- Hawara -

Monuments and Sites of Ancient Egypt
  Monuments and Sites   Amenemhat III  
  Hawara   Dashur Pyramid    


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Hawara is located near the Fayum oasis, to the South, even, of Meidum, next to one of the channels connecting the Nile to the lake of the oasis. After having abandonned the plan to be buried at Dashur, the southern edge of the Memphite necropolis, Amenemhat III would chose this location, perhaps near to his palace, for his final interment.

The pyramid

Amenemhat's pyramid at Hawara was built with a base length of 105m and a height of 58m, rising with a slope of 48°45'.

The Hawara pyramid was thus built at a much lower slope than Amenemhat's Dashur pyramid, which had been abandonned because its lack of stability. The fear of collapse is probably what caused the builders of the Hawara pyramid to lower the slope with as much as 9°30".

The pyramid's core was built entirely of mudbrick stones with only an outer mantle in limestone.

The limestone encasing has been pillaged by stone robbers centuries ago, but the limestone core still remains, giving the modern-day visitor the impression of a mudbrick mountain.


Locator Map of Abydos/Umm el-Qa'ab

Hawara is located near the Fayum oasis.


3 dimensional drawing of the Hawara Pyramid, showing its subsctructure.
Source: Lehner, Complete Pyramids, p. 181.

The substructure of the Hawara pyramid is a lot less complex that that of its Dashur counterpart. An interesting find that was buried in the floor of the valley temple of the Dashur complex was an architect's model of a pyramid's substructure very similar to that of the Hawara pyramid.


A model in stone of the Hawara pyramid's substructure was found in the floor of the Valley temple of Amenemhat's Dashur complex.
The long corridors were shortened in this model, but the closing mechanism of the burial vault is shown in this model.


The entrance to the substructure is located on the west side of the south face of the pyramid. It descends down into a first chamber, from where it appears to continue to the north, leading to a dead end. A short passage in the ceiling of the first chamber, running east, then angling north and west eventually leads to an antechamber from which the actual burial chamber can be entered.

The burial chamber is often rightly described as a technical marvel. It is carved from a single piece of hard quartzite into a rectangular, unroofed room measuring 7 by 2.5 metres and a height of 1.83m, which was sunk into an open trench. Before the roof was placed over the burial room, the king's quartzite sarcophagus, a second, smaller sarcophagus and two canopic chests were lowered into it.

The roof was composed of some quartzite slabs supported by stone blocks resting on the sand next to the outer walls of the burial chamber. Once the royal burial was done, the sand next to the burial chamber was allowed to move into pits next to it, lowering the roof on top of the chamber, closing it. The ceiling blocks extended beyond the walls of the vault, resting on a ledge cut into the trench into which the vault had been sunk.

Limestone beams leaning against eachother covered this trench and made sure that the pressure of the pyramid above would not press down on the burial chamber. A second, mudbrick vault separated this construction from the pyramid's substructure.

When the burial vault was opened, some bone fragments were found inside the coffins. Several objects, among them an alabaster offering table, bearing the name of princess Neferuptah, were also found in the burial vault, but it is not known why they were there, since a tomb for this princess was found at some distance to the southeast of Hawara.

The so-called 'Labyrinth'

The pyramid lay in the north of an elaborate complex enclosed by a wall measuring 385 by 158 metres. This makes the Hawara complex the largest Middle Kingdom funerary complex.

The entrance to the complex was located at the southern corner of the east wall. A causeway appears to have led up to it.

Unfortunately, almost nothing remains of this vast complex which Greek and Roman visitors, many centuries after it was built, described as a vast labyrinth of open courts, chambers, chapels and hidden crypts. The Greek traveler Herodotos said it had 12 main courts and that the visitor was guided from courtyards into rooms into galleries into more rooms and from there into more courtyards.

An interesting comparison can be made between the layout of the Hawara complex and the complex of Netjerikhet at Saqqara. Both complexes are long rectangular structures oriented north-south. Both have their pyramid located in the north of the complex, be it that with Netjerikhet, there was also a court to the north of the pyramid.