The Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three main pyramids at Giza, and is believed to have been built as a tomb for Pharaoh Menkaure. It is located slightly southwest of its larger neighbors (the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre), and is worth a visit.
Read on to find out more about who built the Pyramid of Menkaure, what you'll be able to find inside should you choose to visit and enter, and the modern-day mystery of the sarcophagus of Menkaure that was found inside in the 1800s.
Who Built the Pyramid of Menkaure and How It Was Built
The Pyramid of Menkaure was built by the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Menkaure. His father, Khafre, built the Pyramid of Khafre nearby, and his grandfather Khufu built the Great Pyramid of Giza (or Khufu Pyramid), also on the same site.
While it is unknown exactly when the pyramid was built, it is likely around the 26th century BC. As with other pyramids, it is believed that construction was the task of the pharaoh's Vizier, which also happened to be his brother.
The Pyramid of Menkaure had a height of 65.5 meters (215 feet) originally, but now stands at 61 meters (200 feet) tall due to erosion. It's angle of incline is approximately 51 degrees, and it was built of limestone from Tura and granite from Aswan. Materials for construction were carried on the Nile on boats to the site at Giza.
This pyramid is special in that some of its granite was left rough, giving archaeologists the opportunity to understand the methods used to build pyramids at the time. It also differed to the other pyramids in Giza in that the lower portion of the pyramid was covered in red granite and the upper portion in limestone. The other pyramids were all covered in limestone.
In 1196, Al-Aziz Uthman, the Sultan of Egypt at the time, actually attempted to demolish the pyramids, starting at the Pyramid of Menkaure. Luckily for us, their attempts were futile and they found it almost impossible to demolish the pyramid, removing just one or two stones a day. They did unfortunately damage the pyramid on the north side, but thankfully it still stands tall today.
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What You Can See Inside the Pyramid of Menkaure
The antechamber inside of the Pyramid of Menkaure was discovered by Howard Vyse, a British servicemen and famous Egyptologist, in July of 1837. He found a wooden coffin inscribed with Menkaure's name, as well as human remains in the burial chamber. After much research the bones were likely belonging to a young woman dating back to Roman times.
Vyse had the coffin and the lid from the coffin shipped to England, where you can now see the lid in the British Museum in London. The coffin unfortunately sank with the boat it was on in 1838, so it is now at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea alongside the ship Beatrice as it has not been recovered to this day. Some believe it is somewhere between Malta and Spain, while others believe the wreck to be closer to Gibraltar, and yet others believe it to be closer to the Tuscan coast of Italy. The only information that we do have about where it might be, are Vyse's own accounts. There was a search in 2008 to try and recover the sarcophagus, but the precise location remains unknown.
Visiting the inside of the Pyramid of Menkaure is interesting because it gives you insight into the structure of the pyramid, and how the chambers are connected. To find out more about what you can see inside of the Pyramid of Menkaure in terms of its passageways and chambers, please refer to this piece about what is inside the Pyramids of Giza.
Suggested reading: How to Plan a 7-Day Egypt Itinerary (Expert Advice)
What You Can See around the Pyramid of Menkaure
Around the pyramid, you will also be able to see the pyramid temple, construction of which was also likely completed by Menkaure's successor, Shepseskaf. There's also a valley temple, which was excavated between 1908 and 1910 by an American archaeologist, which lead to the discovery of a statue depicting Menkaure. While the Pyramid of Menkaure is smaller than the other two main pyramids in Giza, its temples were actually bigger and more elaborate.
South of the Pyramid of Menkaure, there were also three smaller pyramids constructed, each of which has its own temple and substructure too. These are believed to be tombs for the queens of Menkaure, but there is also speculation that they were actually home to statues of Menkaure before the queens were buried there. It is believed that construction of all of these three smaller pyramids was never completed.
Suggested reading: How to Visit the Pyramids of Giza: Top 10 Travel Tips
Visiting the Pyramid of Menkaure
The pyramids are open to visitors between 8am and 5pm in the summer, and between 8am and 4pm in the winter.
A ticket to visit the Giza Pyramids (all three) is 200 Egyptian pounds (10.2 US dollars), and you can pay an extra 100 Egyptian pounds (5.1 US dollars) to see the Pyramid of Menkaure on the inside. You'll have to get it early or ask your tour guide to help with this, since daily visitors inside the pyramid are capped to protect it from overcrowding.
As for what to wear when you visit, we recommend wearing light clothing to avoid getting too warm, covering up your shoulders and knees as is customary in Egypt. We also recommend avoiding white or light-colored clothing, or anything you don't want to get dirty, as there is sand and dust around the pyramids.
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