pyramid of Meidum

Sneferu's pyramid at Meidum from www.egyptarchive.co.uk

The pyramid of Meidum is often known as the "collapsed pyramid" because of its ruined state. By the fifteenth century the Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi recorded that only five steps remained and by the time it was surveyed by Napoleon's men only three steps were still in place. It is known as "el-haram el-kaddab" (the "False Pyramid") in Arabic because it now barely resembles a pyramid.

It seems to have been designed as a seven step pyramid with a further step being added once construction was in a fairly advanced stage. It was then turned into the first true pyramid by filing in the steps and capping them with limestone. From the entrance on the north face just above ground level, a steep passage descends to meet a horizontal passage just below ground level. This passage has a small chamber on its left and its right and connects with a vertical shaft which rises ten meters to meet a small burial chamber. The burial chamber is the first to have been cut into the core of the pyramid and to bear the weight of masonry above it has a corbelled roof. No sarcophagus was found inside the chamber and there is no evidence that Sneferu or anyone else was ever buried in this pyramid.

burial chamber from www.egyptarchive.co.uk mortuary temple from www.egyptarchive.co.uk mortuary temple from www.egyptarchive.co.uk

There is a ruined satellite pyramid on the south side of the main pyramid. The entrance on the north face leads down to a small burial chamber. The mortuary temple which sits on the east side of the main pyramid is also in a poor state. The whole complex is surrounded by an enclosure wall, traces of which remain. There was also a causeway cut into the bedrock and paved with limestone but this is largely ruined.

It is often suggested that the Meidum pyramid was begun as a step pyramid by Huni but completed by Sneferu. Experts were tempted to ascribe the pyramid to Huni partly because he is not associated with any other large pyramid or mastabas; although he may have built one or more of the seven small pyramids stretched from Seila to Elephantine. However, the Meidum pyramid was named "Sneferu Endures" and it is surrounded by a number of mastabas in which the sons of Sneferu were buried so it seems reasonable to ascribe it to Sneferu.

When the pyramid was complete it is estimated its proportions were similar to those of the Great Pyramid but it is likely that the pyramid began to crumble during the reign of Sneferu and that this may have contributed to his decision to alter the angle of his pyramid at Dashur in mid construction. There is some evidence that the pyramid was built within the first fifteen years of his reign and then abandoned Meidum for Dashur. It is tempting to see this pyramid as a practice run for his later, better constructed, pyramids at Dashur.

copyright J Hill 2010
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