Pyramid Complex at Abu Rawash

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The most important monument in the mountainous region of Abu Rawash, is the mortuary complex of Djedefre.

There has been a lot of speculation about Djedefre's motivation to build his funerary monument at Abu Rawash and not next to his father's at Giza.
A very common view is that Djedefre chose this remote place to distance himself from the despotic reign of his father, whereas his brother Khefren, returned to Giza because he held the same views as Kheops. The fact that Djedefre built his pyramid away from his father's would thus be telltale of some dynastic feuds in the beginning of the 4th Dynasty. The fact, however, that Mykerinos, son of Khefren, undertook some restoration work at Djedefre's funerary monument does not fit well with the romantic theory of dynastic feuds.
It must be noted that during the early 4th Dynasty, there appears to have been a move towards the North for the royal funerary complex. Snofru moved from Meidum, where he at least completed or perhaps even built a pyramid, to Dashur where he built two pyramids. His son, Kheops, moved even further North, to Giza and Djedefre completed this move by building his pyramid in Abu Rawash. The motivation behind this move North is not clear, but it is still interesting to note.
Recently, it has been proposed that Djedefre moved to Abu Rawash because it was situated opposite Heliopolis, the city of the solar cult. During the reign of Djedefre, the solar cult gained a lot in importance, as is shown by the addition of the title Son of Re to the royal titulary. This could at least explain Djedefre's choice of location, but it does not explain why Kheops moved to Giza.

The structure of Djedefre's funerary monument is fairly simple, but it already has all the elements that are typical for the Old Kingdom. The complex has an inner enclosure wall that rose to a height of about 6 metres.

Click or tap on the little circles on this map to learn more about Djedefre's Pyramid Complex.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 120.


The entrance leading down to the pyramid's central shaft.

The entrance leading down to the pyramid's central shaft.

The royal pyramid stood almost in the centre of the complex. The pyramids of Djedefre's predecessors Snofru and Kheops had the burial chamber inside the pyramid above ground level. For unknown reasons, Djedefre prefered to have his burial chamber, built at the bottom of a collossal pit measuring 23 by 10 metres and sunk some 20 metres into the ground. The burial chamber itself measured 21 by 9 metres. This technique was also used for the building of the burial chamber of Netjerikhet at Saqqara.
A 49 metre long corridor slopes up to ground level, providing the entrance to the pyramid. As was already traditional, this entrance was located in the north, pointing to the circumpolar stars.

So little remains of the pyramid, that it was assumed it was left unfinished.

So little remains of the pyramid, that it was assumed it was left unfinished.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 121.


There was a smaller satellite pyramid built to the Southwest of the main pyramid, whereas the mortuary temple, including a small boat pit, stood to the east. It was finished with mudbrick, suggesting that work on the mortuary temple was completed hastily. 

A view on the remains of the mortuary temple, with two of the pyramids of Giza in the background.

A view on the remains of the mortuary temple, with two of the Giza pyramids in the background.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 121.


Khefren, Djedefre's successor, may have ordered to complete working on this complex as fast as possible so that work on his own funerary monument could start without delay. 


© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017