Dahshur Archaeological Site



Location: 40 km South of Cairo Map

Open: 8am- 4pm Oct- Apr

8am- 5pm May- Sep

8am- 3pm during Ramadan


Description of Dahshur Archaeological Site

 Dahshur Archaeological Site is an ancient archeological site located 40 km South of Cairo in Egypt. The unique architecture of pyramids presented here made this site an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most notable structures of the site is Bent (South) Pyramid and Red (North) Pyramid that were constructed during rule of Sneferu of the 4th dynasty. These magnificent tombs are easily accessed by roads. You have to take in consideration that hiking around a desert carries its dangers. Take plenty of water with you, cover your head and take plenty of sun screen if you don't want to burn under unforgiving Saqqara sun.


The first two real pyramids

Following the first Meidum pyramid project, the construction of the Dahshur pyramids during the reign of Snefru was an extremely important learning experience for the Egyptians. It enabled them to acquire the knowledge and the know-how necessary to pass from a step pyramid, such as that of Djoser, to a pyramid with smooth faces. Ultimately, the breadth of their experience will enable them to build the Great Pyramid of Giza, the last of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity still standing today.


The Bent Pyramid

The Egyptian Bent Pyramid is the southern of the two great pyramids at Dahshur and differs from all other Egyptian pyramids because of its unique shape caused by construction problems. She was born around 2650 BC. Built under Pharaoh Snofru, the first king of the 4th dynasty. This pyramid is the first structure designed from the ground up as a real pyramid, although Snofru was already busy building a tomb in the form of a step pyramid at the Meidum pyramid. It is the fourth largest Egyptian pyramid. In contrast to all other pyramids, the outer cladding has been largely preserved here. This pyramid was probably not used for burial, but only as a cenotaph or place of worship, since the Red Pyramid was another real pyramid that was built as a tomb for Snofru. In July 2019, the Bent Pyramid was opened to the public for the first time since 1965.

As early as the 17th century, European travelers to Egypt such as Robert Huntington, Richard Melton and Richard Pococke described the unusually shaped pyramid in their travelogues. The pyramid complex was first systematically examined by John Shae Perring in September 1839. Karl Richard Lepsius in the 19th century and Flinders Petrie in the early 20th century also dealt with the building. After 1945, Abdel Salam Hussain and Alexandre Viarille conducted research, but the documentation did not survive. A fundamental investigation did not take place until the early 1950s under Ahmed Fakhry. Research by Vito Maragioglio and Celeste Rinaldi, Josef Dorner and by the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo under the direction of Rainer Stadelmann followed around 1980.

The Bent Pyramid was begun by King Sneferu in the 15th year of his reign as a second tomb after the completion of his step pyramid at Meidum. As a location, he chose a new necropolis near today's Dahshur. The reason he started building a second pyramid is not known, but may have to do with moving the capital. The new structure was the first pyramid planned from the beginning as a real pyramid, although it could not be completed as such due to construction problems.

The location of the structure called Apparition of Snofru - South Pyramid is a desert plateau, the subsoil of which consists of relatively soft argillaceous slate slabs. The pyramid was built in the hitherto unused area of ​​roughly hewn blocks quarried from the local limestone. Gaps in the masonry were filled with boulders and rubble and in some cases with plaster of paris.

First construction phase
In the first construction phase, a steep pyramid with a base length of 157 m and an inclination angle of about 58° (possibly even 60°) was planned. If the pyramid had been completed in this form, it would have reached a height of about 125 m. The pyramid was built in this form using the technique of inclined layers that had been tried and tested in step pyramids to date. While this technique improved the stability of the step pyramids, in which the substructure lay under the pyramid, it led to massive problems with this pyramid, since the inclined positions increased the pressure on the inside of the pyramid and in the chambers and in the pyramid body corridors led to stability problems, cracks and even a risk of collapse. In this phase, the building was probably only half bricked up when the stability problems became evident. Due to the good overall degree of preservation of the pyramid, this first construction phase can only be indirectly verified by misalignments at about 12.70 m from the entrance in the lower descending passage and at about 11.60 m in the upper descending passage.

Second construction phase
To improve stability, the builders reduced the angle of inclination to 54°. For this purpose, an approximately 15.70 m wide belt was built around the pyramid of the first construction phase. This increased the base length to 188 m. Here, too, inclined wall layers were used. If the slope angle of 54° had been maintained, it would have reached a height of 129.4 m and a volume of about 1,524,000 cubic meters. The Bent Pyramid would thus be the third tallest pyramid in the world, but would still be behind the Red Pyramid (1,694,000 cubic meters) in volume, so even then it would only be the fourth tallest pyramid in Egypt. However, since the construction problems could not be solved by the measures, the construction was stopped at a height of 49 m. The masonry of this phase is faced with fine Tura limestone.


Third construction phase
In the third phase of construction, the angle was reduced to 43° and the masonry, just like in the Red Pyramid, was laid in horizontal layers, resulting in a depressurization of the interior. This created the unique kink that is not found in any other pyramid. Due to the lower angle of inclination of the upper part, the total height was reduced to 105 m. The total volume was 1,440,808 cubic meters. The upper section is also faced with fine Tura limestone.

construction problems
The pyramid was built on a soft argillaceous slate subsoil, unlike most others on solid rocky subsoil. This was probably done to facilitate substructure work as the slate was easier to excavate. However, the subsoil offered insufficient support for the stone masses of the pyramid, and subsidence occurred, which was shown by cracks in the masonry of the pyramid and in particular the passages and chambers. Combined with the problems caused by the inward-sloping masonry, this apparently led to doubts about the stability and thus the suitability of the structure as a tomb. At first an attempt was made to cover up cracks in the walls of the corridors with plaster mortar, later wooden beams were attached as supports in the chambers. Apparently the quality of the building was not good enough for the king's burial, which presumably led him to commission another monument, the Red Pyramid, a little further north. At the same time he operated the conversion of the Meidum pyramid to a real pyramid. The Bent Pyramid itself was completed with a reduced temple program and probably took over the function of a cult pyramid for the Red Pyramid to the north.

The substructure
The interior of the Bent Pyramid is unique in that two entrances to two separate burial chambers were created here, which are connected by a subsequently created corridor.

Lower chamber system
An entrance is in the middle of the north side, about 11.80 m above ground level. During the first construction phase, the entrance was about 6 m high. A 25° steep, 74 m long, 1.05 m high and 1.10 m wide passage descends to an antechamber which is already underground. The dimensions of the antechamber are 5.40 m long and 12.60 m high with a corridor width of only 1.10 m. The ceiling of the antechamber is formed by a corbelled vault made of massive limestone blocks.

A steep and narrow staircase leads to the actual lower main chamber at a height of 6.50 m. This also has a ceiling made of corbels and is therefore 17.20 m high with a floor area of ​​4.96 m × 6.30 m. There is no evidence that this chamber was ever used for burial. On the southern side of the corbel vault, the passage leading to the upper chamber system opens at a height of about 12 m. A short passage opens into a vertical shaft, which lies exactly on the axis of the pyramid. This shaft is usually referred to as a "chimney". The shaft ends at the top with a small corbelled vault. A few meters above the short entrance to the shaft there is also a small corbelled vault for pressure relief, which is open to the lower main chamber.

Upper chamber system
The second entrance is at a height of 33.32 m on the west side. A 67.66 m long passage leads downwards. At the end of the sloping passage is a small pit, which may have been used to keep rainwater out during construction. On the last section in front of the upper burial chamber, the now horizontal, approximately 20 m long corridor is provided with two barriers.

The locking systems are unique in that they consisted of chambers with an inclined plane on which the locking stone could slide into position rather than the usual falling stone dams. Between the two barrier systems is a shaft the full width of the corridor. Like all chambers, the quarry stone chambers are provided with corbelled vaults. The exterior of the two locking systems was locked. The barrier stone is still in position today, but is pierced with a rectangular opening. The inner locking mechanism was never closed. Its locking stone is still held in the open position by a wooden beam.


This burial chamber measures 7.97 m × 5.26 m and is 16.50 m high due to the vault that cantilevers on all sides. The upper chamber appears to have never been completed, as the masonry was left rough and not smoothed. Cracks in the chamber and corridor walls were lined with plaster. One of the blocks walled up in the burial chamber showed construction worker graphics with the name of Sneferu, which clearly assigned the pyramid.

A sarcophagus was not found, but the lower part of the chamber was bricked up and remains of cedar beams were found. Vito Maragioglio and Celeste Rinaldi took the view that the lining was either a base for a coffin, or should serve as a sarcophagus substitute for a wooden coffin. According to Rainer Stadelmann, both the masonry and the beams may have served to prepare for the smoothing of the corbel vault or to support the chamber against an impending collapse.

Stadelmann suspects that the western entrance was only planned during construction, since subsidence problems in the lower chamber system were possibly already struggling at that time. Thus, the "fireplace" should have represented the originally planned entrance to the burial chamber

The corridor of the upper chamber system was closed until the 1950s and could only be reached through the connecting corridor from the lower chamber system. It was only opened to the outside of the pyramid during the exploration at that time.

Connecting corridor
Both burial chambers are connected by a 0.74 m wide and 0.92 m high slightly winding sloping tunnel that started between the barriers in front of the upper chamber and ended high in the corbel vault of the lower chamber. This corridor was only subsequently hewn into the masonry and is evidence of a precise knowledge of the location of the chambers. It was probably intended to connect the upper corridor system with the chimney shaft of the lower system. Apparently, this shaft was just missed and the corridor ended in the upper corbel vault of the lower main chamber.


The red pyramid

The Red Pyramid, also known as the North Pyramid, is the largest of the pyramids in the Dahshur Necropolis. It owes its name to the reddish color of the rock from which its unclad core was built. It is about as high and almost as old as the Bent Pyramid two kilometers to the south. After this South Pyramid, the North Pyramid of Dahshur was the third great pyramid built for King Sneferu (Pharaoh c. 2670-2620 BC) during the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom and probably served as his tomb. With it, a real geometric pyramid, planned as such from the beginning, was completed for the first time. The Red Pyramid is the third largest of the ancient Egyptian pyramids and even surpasses the Pyramid of Chephren in its base dimensions.

Pietro della Valle provided the first description of the first two chambers of the pyramid during his visit to the pyramid in the winter of 1615/1616. Edward Melton visited the red pyramid in 1660, as did the Bohemian Franciscan missionary Václav Remedius Prutký in the 18th century. Robert Wood, James Dawkins and Giovanni Battista Borra carried out a first survey in 1750, but could not reach the burial chamber because they did not have a suitable ladder.

Archaeological research into the Red Pyramid began with the investigations of John Shae Perring in 1839 and the Prussian Lepsius Expedition in 1843. Richard Lepsius cataloged the pyramid under number XLIX (49) in his pyramid list. This was followed by investigations by Flinders Petrie and George Reisner. From 1944 more detailed research was carried out by Abdulsalam Hussein and from 1951 by Ahmed Fakhry. However, these works have not been published. However, a thorough, systematic investigation was not carried out until 1982 by Rainer Stadelmann.

The pyramid complex was in a restricted military zone until the mid-1990s and is currently the site of several excavations. A workers' settlement of the builders and a necropolis were found in the district.

The attribution to Snofru originally arose from the fact that the nearby necropolis only includes graves of officials under Snofru. Furthermore, a decree of King Pepi I found in the Valley Temple refers to the pyramid city of Sneferus. This assignment could be confirmed because in the area of ​​the mortuary temple cladding stones were found that bear inscriptions, including the king's name Sneferus. A limestone block with remains of hieroglyphs was also found there, which can be added to the Horus name Snofrus, "Neb-maat" (nb-m3ˁ.t).

Construction of the pyramid probably began in the 29th or 30th year of the reign of Sneferu (about 2640 BC). This is supported by a hieratic inscription on one of the foundation blocks, which refers to the year of the 15th cattle census, which was probably carried out every two years under Snofru. The most recent found inscription of the construction period refers to the 24th year of the cattle census. This made it the third great pyramid erected for this pharaoh. At the time construction began, the step pyramid in Meidum was already completed as an eight-step pyramid. The Bent Pyramid was also largely completed in Dahshur, but it showed serious structural defects that made it undesirable to use it as a royal tomb.

Apparently, the first construction work for another great pyramid in Dahshur was started when the Bent Pyramid was still being built next to it; parallel to this, the expansion of the step pyramid into a non-stepped, smooth-surfaced pyramid was carried out in Meidum. The problems that arose during the construction of the Bent Pyramid were taken into account in the new construction project in a number of ways. A building site further north with a more stable subsoil was chosen, a building with a flatter angle of inclination was planned and the building was constructed using adapted masonry technology so that problems with cracks in the masonry no longer occurred. In addition, no tunnel system was laid underground.

The pyramid rests on a foundation of several layers of high quality Tura limestone. The core of the pyramid, on the other hand, consists of reddish limestone blocks that were extracted from quarries in the immediate vicinity of the pyramid. The current name of the Red Pyramid comes from the coloring of this material. Inscriptions with dates were found on several blocks of the built material. Based on the information found, it can be concluded that about a fifth of the pyramid was erected within two years, assuming that the cattle census took place every two years. However, the two-year cycle of the livestock census is not without controversy.


The pyramid was built using the improved techniques used for the top part of the Bent Pyramid. The stone layers were now horizontal from the start, so that the pressure inside the pyramid – which had led to cracks and the danger of the chambers inside the Bent Pyramid collapsing – was not increased. As for their upper side surfaces, the angle of inclination has now been set to less than 44°. John Perring gives it as 43° 36′ 11″, based on the surviving stones of the cladding, with a base measurement of the equivalent of 219.3 m and a height of 104.4 m.

This angle determined by Perring corresponds to an ancient Egyptian angle specification of 7.35 seconds, i.e. a tangent of 7/7.35 (= 20/21). With this angle of inclination, a height comparable to the Bent Pyramid of about 105 m (200 royal cubits) could be achieved by significantly increasing the base length to about 220 m (420 royal cubits). The side faces of the pyramidal core have a slightly concave kink running up from the center of the base. This should possibly improve the stability of the fairing mounted on it. In contrast to the previous buildings, the pyramid was completed without any changes to the plan.

In 1982 R. Stadelmann discovered the fragments of a pyramidion in the rubble of Dahshur in front of the east side of the pyramid. The reassembled and restored pyramidion is now set up in the area of ​​the mortuary temple in front of the Red Pyramid and, like the cladding of the pyramid, consists of fine Tura limestone. It was carved from a monolithic block and measures 3 king cubits (about 1.57 m) at its base, the not quite equal angle of inclination of the sides is about 54°. This pyramidion is therefore steeper than the remains of the Red Pyramid or the upper part of the neighboring older Bent Pyramid (around 43°) and about as steep as the lower part. There are no inscriptions on the stone, nor any indication of the attachment of metal sheets which, according to Herodotus, are said to have been at the tops of the pyramids.

All the corridors and chambers of the Red Pyramid are above the base of the pyramid in the brick core. It is the first and only pyramid that does not have any underground passages. The reason may lie in the king's increasing identification with the sun god Re, but for purely practical reasons it is also conceivable that work on the pyramid could be accelerated by doing without subterranean components. Although the chambers are above ground, they are walled up on a shallow excavation about 10 m deep.

The entrance to the pyramid is on the north wall at a height of 28 m and is shifted 4 m from the central axis to the east. The descending corridor descends 62.63 m at an angle of 27° to the base of the pyramid. This corridor is only 3 feet high and 4 feet wide. At the foot of the descending passage is a short shaft, presumably intended to prevent rainwater from entering the chambers during construction. From there a short horizontal passage leads to the first antechamber. Fallsteinsperre are not available.

The two antechambers have identical dimensions. With a length of 8.36 m and a width of 3.65 m, the eleven-tiered corbelled ceiling rises to a height of 12.31 m. Pyramid. From the south-west corner of the first antechamber, a 3 m long corridor leads to the north-east corner of the second antechamber, which is located exactly in the middle of the pyramid. At a height of 7.6 m, on the south side of the chamber, is the entrance to another 7 m long corridor, which leads to the actual burial chamber. The wooden staircase in the second antechamber is a modern construction to allow visitors to enter the burial chamber.

The actual burial chamber has the dimensions 8.55 m × 4.18 m and a height of 14.67 m. In contrast to the two antechambers, it is oriented in an east-west direction, which was an innovation in pyramid construction. Remains of a sarcophagus have not been found.


The chamber was severely damaged by grave robbers, and several layers of floor stones were torn out. The ceiling and walls are blackened with soot, which may be the result of torches and possible burning of the wooden sarcophagus by the grave robbers. When Perring reopened the chamber, it was partially walled up with limestone, which probably came from a restoration of the Ramesside period. When Hussein cleared the chamber in 1950, both the brickwork and loose stones of the flooring were removed and lost undocumented. Follow-up investigations by Stadelmann were unable to provide any more information about the remains of the original chamber contents.


Pyramid of Amenemhat II

The pyramid of Amenemhat II, also called "white pyramid" because of its limestone facing, is of the smooth-faced type. The monument was excavated in 1894 and 1895 by Jacques de Morgan. The complex is heavily ruined and little or nothing remains of the pyramid. Only part of the access corridor remains, the entrance to which was located to the north, and the underground apartments. The enclosure and the funerary temple have left some traces but the temple in the valley has never been found. This set acquired a certain celebrity thanks to the "treasure of Dahshur" discovered by Jacques de Morgan in the tombs of the princesses Ita, Itaoueret and Sithathormeret, tombs dating from the end of the XIIth dynasty and located in the enclosure to the west of the pyramid.


Pyramid of Sesostris III

The smooth-faced type pyramid of Sesostris III was erected during the 12th dynasty. It is located northeast of the red pyramid. Discovered by John Shae Perring, it was successively excavated by Lepsius, Maspero, de Morgan and more recently Arnold. The discoveries of Jacques de Morgan have remained famous under the name of the Dahshur treasure and represent, among other things, magnificent jewels discovered in the galleries of the queens. Due to a caused explosion, the pyramid now has the appearance of a hill with a huge crater in its center. The difference between its pyramid and the one around it is that King Sesostris III had tombs and galleries built there for two princesses, Sit-Hathor and Merit.


Pyramid of Amenemhat III

The pyramid of Amenemhat III, also called the "black pyramid", is part of the first pyramid complex that Pharaoh Amenemhat III had built, before choosing another site in Hawara for his second pyramid which served as his burial place. Endowed with a remarkably complex infrastructure, the pyramid delivered one of the most beautiful pyramids that have come down to us. The monument was explored and identified for the first time in the 19th century by Jacques de Morgan. An in-depth study was then carried out by Dieter Arnold between 1976 and 1983.


Pyramid of Ameni Kemaou

The pyramid of Ameni Kemaou is of the "smooth-faced" type and is located in Dahchour. It was discovered by Charles Arthur Musès in 1957 and excavated by Ahmad Fakhri. Almost nothing remains of the superstructure. In addition, the infrastructures, still in place, are typical of the pyramids of the end of the XIIth dynasty and of the XIIIth dynasty. The vault was cut in a monolithic block of quartzite so as to receive the body of the pharaoh who was very probably buried there, judging by the presence of human fragments. The looters left the box of canopic jars bearing the pharaoh's title.

2017 anonymous pyramid
In 2017, archaeological excavations revealed the remains of the internal structure of an ancient 3,700-year-old pyramid, the anonymous pyramid of 2017, probably from the XIIIth dynasty. The discovery has been confirmed by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities. Egyptian researchers have found a corridor that leads inside the pyramid, which is still in "good condition". Excavations will continue to discover the rest of the archaeological site.

The necropolises
Between the two pyramids of Snefrou is an Old Kingdom necropolis, formed of great mastabas of the courtiers of the reign, who received the privilege of having their tomb built near that of their sovereign. Three sons of Snefru also built their mastaba at Dahshur: Kanefer (mastaba no 28 in the southern part of the sector east of the red pyramid, Iynefer (mastaba east of the rhomboidal pyramid and Netjeraperef (mastaba II/1 in central Dashur).

The site also includes mastabas from this Middle Kingdom dynasty, including those of three of Sesostris III's viziers, Sobekemhat, Khnumhotep and Nebit.