Egypt // Cairo and the Pyramids //


The Dahshur pyramid field contains some of the most impressive of all the pyramids, and some of the most significant in the history of pyramid-building. The pyramids are in two groups. To the east are three Middle Kingdom complexes, dating from the revival of pyramid-building (c.1991–1790 BC) that culminated near the Fayoum. Though the pyramids proved unrewarding to nineteenth-century excavators, their subsidiary tombs yielded some magnificent jewellery (now in the Egyptian Museum).

To the north, the pyramids of XII Dynasty pharaohs Seostris III and Amenenmhat II are little more than piles of rubble, but the southernmost of the three, the Black Pyramid of Amenemhat III (Joseph’s pharoah in the Old Testament, according to some), is at least an interesting shape: though its limestone casing has long gone, a black mud-brick core is still standing (its black basalt capstone is in the Egyptian Museum).

More intriguing, however, are the two Old Kingdom pyramids further into the desert, which have long tantalized archeologists with a riddle. Both of them are credited to Snofru (c.2613–2588 BC), father of Cheops and founder of the IV Dynasty, whose monuments constitute an evolutionary link between the stepped creations of the previous dynasty at North Saqqara and the true pyramids of Giza.

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