Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Pyramids of Sneferu

Just in front of Fayoum in the Nile Valley, south of Cairo, situated alone on the edge of the Western Desert above the lush fields Meidum is a tower-like structure some sixty-five feet high, which was once a pyramid which we believe was built by the 4th Dynasty King, SnefruEgyptologists. Some believe that the early stages of construction were made by Huni, his predecessor, and that Sneferu was only responsible for the completion of the pyramid. However, the name of Huni was not found in the pyramid, and various written documents suggest that the residential city and nearby belonged to the reign of Sneferu. In addition, many of the tombs nearby also belong to the family of Sneferu.In May ways Meidum is the most mysterious of all the great pyramids. When Snefru ascended the throne around 2575 BC, the complex of Djoser at Saqqara was the only major royal pyramid is completed. But Sneferu became the largest manufacturer of the pyramid of Egyptian history by completing not one, but three of them.The first inhabitants of this century called Meidum Pyramid el-Haram al-kaddab, which means "false pyramid" and because of its shape, it has attracted attention since the Middle Ages of travelers. The early fifteenth century, the famous Arab historian Taqi al-Din al-Maqrizi thought it looked like a huge mountain tiered five years. However, it eroded so badly that when Frederik Ludwig Norden visited in the eighteenth century, the pyramid seemed to have only three levels. But it was not time and eroded, but human beings.

When Napoleon's expedition passed through Meidum in 1799, the well known designer, Denon, had just enough time to do some sketches and prepare a brief description of the pyramid. Later, Perring has a much better investigation of it, including measurements in 1837. Thereafter, the expedition of 1843, Lepsius studied in detail. However, its internal structure remains a mystery.

Then, in a major effort to discover and document the Pyramid Texts, Maspero was finally able to open with some mastabas of the area, but archaeological excavations did not begin until ten years. It was Petrie, the founder of modern Egyptology, in collaboration with the Egyptologist Percy Newberry and architect, George Fraser, who led the excavation. They were instructed not to investigate only fully inside the pyramid, but also dig the pyramid temple, roadway approach and a series of private tombs in the area around the pyramid. However, this would not be the last that the pyramid would Petrie.After a long hiatus, Petrie returned to Meidum with Egyptologists, Ernest Mackay and Gerald Wainwright. This time they have conducted excavations at the northeast corner of the pyramid, in the so-called Pyramid of the South and in other places. They tunnel into the pyramid, showing that the nucleus was composed of five layers of accretion with an outer surface constructed carefully dressed limestone blocks. However, as complete as the work of Petrie has always been his research on the pyramid seems to have raised more questions than it answers.In the mid 1920s, Borchardt has made its way to Meidum and after only a few days in the field, has accumulated so much information on the pyramid that fills a whole book which is still very popular today (Die Entstehung der Pyramide Pyramide an der bei der Baugeschichte Mejdum nachgewiesen). He spent considerable time reconstruction on the basis of the ruins, a corridor leading to the pyramid of the southeast, which Petrie had discovered in 1910. Borchardt's opinion, it was used to transport building materials of the pyramid. There was a ramp that had a gradient of ten degrees, which helped build the lower half of the pyramid consists of approximately 88.5 percent of the total volume of masonry. The ancient builders have increased the gradient of the upper half of the ramp, and on these assumptions, everything about the construction strategy seemed to be explained 

Only a few years later, still in the 1920s, an American expedition visited the ruins under the direction of British archaeologist, Alan Rowe, but there was a long period during which the pyramid has received little attention . When, half a century later, another expedition visited the pyramid, this time it was an Egyptian effort led by Ali el-Kholi. They focused on the huge mound of gravel at the bottom of the pyramid.Because of marshland and high water level, the valley temple belonging to the pyramid has not yet been found. Residential town of Snefru Djedsnefru (which means "hard Snefru") was probably located to the east of it.There was an unroofed floor that stretched over two hundred meters and almost certainly linked the wall of the pyramid with a temple in the valley on the edge of the valley. There was actually another "approach" that Petrie excavated, which may have been originally intended for use as causewa. 

The pyramid was surrounded by a single wall, high perimeter consists of limestone blocks. To the east, another huge mastaba was next to the wall, which could have been built for the crown prince, but no owner has been identified. He is known only as Mastaba No. 17 on the cards of the necropolis. However, it is noteworthy that the pyramid stones were used to build, and his coat was made of mud bricks plastered and whitewashed.
A good view of the small mortuary temple, Stela and floor which led to the Valley Temple of the Pyramid of Sneferu at Meidum 

In the wall, the large open court that he had locked a mud floor. In this court, near the southwest corner of the main pyramid, was a second pyramid, but much smaller, probably originally built as a pyramid. This is almost certainly the oldest known example of a pyramid of worship. It has a structure that was accessible from the north by a descendant corridor. In the ruins was discovered a fragment of a limestone stele bearing a representation of the falcon god Horus. On the opposite side of the courtyard are the remains of a mastaba which was probably intended for a royal consort.In the center of the east coast of the pyramid Petrie discovered a funerary temple built in limestone blocks, also in the wall. It is so small that it could have been a memorial chapel to the king rather than an actual mortuary temple. It is unique in many ways, especially because it was the first to be built in the east rather than the north side of the pyramid. It is also the most intact and well preserved temple of the Old Empire. Even the ceiling limestone slabs remain. It is also very simple, and almost certainly related to the overall transformation of the conceptual pyramid complex at E3 stage of construction.

The floor plan of this temple is almost square. It consists of three sections which include an entrance hallway with a double bend in the southeast corner, an open courtyard and a bedroom with two steles. The stelae, which stand near the foot of the pyramid consists of pieces of smooth limestone walls that are rounded at the top, but they bear no inscriptions or images. Between them stands a table of offerings. The lack of decorations seem to indicate that the temple was never really used for any activity of worship. 

However, the temple seems to have had a profound effect on visitors later, that show various graffiti. Dating mainly from the 18th Dynasty, some authors praise the temple. Ankhkheperreseneb, who went in the 41st year of the reign of Thutmose III, said he came "to see the great temple of Horus Sneferu. He saw it, as if the sky was on it and in it the sun rose. "He also exclaims that" Can cool myrrh rain down from the heavens and drip sweet incense on the roof of Temple of Horus Sneferu " However, at the time of his visit, he was already in poor condition for some time during the first and second interim shepherds actually lived.As for the pyramid itself, the explanation of the strange form it takes today and the many mysteries that surround lies in the complicated transition from the 3rd Dynasty step pyramids in the true pyramids, smooth back of the 4th Dynasty . When Wainwright dug inside the pyramid, he showed that the core of the pyramid was built of limestone blocks accretion inclined at an angle of about seventy-five degrees layers. They stood on a square base of thirty-eight meters wide.That the ancient Egyptians used the method of accretion to build the pyramid was not a surprise to Egyptologists, even at the time of Petrie, because it was a fairly common method of construction. What is surprising them was the smooth outer surface of each level, which seems illogical and should have significantly reduced the cohesion of the layers and the structure as a whole. The answer to this particular conundrum came later from Borchardt, who found that the average pyramid was built in three stages, during which its appearance has changed significantly.

The pyramid was originally a seven-step structure built on a rock foundation, but perhaps even before it is completed, an eighth step was added. Each of these first two steps, designated E1 and E2, was intended to be the final structure. However, the pyramid was finally rebuilt in order to transform it into a true pyramid smooth face. However, unlike E1 and E2, E3 designated extension was not based on a strong solid foundation, but three layers of limestone blocks on the sand.Even stranger, while E1 and E2 stage blocks are inclined towards the middle of the pyramid, as in the case of the pyramid complex of Djoser at Saqqara, greatly increasing the strength of the structure, blocks E3 were placed horizontally. This fact was noticed by Borchardt, but Kurt Mendelssohn, who visited Meidum as a tourist, has published a bestseller in 1986 on his theory that the method used to construct the E3 stage resulted in a catastrophic slip that buried the workers who built the pyramids in the rubble that now surrounds the structure. However, the theory of Mendelssohn has not at all been excluded by Egyptologists, because it contradicts the archaeological discoveries that Petrie had already described and remain visible today. The stratification of massive gravel mounds on all four sides of the pyramid shows that the erosion of the structure took place gradually over a long period of time. However, the change in construction methods will make it much easier for working stone thieves. Borchardt made the break, and explained that the rings of coarse masonry bound the different layers of the strongest core and were simply laid bare in these layers were destroyed.In addition, archaeological excavations have also shown that the pyramid was probably destroyed at the end of the New Kingdom, as in the rubble pits up to its side of the 22nd Dynasty have been found at a height of between seven and ten meters above the ground temple. It is assumed that the removal of housing units had already begun during the reign of Ramses II.More recently, the American George Johnson, expressed his opinion on the mound of gravel around the pyramid. In its opinion, the wall concealed the remains of a building boom that took place around the pyramid was built as part of the transformation of the second (E2) in the third step (E3). It highlights the limestone blocks unused that were not part of the masonry that el-Kholi found during its investigation on the mound in the northwestern corner of the pyramid.   

Brands manufacturer of some of the blocks from which the pyramid was built are interesting. Among them are stylized images of two, three and four pyramids that have led some researchers to assume that they show the original shape gradually changed the pyramid. However, we know that the images have determined the placement of blocks on corresponding levels. No less interesting are the inscriptions that include dates and names of working groups. They come from the seventh through the eighteenth heads of cattle from an anonymous officer, but it was probably Sneferu. Entries similar Mason can be found on the pyramid of Sneferu at Dahshur.In addition, the real significance of the alteration of the structure during the E3 step has not yet been fully explained. Step-like shape of the monument was abandoned in favor of a true pyramid shape, and the north-south orientation for an east-west orientation. This seems to reflect a significant change in religious ideas that occurred during the transition from the third to the fourth dynasty. Ricke believed that this is the time that the myth of Osiris was incorporated into the cult of the dead king. The king became identified with Osiris, the lord of hell, and his death has become a legendary event. However, according to another interpretation, the change in the shape and orientation of the tomb has been connected with the decline of the astral religion and the rise of the solar religion. Similarly, the German Egyptologist Dietrich Wildung argued that the pyramid complex in Meidum was a predecessor of the subsequent solar temples of the 5th Dynasty.We might also add that some scholars believe that the final stage of the construction may have taken place several years after the completion of the first two stages, had already moved Sneferu at Dahshur. These researchers seem to believe that it has completed the pyramid as a cenotaph rather than a real tomb.The entrance to the pyramid is on the north-south axis in the north wall, fifteen feet above ground level. This is a unique placement of the entrance of a pyramid, so high above the ground level. From there, a corridor runs down until it reaches a few meters below the base of the pyramid, where it turns into a horizontal passage that leads to the burial chamber. There are niches on the east and west sides of the horizontal section of the corridor, but their purpose is not clear. They may have been used to make it easier to move the blocks used to seal the hallway after the funeral.

The burial chamber itself, which was never finished was reached by a vertical shaft that led to the rise from the southern end of the corridor and out into the northeast corner of the floor of the burial chamber . When Maspero entered the pyramid for the first time, he discovered the ropes and beams there, which makes him think that the tree was what remained of a tunnel built by grave robbers to facilitate their work. He dated the structure to the period when the burial chamber was looted. However, some Egyptologists think it was part of the original structure, used to raise the sarcophagus of the king in the burial chamber, but it was apparently never a sarcophagus in the burial chamber and nobody seems to have been buried there. Also, why the workers were so complicated when the sarcophagus was placed in the burial chamber under construction?In the tradition of step pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty, the burial chamber is aligned with the north-south axis of the pyramid. The so-called false vault built of large blocks of limestone is noted. The idea behind it is very old and is based on the brick architecture of the Early Dynastic Period. Its purpose was to prevent the enormous weight of the pyramid to break the ceiling of the burial chamber. Apparently, manufacturers have chosen this method of ceiling tiles granite they were also familiar.

There are also rooms north of the burial chamber and above the horizontal portion of the corridor that were likely the result of changes in the plan to build the pyramid.

Apparently Snefru abandoned the pyramid complex, but why it has still not been resolved. Subsequently, he founded a new home and a new pyramid of Dahshur necropolis near. Maybe he wanted to be closer to the fortress of white walls (Memphis), or maybe he wanted to start a new, strategically located residential town. Stadelmann, who believes that the pyramid was built for Sneferu Meidum from the start, think complex and surrounding tombs belonged to the queen mother and the princes of the first generation itself. According to him, only a generation later, the family was buried Sneferu at Dahshur.

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