Kawab (Kaub) lived during the fourth dynasty (Old Kingdom) of Ancient Egypt. He was the son of Khufu and his wife Queen Meritites I and the half brother of Djedefre and Khafre. He was given the title “Eldest King’s Son of his Body” and it is generally agreed that he was the Crown Prince and intended heir of Khufu. Kawab married his half-sister Queen Hetepheres II and they had a number of children including; Meresankh III, Prince Duaenhor, Prince Kaemsekhem, and Prince Mindjedef.
One of his titles (iry pat) is generally translated as Hereditary Prince. However, it is suggested by some that this title was purely honorific and he was never intended to become pharaoh on the death of Khufu. Kawab acted as Vizier for Khufu and held the titles khetes inpw (official of Anubis) and Hem-netjer Serket (Priest of Selket).
Assuming that he was the intended heir of Khufu who died before him, we would expect that the position of pharaoh would have been inherited by Djedefhor (also known as Hordjedef) who, as far as we know, was the next oldest son of Khufu. However, he was instead succeeded by Djedefre who also married Kawab’s widow, Queen Hetepheres II. This of course contributed to later speculation that Djedefre had schemed to gain his position as pharaoh.
At one point it was suggested that Djedefre had murdered Kawab and seized the throne. Djedefre built his pyramid at Abu Rawash rather than Giza and this was taken as evidence of a family feud. The fact that the pyramid of Djedefre was vandalised seemed to support this conclusion but we now know that the damage was inflicted much later, during the Roman Period.
We do not know for sure how Kawab died and the inscription on his sarcophagus states that he had “grown gracefully old”. Kawab is also depicted in the tomb of Meresankh III as a middle aged man with a heavy set physique suggesting that he was already fairly advanced in years, so without further evidence of foul play it seems unfair to charge Djedefre with fratricide.
Kawab was buried in a large mastaba (G 7110 – 7120) close to the Great Pyramid of his father Khufu at Giza. This confirms that he was held in high esteem in the court of the pharaoh and supports the suggestion that he was the crown prince.
Prince Khaemwaset (son of Ramesses II of the New Kingdom) restored a statue of Kawab which had been erected in the temple at Mennefer (Memphis) in his honour.
- The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt (2004) Aidan Dodson and Dyan Hilton
- An Introduction to the Archeology of Ancient Egypt (2008) Kathryn A. Bard
- “The Old Kingdom”, J Malek in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (2000) Ed I. Shaw
- Who’s Who in Ancient Egypt (1999) Michael Rice
Copyright J Hill 2015