- History -

  3rd Dynasty   History   Hetepheres I
  Huni   Titulary    
  4th Dynasty   Pyramids    
  Snofru   Meidum    
  Kheops   Bent Pyramid    
        Red Pyramid (tomb)    


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Snofru, the first king of the 4th Dynasty, probably was the son of his predecessor Huni and Meresankh I, one of Huni’s secondary wives. His marriage to his half-sister, Hetepheres I, appears to have legitimised his claim to the throne. Although the kings of the 4th Dynasty are thus descendants of the kings of the 3rd Dynasty, Manetho justifies his placing them in a separate dynasty because Snofru came from a different line in the royal family.

Next to Hetepheres, Snofru was married to at least two other but unknown queens, with whom he had several children. A first queen bore him 4 children: one whose name is unknown, then Nefermaat, Rahotep and Ranofer. Hetepheres only seems to have born him one child, Kheops. With his third wife, Snofru may have had one or two children: Kanefer and perhaps Ankh-haf. Nefermaat and Rahotep were buried at the cemetery of Meidum, near the pyramid often wrongly credited Huni. This seems to indicate that they were an older ‘generation’ of Snofru’s offspring, from before he moved to the newer burial grounds of Dashur, some 45 km to the North.

According to Manetho, the first king of the 4th Dynasty ruled for 29 years, but Turin King-list column 3, line 9 only notes 24 years. The Palermo Stone mentions a 6th to 8th cattle count, but is unfortunately fragmentary at this point. It does show, however, that the cattle counts during Snofru's reign were not always held at 2-year intervals, making it difficult to asses how long this king really ruled.

According to the same Palermo Stone, Snofru organised an expedition to Lebanon to obtain the high quality cedar wood needed for the building of ships, holy barks and doors of palaces. He also ordered one or more military expeditions into Nubia, bringing back a large quantity of people and cattle and is believed to be the founder of the fortress Buhen, near the 2nd cataract in Nubia. Although his presence in the Sinai is no more unusual as that of his predecessors, he would later be worshipped as a god in this region. 

His internal policy seems to have been aimed at maintaining royalty and the royal family. Most, but not all, of the high-placed officials and nobles at his court were members of his family. He was also responsible for rearranging the land ownership among his nobles, probably to prevent them from becoming too powerful but also to stimulate the cultivation of marshes. 

It is generally believed that Snofru was responsible for the completion of his predecessor’s pyramid at Meidum, although there is no evidence of Huni's involvement in the building of that pyramid. It is therefor possible that Snofru built the pyramid at Meidum, as well two pyramids at Dashur. It is unknown why Snofru moved the location of the burial grounds to Dashur and not back to the more traditional Saqqara. 

The angle of the sides of the southern pyramid at Dashur, believed by some to be the oldest of the two, was changed from 5431 to 4321 somewhere halfway the building, resulting in the unique shape of this so-called "Bent Pyramid". It has been argued that the angle was decreased in order to decrease the mass of the pyramid, fearing it would crumble otherwise, or in order to diminish the workload.
 

 

Upper part of a statue of Snofru wearing the White Crown, found in the Valley Temple of the Bent Pyramid at Dashur.

Bent Pyramid  

The bent Pyramid of Snofru at Dashur. Note the change in angle of the ribs, to which this pyramid owes it's modern name. The angle was probably changed to decrease the total mass of the pyramid and to prevent it from collapsing under its own weight.

The northern pyramid is the first "true" pyramid, with an angle of 4336. It is called the "Red Pyramid" because of the colour its stones reflect at sunset. The fact that it has almost the same angle as the top of the Bent Pyramid, has sustained the belief that the Bent Pyramid was the oldest of the two.
   

   
Red Pyramid  

The Red pyramid of Snofru, also at Dashur. It is believed that of all the pyramids that were built during Snofru's reign, this was the one in which he was finally buried.

Snofru also became somewhat of a popular figure after his death. His monuments are mentioned in the Middle Kingdom story of Sinuhe and he himself is described as a wise and kind ruler in the story on the Westcar Papyrus.