Mykerinos pyramid

The Mykerinos pyramid is the third pyramid on the Giza plateau . Much smaller than those of Cheops and Chephren, it marks the end of the era of giant pyramids. If it seems less interesting to us than the other two, it also introduces a certain number of innovative architectural elements which will be taken up by her children.

Historical context

This pyramid was built approximately between -2532 and -2515, during the reign of the pharaoh Mykerinos. He was a pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. We are there in the middle of the old empire.

Recall that Egyptian antiquity has a history in several phases, taking place straddling several millennia. At the end of the Neolithic, 6000 years BC, began the pre-dynastic periods (-6000 to -3400), then arrived the protohistoric period (-3400 to -2900). It was only at its end that we started counting the dynasties, from a new period that we called the thinite period (-3150 to -2650) The thinite period and protohistory are the most often mixed. The thinite period saw the unification of upper and lower Egypt and the establishment of a centralized administration on the pharaoh. As then, around -2650, the old empire.

The old empire lasted until -2200, at the time when the central power, too weak, was fragmented into a multitude of local powers making disappear the concept territorial unit. It will be the “1st intermediate period”. Then there was the Middle Empire, a second intermediate period, then the new Empire, a third intermediate period, and we enter the low era, then into the eras of Antiquity as we know them: Greek period , Roman, Byzantine and Arabic.

The pyramids of Egypt appeared on the basis of mastabas from the thinite period. The first was that of Djoser , it was a step pyramid. Then the architecture will evolve towards smooth-faced pyramids, but not without difficulty: At the beginning of the 4th dynasty several attempts were attempted before arriving at the first successful pyramid, the red pyramid of Snefrou.

Then began the period of the giant pyramids, which ended with that of Mykerinos, which represents the end of this period, with a much more modest pyramid than that of his father Khéphren and his grandfather Khéops .

It is therefore in this historical context that the pyramid of Mykerinos was built.

General description

Mykerinos is also called Menkaourê. The first name is Greek, the second Egyptian. He was the son of Chephren and also decided to have his tomb built near that of his father and grandfather.

Architecturally speaking, the Mykérinos funeral complex is no different from those of these predecessors. It also consists of a central pyramid surrounded by a high wall, a high temple, a causeway, a low temple and annexed pyramids, with the classic diagram of a high temple attached to the pyramid, a causeway going down to ‘at the low temple which served not only as a temple but also as a quay.

The entire Mykérinos funeral complex is located to the southwest of that of Khéphren .


The pyramid of Mykerinos has several peculiarities. First of all, it is the first of a new series of pyramids, it closes the giant pyramids of its predecessors and announces that the future pyramids of the pharaohs will be. Then, it contains many decorations on the palace facade , a unique motif in a pyramid, all periods combined. These decorations are geometric rectangles drawing false doors nested one inside the other. It was a fairly common motif, we find it for example as decoration of the surrounding wall of the funeral complex of Khufu, built 50 years earlier.

Another specificity is the internal structure of the funeral chamber , which will serve as a school for future pyramids. It is a model based on a rectangular funeral chamber having a small corridor serving an annex chamber containing several stores, themselves containing the crowns of the pharaoh and the canopic jars containing the viscera of the body. This distribution had already been implemented at Khéops, but it is Mykérinos who will make the first this internal plan which will be reused by his successors.

The road is also special since unlike the other two on the Giza plateau, that of Mykerinos does not join the two temples. The roadway does not start anywhere nowadays, but probably from a quay which disappeared at the time, it bypasses the lower temple by the West face before going up to the high temple.

The pyramid Massif

The Mykerinos pyramid is currently 63m high, but when it was built it was 65m. Its base is square 105m side and its inclination is 51.20 °, quite close to a perfect pyramid.

It rests on a level surface, as for the pyramid of Khéphren. That is to say that unlike that of Cheops, for which the ground had been leveled before building the pyramid, the pyramids of its two predecessors were built on existing protrusions, to gain in number of blocks to be cut. But this implies that it was necessary to sculpt the ground to accommodate the first layers, to be sure that the latter are perfectly flat, a complex but necessary work.

The massif was built in limestone blocks extracted from the quarries of the Giza plateau, to avoid transport. Cut to the right size, they were brought and placed in horizontal layers whose flatness was close to perfection. The largest blocks were at the bottom of the pyramid, and the higher we went, the narrower they were.

The Egyptians of the time did not question the accuracy of the internal blocks. The apparatus was coarse, with wide interstices. The blocks closest to the edges were finished with a little more care, and the interstices were thinner.