Pharaoh Sneferu (Snofru or Snefru) (ruled 2613-2589 BC) built three large Pyramids and perhaps two smaller ones. His Pyramids total nearly 5 million cubic yards (over 3 1/2 million cubic meters) of cut and dressed stone. The principal building projects of Pharaoh Sneferu were located at Meidum (20 miles / 30 km south of modern Cairo) and Dahshur (12 miles / 20 km south of Cairo).
The Broken Pyramid of Sneferu by Ernst Weidenbach.
The Pyramid at Meidum
Meidum was Sneferu's first attempt at Pyramid building. Some scholars believe this unusual structure was a constructed as a step Pyramid and later additional material was added to transform it into a true Pyramid with flat triangular sides.
It is difficult to be certain of the original form because the entire outer shell has collapsed, perhaps this occurred while it still was being built. What remains is a giant, 210 feet (65 meters) tall, steep sided cube with two terraced steps near the top, surrounded by deep mounds of debris. It appears that two additional steps existed in the 15th century but have collapsed since that time.
Although the possibility remains that this building was deliberately destroyed for ritual reasons, mainstream archaeology is convinced that the collapse was a result of inadequate engineering and that the Pyramid at Meidum represents a false step in Pyramid development.
(right) Photograph from EgyptArchive.
Sneferu's Pyramids at Dahshur The Bent Pyramid
Sneferu turned to Dahshur (Dashur or archaic Dashhoor) for his next project, the unique "Bent" Pyramid. Unlike any other known Pyramid, the angle of the flat sides changes at approximately the midpoint of the sides from 55 to 43 degrees. Archaeologists are quick to speculate that the building was showing signs of failure necessitating a change of plans. Indeed, cracks have been found in the structure. Another possibility is that the Egyptians, always very conscious of the symbolic and hyperdimensional significance of shapes and angles, deliberately built the Pyramid to this design to create a desired effect. The Bent Pyramid is 344 feet (105 M) tall.
There is a small Pyramid south of the Bent Pyramid, and a mortuary temple near its eastern side. The original polished limestone outer casing is mostly intact, leaving this Pyramid the closest to its' intended appearance of the Pyramids of Egypt.
The Bent Pyramid of Sneferu at Dahshur, the Red Pyramid is in the distance on the right, photograph from EgyptArchive.
by E.J. Andrews, 1842.
Unique among the large Pyramids, the Bent Pyramid has two entrances on two different sides, North (as is usual) and West, shown in the above cutaway drawings. Like nearly everything about the Pyramids this has encouraged speculation regarding its' meaning and purpose.
The Egyptians used many clever devices to prevent tomb robbers from gaining access to the inner chambers. Here is a simple sliding doorway of stone designed to be difficult to move once it is closed. The top figure shows it in the open position, the heavy stone slab out of the way to the right. Below the stone has moved to cover the opening. To the right is a side view. From the Bent Pyramid, Engraving by E.J. Andrews, 1842
The Red Pyramid
The Red Pyramid of Sneferu at Dahshur, photograph from EgyptArchive.
Sneferu's third large Pyramid, the Red Pyramid at
Dahshur, located 2 1/2 miles (4 km) North of the Bent Pyramid, has flat triangular sides at a 43 degree angle, and is 340 feet (104 meters) tall. Whatever engineering problems may have existed in the building of the Meidum and Bent Pyramids were resolved and the Red Pyramid has survived the ages in excellent condition, save the pilfering of it's fine limestone casing and its' royal treasures. The lesser quality local limestone used in the construction of the core has a reddish hue, giving the Pyramid it's color and name. The Red Pyramid is the third largest Pyramid of Egypt, surpassed only by those built by Sneferu's son and grandson, Cheops and Chephren.
Geologist Robert M. Schoch has examined the central chamber of the Red Pyramid and concluded that it shows considerable weathering, unlike the remainder of the interior, as if it is a much earlier structure that was enclosed by the building of the Pyramid. The idea of incorporating important fragments of earlier wall sculptures into later reliefs is well known in Egyptology and so the possibility of an ancient-at-the-time temple below the Red Pyramid has great plausibility.
The interior of the Red Pyramid is simpler than the Bent Pyramid, leading some to suppose hidden chambers and perhaps Sneferu himself remain to be found.
Interior of the Red Pyramid by E.J. Andrews, 1842.
Map of the Dahshur Pyramid field by E.J. Andrews, 1842.