- The Bent Pyramid of Snofru -

  Dashur   Snofru    
  Bent Pyramid of Snofru   Meidum Pyramid    
  Red Pyramid of Snofru        
             
           
           


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The Bent Pyramid owes its modern-day name to the fact that the upper half of this pyramid was built with a smaller angle than the lower part, giving it a very characteristic bend. The Ancient Egyptian name for this pyramid was xa rsj, The Southern Shining One, a reference to the fact that it was built at the Southern edge of Dashur.

It is also the first pyramid that was built by Snofru at Dashur, after he probably had built the Step Pyramid at Meidum. The fact that he abandonned Meidum and its Step Pyramid to try out a new design at Dashur may probably reflect a change in ideology, whereby the tomb of the king was no longer considered as a staircase to the stars, but rather as a symbol of the solar cult and of the primeval mound from which all life had sprung.

There is evidence within the core of the Bent Pyramid that it was begun as a much smaller pyramid, with a slope of some 60°. Structural problems, caused mainly by the unstable sandy underground, forced the builders to encase this central pyramid in a girdle with a slope of 54°27'44". This was the slope for the lower part of the pyramid as it stands today.

Unfortunately, the building technique that was used -a technique going back to the Step Pyramids which consisted of using inward leaning courses- did not help to stabilise this monument. Fearing that the pyramid would collapse under its own weight, its slope was lowered to 43°22' somewhere halfway up the building. It is possible that the upper part of the Bent Pyramid was continued only after finishing the Red Pyramid, which was built a couple of kilometres to the North of the Bent Pyramid. In any case, the Red Pyramid has exactly the same slope of 43°22' as the upper part of the Bent Pyramid. In its finished state, this pyramid has a base length of 188 metres and is 105 metres high.
 

 

The full titulary of Snofru written within a Serekh on a limestone stela found near the Bent Pyramid at Dashur.

 

3-dimensional view on the Bent Pyramid, showing its complex internal structure.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 102.

The internal structure of the Bent Pyramid is as innovative as the pyramid itself. Unlike any other pyramid, there are two internal structures: with entrances in the North and West sides.

From the north, a passage descends down to an antechamber. In order to deal with the downward pressur of the pyramid on this chamber, its roof was made of different courses, with each course projecting more inwards than the course below. This technique, known as corbelling, was also used for the pyramid at Meidum. The burial chamber, also with a corbelled roof, is located above the antechamber.

The second entrance, in the West face of the pyramid, lead down via a descending passage to a horizontal corridor which was intended to be blocked by some portcullis slabs. The second burial chamber, behind these portcullises, also has a corbelled roof. It is at a higher level than the first burial chamber. Scaffoldings of cedar beams were intended to give the room some additional support.

After they were completed, the two burial chambers were connected by a passage that was cut out through the existing masonry. It is not known why Snofru wanted to have two burial chambers in this pyramid, but perhaps this too can be explained by the clear experimental nature of this monument.
 

   
 

A view on the Bent Pyramd, with its smaller satellite to the south.

Probably at around the same time as when the slope of the main pyramid was decreased, work started to the South to build a smaller satellite pyramid. This pyramid, with a base length of 53 metres and a height of 32.5 metres, was probably an adaptation of the concept of the South Tomb found in the complex of Netjerikhet at Saqqara. Its internal structure is a precursor for the pyramid of Kheops at Giza. It has a descending and then an ascending passage, with a smaller version of Kheops' Grand Gallery. The actual burial chamber is far too small for a human burial and may probably have been intended to house the Ka statue of the king.

Between the satellite and the main pyramid, there was a small offering place. Two funerary stelae, bearing the titulary of Snofru, were erected along the east face of the satellite pyramid.

A small offering chapel, also with two funerary stelae, was built against the east face of the main pyramid. Like the eastern chapel of the pyramid of Meidum, this chapel is too small to be an actual mortuary temple.

An enclosure wall surrounded both the main and satellite pyramids, with a causeway leading from its Northeast towards a small rectangular structure in the East, about halfway down to the valley. This structure shares features of both Valley Temples and Morturay Temples in later pyramid complexes. It has the courtyard, pillars and statues that would become traditional in later mortuary temples, but it was built at some distance of the pyramid, which is typical for the Valley Temple.

Eventhough this pyramid was finally completed, including additional constructions such as the satellite pyramid and the Mortuary Temple, Snofru was buried in his third pyramid: the Red Pyramid, built a couple of kilometres North of the Bent Pyramid.

 

Overview of the Pyramid complex, with a 3-D reconstruction of the 'Mortuary Temple'.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 104.