The Collapsed Pyramid Of Meidum
Unfortunately, this is one of Egypt's forgotten sites and is rarely visited. Most modern travelers visit sites like the Pyramids of Giza or the Step Pyramid of Sakkara. In the last few years, some travel agencies have organized trips to the Pyramid of Meidum and Dashur in one day. We hope this continues since the Collapsed Pyramid is a unique and worthwhile site.
The Pyramid Of Meidum, often called the Meidum Pyramid, stands out as a remarkable monument marking the transition from the Early Dynastic Period to the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt. Constructed during the reign of Kind Snefru, it is an archaeological wonder that has puzzled.
Egyptologists for centuries. This article explores this enigmatic structure's history, architecture, and significance.
How to Get There:
Drive along the road to Sakkara, go past that site, and continue for about an hour until you see the Pyramid.
There is another way to reach Medium that takes longer, but this way is much faster. Take the Fayoum Oasis road and join the Assyut desert road. After about 77Km you will see the Pyramid on your left side. There is an admission fee of 300 LE.
The Meidum Pyramid is located in Lower Egypt, approximately 72 kilometers south of modern Cairo. It is believed to have been constructed during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, with some attributing its original construction to Pharaoh Huni, the last ruler of the Third Dynasty. However, no concrete evidence links Huni to the Pyramid, leaving its origin a mystery.
The more widely accepted theory is that the Pyramid was built by Kind Snefru, who ruled during the early Fourth Dynasty. This theory is supported by the fact that the Pyramid was named "Snefru Endures," and several of Snefru's sons were buried in mastabas surrounding the Pyramid.
The Plan of the Pyramid
The last King of the 3rd Dynasty, King Huni, built the Pyramid of Meidum in the style of a step pyramid. When it was newly constructed, it featured eight steps, one built right on top of the other! For a long time, Egyptologists thought the Pyramid was built by King Snefru, the builder of the two pyramids in Dashur.
They once believed that based on some graffiti in the funerary Temple, located at the eastern side of the Pyramid, which had been discovered at the end of the 19th century. However, it was found that some Ancient Egyptian travelers from the 19th Dynasty (1300 B.C.) had indeed left this graffiti, recording their admiration for the great structure that King Snefru had built. It seems more likely that King Huni had left his Pyramid unfinished, and his successor, King Snefru, finished the excellent task for him. Therefore, later generations thought it was the work of Snefru.
It is hard today to believe that one King would have requested that three pyramids be built for him, the two in Dashur and the third in Medium. Today, many believe that it had been the work of Huni, completed by his son after his death, to memorialize his father for eternity.
The Collapsed Pyramid received its name because, from a distance, it looks like a vast tower surrounded by a pile of rubble. The Pyramid was 93m high and built with a square base with sides measuring about 114m long. The entrance of the Pyramid was located almost 30m above ground level, in the northern face. It led to a corridor that descends 54m, a unique feature among all the other descending passages, one of the easiest passageways to traverse. It would help if you had a flashlight to light your way, as most of the lamps are broken (I have told the inspectors several times to change them, but I have yet to hear from anyone!). At the end of the corridor, you will find a small chamber, roughly cut in the bedrock, precisely underneath the apex of the Pyramid. Then, at the end of this room, you will find a wooden ladder that leads up to the burial chamber. As you do this ancient climb, you will notice some enormous beams of cedar wood that are 4600 years old.
In front of the eastern side of the Pyramid, you will find a small, intact funerary temple, even today! This Temple has no paintings or inscriptions, but when you enter it, if you are careful, you will see that on the front of the door on the western wall, there is black graffiti left by passing travelers in the 19th Dynasty who came here and then recorded their visit. In front of the Temple, you will see a causeway that traditionally led to the mummification Temple at the far end. Unfortunately, the mummification Temple has been destroyed, and nothing remains!
Originally designed as a step pyramid, the Meidum Pyramid underwent a significant transformation during Snefru's reign. The king ordered the conversion of the step pyramid into a true pyramid, which involved filling in the steps with limestone encasing. Unfortunately, the Meidum Pyramid partially collapsed due to construction errors, resulting in the present-day structure that resembles a three-stepped tower.
The collapse of the pyramid is attributed to two primary construction errors. First, the outer layer of the pyramid was built on sand rather than rock, compromising its stability. Second, the inner step pyramids were designed as the final stage, with polished outer surfaces and sloping platforms. This design flaw further weakened the structure, making it susceptible to collapse during heavy rain.
The internal structure of the Meidum Pyramid is relatively simple compared to its successors. The entrance is located above ground level on the north face of the pyramid. A descending passage leads to a horizontal path below ground level, with two small chambers or niches on either side. A vertical shaft at the end of the course leads to the burial chamber, which is located at ground level.
The burial chamber features a corbelled roof, an innovative technique used to manage the pressure exerted by the pyramid's mass. However, no sarcophagus or evidence of burial has been found inside the chamber.
The Meidum Pyramid was part of a larger complex that included a chapel, a satellite pyramid, an enclosure wall, and a causeway. The chapel, built against the eastern face of the pyramid, served as a place for offerings and rituals. The smaller satellite pyramid, located to the south, was already heavily damaged when it was discovered.
The enclosure wall, measuring approximately 236 by 218 meters, surrounded the entire complex. A causeway, cut into the bedrock and encased in limestone, connected the pyramid to the surrounding landscape.
Excavations and Discoveries
The Meidum Pyramid has been the subject of numerous excavations and studies since the nineteenth century. Early explorers such as John Shae Perring, Karl Richard Lepsius, and Flinders Petrie worked on uncovering the secrets of the pyramid. Researchers like Ludwig Borchardt, Alan Rowe, and Ali el-Kholi continued the exploration in the twentieth century.
These excavations revealed important information about the pyramid's construction, original dimensions, and eventual collapse. However, many mysteries still surround the Meidum Pyramid, including its true builder, the purpose of its internal chambers, and the reason for its failure.
Significance of the Meidum Pyramid
The Meidum Pyramid is of great importance to the understanding of ancient Egyptian history and architecture. It marks a transition from the step pyramid design of the Early Dynastic Period to the basic pyramid form that would dominate the Old Kingdom. Additionally, the Meidum Pyramid introduced several architectural innovations that would become standard in future pyramid complexes, such as the burial chamber within the pyramid's core, the eastern chapel, and corbelled roofs.
Despite the pyramid's collapse, it is a testament to the ingenuity and ambition of ancient Egyptian builders. The lessons learned from the Meidum Pyramid's construction errors likely influenced the design of subsequent pyramids, such as the Bent Pyramid and the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Tomb 17 is a major highlight in this area, so don't miss it!
About 300m north of the Pyramid are tombs built in the 4th Dynasty and found in 1855. They yielded priceless treasures to the Egyptian Museum! Among them, you will find the grave of Ra-Hotep and his wife, Nofert, and two beautiful limestone statues of them, still in perfect condition, and they share a place of honor in the Cairo Museum today. Ra-Hotep was the son of King Snefru, the commander of the Egyptian army in the 4th Dynasty, and a Chief Priest in the center of worship of Ra, the sun god.
Another was found near the tomb of Ra-Hotep, the great vault of Nefer-Maat. The best and oldest paintings ever seen in a grave were discovered here. They are now exhibited in the Egyptian Museum and are in the same room as the statue of Ra-Hotep and his wife. The most famous is called the "Scene of the Geese of Meidum." It is a beautiful scene of 6 Egyptian geese together, made on a mud brick wall, covered with a coat of stucco, and painted. It is another of the antique treasures of the Egyptian museum.
To the east of the Pyramid is another set of tombs dating back to the 4th Dynasty. One was for an unknown person and had no inscription at all. Going inside is a real adventure! Tomb robbers illegally created the only way in. I usually take my groups there, but I must ensure they are fit; it is a tiny space worth the visit if they can. The entrance leads to a descending corridor that is about 10m long. From there is a small shaft, with a modern wooden ladder that takes you down to another tunnel, at the end of which you will find a hole in the wall, like a needle hole, which you can't get through that easily; which can only be traversed by crawling on your belly as the ancient tomb-robbers who once did the same. Afterward, you will find a larger passageway made of enormous limestone blocks. Midway along this tunnel, you will find an entrance to the burial chamber; it is made of limestone but is so impressive and elegant! At the end of the room is a massive granite sarcophagus with the lid slightly ajar and set aside. It is empty, long since plundered by tomb robbers thousands of years ago. Underneath the top, you will find a small, ancient wooden hammer stuck underneath the heavy lid and forgotten by the tomb robbers.
The Pyramid Of Meidum is a fascinating historical and architectural marvel that intrigues researchers and visitors alike. As a monument that marks the transition from the Early Dynastic Period to the Old Kingdom, it offers valuable insights into the evolution of ancient Egyptian architecture and cultural practices. While many mysteries still surround the Meidum Pyramid, its enduring legacy highlights the skill and ingenuity of the ancient Egyptians who built it.