April 1, 2012

Khaba and Huni Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs (2643-2613 BC) Dynasty 3

Now we will talk about :
  • Khaba Pharaoh 2643 - 2637 BC
  • Huni Pharaoh 2637 - 2613 BC

Khaba and Huni Pharaohs
The last two kings of the 3rd Dynasty did not use Saqqara as the royal burial ground. Sekhemkhet's successor Khaba built his pyramid - the so- called Layer Pyramid - at Zawiyet el-Aryan, a mile south of Giza. This seems to have been intended as a step pyramid, with six or seven steps and a rock-cut entrance on the north side. Similar construction techniques and layout to Sekhemkhet's monument place it in a chronological sequence after his (and not in the 2nd Dynasty as had been suggested many years ago, before the parallel evidence at Saqqara was known). Khaba's name was recovered, written in red ink, on several stone vessels from 3rd Dynasty mastabas close by. It would appear that the monument was never used.

Layer Pyramid of Khaba Pharaoh
Huni, the fifth and last king of the 3rd Dynasty, made an even more drastic move for his burial site. He erected his monument at Meydum on the edge of the Faiyum, 50 miles (80 km) south of Cairo. Today the pyramid rises as a gaunt, almost pharos-like structure just beyond the edge of the cultivation. It was the first pyramid to have a square ground plan and was intended to be the first that was geometrically 'true'; loose packing stones were added to the steps before the whole was encased in white Tura limestone. Now it has three (of an original seven) tall steps at a steep angle of 74 degrees, and rises to about 214 ft (65 m). The present shape has resulted from the collapse of the outer 'skins' of the casing in antiquity, due to the lack of bonding between them. Exactly when this collapse occurred has been the subject of some controversy: Kurt Mendelssohn suggested that it took place during the building of the South or Bent pyramid of Snefru (the first king of the 4th Dynasty) at Dahshur and that both pyramids were being built concurrently; others believe that it was during the New Kingdom, since there are 18th Dynasty visitors' graffiti in the small east face mortuary temple.

In the New Kingdom the Meydum pyramid was obviously thought to have been built by Snefru, since the mortuary temple graffiti mention his name, referring to 'the beautiful temple of King Snefru'. This is clearly somewhat exaggerated since it is a small, plain and windowless structure with just the two large, upright and round-topped funerary stele, both uninscribed and unfinished, standing either side of a low altar in the small courtyard between the back of the temple and the pyramid's east face. Snefru also has two other pyramids 28 miles (45 km) north of Meydum at Dahshur (p. 43), and it is highly unlikely that he would have had three: two are unusual enough. It is now generally agreed that the Meydum pyramid was built for Huni, but that it was basically finished by his son-in-law and successor, Snefru.

Red Granite of Huni Pharaoh HeadHead
Meydum presents us with the first occurrence of what was to become the norm for the layout of a pyramid complex. This consists of the pyramid itself, with an entrance on the north face which gives access, via a descending passage, to a burial chamber normally located in the bedrock or at ground surface within the mass. There can be more than one chamber, and at different levels, within this group. On the east face of the pyramid is a small pyramid or mortuary temple. From this a causeway runs down to the edge of the cultivation where the valley temple is located. Very fine reliefs are usually a feature of the later examples of these buildings. At Meydum, the valley temple has never been excavated and is presumed to lie in a small cluster of palm trees at the lower end of the now much denuded causeway on the edge of the agricultural land.

Curiously, there is no evidence of there ever having been a stone sarcophagus in the subterranean burial chamber. This has led to speculation that the burial was made in the large, unidentified mastaba number 17 on the north-east side of the pyramid, where there is a typical Old Kingdom, uninscribed granite sarcophagus whose heavy lid has been eased to one side by tomb robbers.

In two of the mastaba tombs of nobles in the court of Fluni to the north and east of the pyramid, the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette discovered in 1871 some of the great masterpieces of Egyptian art: the Meydum geese and the pair statues of Rahotep and Nofret. The three pairs of realistic and beautifully painted geese on a frieze were found in the tomb of Nefer-Maat and Atet. The solemnity of the faces on the statues of Rahotep and Nofret from their mastaba contrasts with the expressions on the faces of lesser mortals - here, confidence in their immortality by virtue of their connections is well expressed. Amongst Rahotep's titles is that of 'king's son' - he may have been a son of Snefru - and his wife Nofret was 'one known to the king'.

The 24 years or so of Huni's reign ended in about 2613 BC, and with it the 3rd Dynasty drew to its close.

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