Sneferu’s Distinctive Bent Pyramid Opened to the Public
In Egypt, the Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany has announced that two pyramids are being opened to the public for the first time since 1965. Soon visitors can once again get up close to the famous Bent Pyramid and a smaller satellite monument. These pyramids are among the oldest ever constructed in Egypt. The Bent Pyramid is very important historically, as its construction played a significant role in the development of the pyramid structure. The announcement is expected to give the North African nation’s tourist sector a timely boost.
The two monuments being re-opened are located in the Dahshur Royal necropolis that dates from the Egyptian Old Kingdom. This necropolis includes some of the oldest pyramids ever built, including the famous Red Pyramid. According to Time, the “Dahshur necropolis area is home to what is considered to be some of the earliest pyramids”. It has been designated by UNESCO a World Heritage Site. Dahshur is part of the larger Memphis necropolis and is popular with tourists.
The Bent Pyramid
The Bent Pyramid and its satellite monuments were built on the orders of King Sneferu, “the first pharaoh of Egypt’s 4th dynasty” reports the Citizen. This massive funerary monument dates to approximately 2600 BC.
The Bent Pyramid is one of the most important in the development of pyramids in Egypt. AP reports that the monument “is unique in that it has two internal structures”. This is something that is not found in any of the other giant structures. It is also atypical as it has entrances on different sides, two on the north side as is usual of all other pyramids, but it also has one high up on the west side.
It is seen by experts as marking a transition from a step-pyramid to a smooth-sided pyramid. AP reports the Egyptian Minister as stating that it is “a transitional form of pyramid construction between the Djoser Step Pyramid (2667-2648 BC) and the Meidum Pyramid (also about 2600 BC)”. The pyramid is unique and does not have the even sides of later structures.
It is thought that the bent design is because of its builders’ miscalculations, the angle of the top section of the pyramid was changed in order to reduce the excessive weight which would have caused damage to the internal blocks and chambers. This irregular shape of the structure is what gave it its name.
The second pyramid, being opened to the public, is much smaller and is in a poor condition, compared to the Bent Pyramid. It is thought that this was possibly constructed for the king’s wife Heterpheres, although some experts claim the satellite pyramid was for some other purposes.
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A number of sarcophagi have recently been unearthed in Dahshur. (Ministry of Antiquities)
Other discoveries in the necropolis
The minister also announced that a number of sarcophagi have been unearthed in the Dahshur Necropolis and are in good condition, some containing mummies. They have been preliminarily dated to the period from 664 to 332 BC. Tools used for cutting stones and blocks were also discovered. Interestingly, some stone fragments may indicate that even more burials may be present in the vicinity of the two soon-to-be-opened pyramids.
Dr. Khaled Al-me, also announced the discovery of a zigzag wall dating from the Middle period has also been unearthed in the Dahshur Necropolis by another archaeological team. It is some 180 ft (60m) in length and is situated south of the pyramid of 12th dynasty pharaoh King Amenemhat II, according to the announcement.
The announcement of the opening of the two pyramids and the latest finds in their vicinity is expected to attract more visitors to the area. This is very important for the Egyptian economy as tourism is the nation’s most important industry and a very significant employer. Since 2011, the country has been plagued by instability and terrorism and this led to a large drop in foreign visitors. The re-opening of the two pyramids and the announcement of the discoveries are part of a policy to generate more interest in the country’s heritage and to increase tourist numbers.
Top image: The Bent Pyramid at Dahshur necropolis is being reopened to the public. Source: WitR / Adobe Stock
By Ed Whelan