Red Pyramid at Dashur


The severe structural problems encountered while building the Bent Pyramid at Dashur South, led Snofru to build yet another pyramid, at a small distance to the North.

Stripped from its limestone casing, this new pyramid is has a redish colour, hence its modern-day name, the Red Pyramid, sometimes also referred to as the North Pyramid because of its northern location in Dashur.
Its Ancient Egyptian name was  'The Shining One'.

An inscription found at the base of this pyramid commemorates the laying of the western corner stone of the pyramid during the year of the 15th cattle count of Snofru's reign. Since the cattle counts were held at irregular intervals during this reign, this refers to somewhere between Snofru's 15th and 30th year. Interestingly, a second inscription was found 30 courses of stones higher. It is dated 2 to 4 years later than the inscription found at the base. This gives not only an idea about the speed at which the Egyptians were able to build a monument like this pyramid, it also clearly links the name of Snofru to the building of this monument.

Graffito of Snofru's 15th cattle count, commemorating the laying of the western corner stone of the Red Pyramid.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 105.

The work on this pyramid probably started when structural problems encountered when building the Bent Pyramid forced the builders to temporarily abandon this project.

The Red Pyramid was built with a slope of only 43°22'. Its base length is 220 metres, that is 32 metres more than the Bent Pyramid. Its height is the same as the Bent Pyramid in its final state: 105 metres.
The broader base and lower slope were intended to better spread the mass of this pyramid and thus avoid the structural problems that had temporarily halted works on the Bent Pyramid.

The Red Pyramid owes its modern-day name to the red granite that was used to construct its core.

The Red Pyramid owes its modern-day name to the red granite that was used to construct its core.

The internal structure of this pyramid is a further continuation of the pyramid at Meidum and the Bent Pyramid. Contrary to the latter monument, however, there is only one internal structure, making it a lot more simple.

Click or tap on the little circles on this 3D drawing to learn more about the Red Pyramid.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, pp. 104-105

The entrance is located high up in the Northern face of the pyramid. A descending passage leads down for 62.63 metres to a short horizontal corridor. This is followed by two almost identical antechambers with corbelled roofs. Both antechambers measure 3.65 by 8.36 metres and are 12.31 metres high.

The burial chamber can only be reached via a short passage which opens high up in the wall of the second antechamber. The burial chamber measures 4.18 by 8.55 metres. Its corbelled roof goes up to a height of 14.67 metres. It is located well above ground level, in the core of the pyramid.

The chapel built against the Eastern face of the pyramid was finished hastily, probably after the death of Snofru. It is somewhat more elaborate than the eastern chapel of the Red Pyramid or the pyramid at Meidum in that it houses an inner sanctuary, flanked by two smaller chapels.
There is no trace of a causeway leading down to the Valley Temple, of which few remains were found at the end of the 19th century.

There is little doubt that Snofru was finally buried in this pyramid, although the fragments of human remains found inside the burial chamber are not certain to have been his.
Interestingly, during the reign of Pepi I of the 6th Dynasty, this pyramid along with its southern neighbour, the Bent Pyramid, was considered as one estate.

© Jacques Kinnaer 1997 - 2017