Mykerinos' Pyramid at Giza



With a height of "only" 65 meters, the pyramid of Mykerinos is less than half the size of the two other pyramids in Giza. Its base area is less than a quarter of that of its two neighbours, and its total building mass is about 10 times less than that of the pyramid of Khefren. This has often been explained as a sign of the decline of the wealth and power of the 4th Dynasty, yet the high quality and craftsmanship of several statues of Mykerinos that were found in or near the funerary complex seem to contradict this. It is also interesting to note that most of the pyramids built during the 5th and 6th Dynasties, would be around the same size as Mykerinos’.

The pyramid was not completed when Mykerinos died and was only partially completed by his successor, Shepseskaf. The upper part was finished in the now traditional fine limestone from Turah, but 16 courses at the bottom were left undressed. This may show, at least for the pyramid of Mykerinos, that the outer casing was laid from top to bottom, probably while removing the ramp(s) that were used to haul the heavy blocks of red granite to the top.

The pyramid's internal structure is far more complex than those of the pyramids of Kheops and Khefren.
The entrance lies about 4 meters above ground level in the north face of the pyramid. From there a passage slopes down for 31 meters to a first room. The walls of the first room are decorated with recessed panels, reminiscent of the false door motif that can be found in many non-royal tombs. Mykerinos' pyramid is the first royal tomb since Netjerikhet's at Saqqara, to have had some internal decoration.

Interactive 3D map of Mykerinos’ Pyramid Complex. Click or tap on the little circles to learn more.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 134.

A look inside the antechamber.

At the opposite end of the panelled chamber, a horizontal corridor, once blocked by three portcullis blocks, continues towards the east-west oriented antechamber. The east end of the antechamber lies directly under the vertical axis of the pyramid.
Directly above the point where the horizontal passage enters the antechamber, another passage opens and, after a short horizontal stretch, leads up into, and stops in, the pyramid core.
A descending passage opens in the middle of the floor of the antechamber and leads west, to the burial chamber that was carved out into the bedrock. It is encased entirely in granite. The ceiling of the burial chamber is rounded, but it was cut out of the undersides of the huge slabs that were laid in the form of a pented roof.
A dark sarcophagus, with the recessed panelling motif, was found empty and without its lid. It was removed to be sent to England, but unfortunately the ship carrying it sank.
A wooden coffin inscribed with the name of Mykerinos found in the pyramid, appears to be dated to the 26th Dynasty, and the few human remains seem to be of even more recent date.

Just before entering the burial chamber, a chamber with four niches in the east wall and two in the north, opens to the north of the passage. Similar chambers were found in later pyramids as well, be it that the number of niches was reduced to three.

Queens' Pyramids

Three smaller pyramids were built to the south of the enclosure wall of the main pyramid of this complex. Only the easternmost pyramid was a real pyramid, the two others being small step pyramids.
The substructure of the easternmost pyramid suggests that it was started as a satellite pyramid, and that it was later converted into a burial place for one of Mykerinos' queens.
All three pyramids had small mudbrick shrines, showing that there was at least the intention of a funerary cult. Only the middle pyramid contained the body of a young woman, but whether she was the original owner of the tomb, or the result of an intrusive burial, is not known.

The three Queens' Pyramids in front of the pyramid of Mykerinos at Giza.

The three Queens' Pyramids in front of the pyramid of Mykerinos at Giza.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017