The Bent Pyramid Of Dahshur

The Bent Pyramid Of Dahshur

The Bent Pyramid of Dahshur was built by Pharaoh Sneferu (2600 -2589 BC). This was the second pyramid built by Sneferu after that Pyramid of Meidum. The Bent Pyramid is spectacular due to its lower part rises from the desert at an inclination of 54 degrees, but the upper part has an inclination of 43 degrees. For this reason, the pyramid gained its name of “Bent Pyramid”.

The Bent Pyramid is one of the best-preserved pyramids and one of the least explored in Egypt. The pyramid appears to have been closed and off-limits for a considerable time, possibly due to a military base in the area.

The Bent Pyramid of Dahshur has its own characteristics that distinguish it from the other pyramids in Egypt:

  • The sudden change in inclination.
  • Two internal layouts, both accessible through entrances situated on the outer faces of the pyramid; one in the northern face, and the other on the western face.
  • Addition of an outer layer built with sloping courses during the construction.

These characteristics have been interpreted as demonstrating a desire of Sneferu to express duality in the architecture, which would have been planned as a whole from the beginning of the construction.

Exploration History of the Bent Pyramid:

The exploration of the Bent Pyramid began when Perring examined it in 1839. Then Flinders Petrie investigated the Bent Pyramid in 1882.

Modern explorations of the Bent Pyramid only began at the end of World War II, when Hussein Effendi and Varille began explorations, which involved cleaning the small blocks out of the lower chambers and a substantial part of the upper chamber and valuable information lost. Sadly, Hussein died in 1949. Ahmed Fakhry took over the work.

Fakhry began his work in 1950 and advised some other investigations in the future. Fakhry published his findings in a 3-volume work “The Monuments of Sneferu at Dahshur”. The Italian Architects V. Maragiolio & C. Rinald (M&R) explored the Bent Pyramid in the 1960s.

Dorner carried out a survey in 1986. While the first color photographs of the interior of the structure appear in 1997 by Andrew Bayuk who created the Guardians Egypt website.

Description of the Bent Pyramid:

The Bent Pyramid rises to 104.7 meters and lies on a square base with sides measuring 189.6 meters on average. The faces bend suddenly at 47 meters above the ground with an angle changing from 54 degrees to 43 degrees.

Then Bent Pyramid today retains a high percentage of its original casing stones. At the ground level, casing blocks rest on foundation stones of variable thickness. The foundations are deeper at the corners of the pyramid (2.5 meters) than along the sides (a single block only) where the additional masonry is substituted with sand and gravels.

A big part of the upper casing of the pyramid is missing. Petrie thinks this destruction of the outer casing has been done in modern times. Perring thinks the lower part of the casing was also destroyed to build new facilities in the modern time. Or by the Cairo earthquake in 1992, which was measured 5.9 on Richter Scale, was centered near the village of Dahshur.

Inside the Bent Pyramid:

The Bent Pyramid is exceptional in its internal layout. It has two largely separate layouts; a lower one with an entrance located on the north face, and an upper layout with an entrance on the west face of the pyramid. These two systems of apartments both contain a vast chamber that is covered with a corbelled vault.

The northern entrance passage is 11.33 meters high from the ground level and leads to the underground chambers of the Bent Pyramid. The northern entrance passage enters an antechamber. The floor of this antechamber is 22.5 meters below the base of the casing.

So it is possible that the greater portion of the descending passage is trenched in the rock.

It is quite probable that the corbels of the antechamber are laying on the natural rock and that the walls of the chamber are simply tiled.

The lower chamber is founded on the rock and paved with slabs inserted between the walls. The rock floor is 15 meters below the pyramid. The corbelled roof of the lower chamber may rest directly on the natural rock, with the chamber walls being mostly tiled, though probably intermingled with larger masonry where it was required like the door was and the chimney for example. A thorough investigation is required to determine the true makeup of this chamber.

This tiling would have no real structural strength, and therefore those superficial cracks are more probably a result of natural deterioration processes spanning some 4500 years. Nothing is seen to be described as subsidence; the chambers are remarkably intact and in good condition.

The Upper Chamber:

The upper chamber is accessed through a corridor that is aligned to the west, and unlike the lower chamber, it is constructed in the superstructure of the pyramid. The upper chamber is about three meters above the base of the pyramid. The preservation of the horizontal corridor is excellent and it is very probable that the masonry extends down to the bedrock to provide a good foundation. A clue is in the well-built shaft discovered in the horizontal corridor.

The upper chamber has been subjected to wanton destruction and modification. The corbelled roof has mostly disappeared, just a faint memory of its past glory can be seen at the very top. The roof is still structurally sound and has no sign of subsidence.

Was it a failure or an intended plan?

By many recent laser scans, all proved that “by structural analysis, this was designed like this. It hasn’t failed; this is actually a great success”.

Let’s see some of the opinions and thoughts of scholars and Egyptologists.

Many scholars believed the pyramid had some difficulties during the construction. So got the shape “Bent Pyramid” due to its lower section slope is steep than its upper section slope. This made a change in inclination.

Some other scholars believe that the Bent Pyramid has another pyramid, smaller but steeper, inside it.

After a certain height of the pyramid, the internal section of the construction subsided, perhaps due to the lack of resistance provided by the desert beneath.

Then architects of the pyramid had nothing to rescue their project but to make it wider and to build a less steep pyramid around it. Then another subsidence happened and the architects reduced the slope of the pyramid’s face and completed the upper structure using a smaller quantity of the stone that had been planned.

Zahi Hawas thinks the alternations were made due to subsidence and damage during construction resulted in a chamber system in the Bent Pyramid that is complicated and difficult to follow. As the pyramid grew upwards sizeable cracks appeared in the three chambers and in the corridor, and it was thought to repair these cracks by fillings.

However, soon it became evident that both the lower chambers and the entrance corridor were seriously damaged and could not be saved by further reparations.

Hawas adds in his book “The Treasures of the Pyramids”, “Eventually all attempts to save the project-even giving up the lower chamber and reducing the pyramid angle of the slope-proved to be in vain. After 15 years of construction work, the boldest of all pyramid projects had to be abandoned.”

Some other Egyptologists think the pyramid was built on a soft layer of salty clay, and this compromised the stability of the whole structure. The core of the pyramid is built from local limestone that rests directly on the clay, while the casing is of fine limestone, which is here better preserved than on any other Egyptian pyramid, stands on an artificially built foundation.

According to the original plan, the walls should be built to a steep angle of 60 degrees; but during the construction, the angle was changed to 55 degrees, and this required that the base be enlarged. This change can be seen in the ceiling and the sidewalls of the north access corridor to the pyramid, about 12 meters from the entrance.

When the structure was 45 meters high, the angle of the slope was changed to 45 degrees. This alternation reduced the materials required for the upper half of the pyramid. Thus the pyramid assumed its characteristic.

Mark Lehner thinks that the Bent Pyramid was modeled to be smaller with a slope of about 60 degrees. But because of the structural problems of the pyramid, a girdle around the stump of the pyramid was added to form a slope of just under 50 degrees.

He says, “these early stages were constructed using the traditional method of laying the course with stones sloping inward. Even at the reduced angle, it appears that there were still major problems until about halfway up, the builders began to set the courses horizontally. It had become clear that the inward-leaning courses, far from aiding stability actually increased the stresses on the pyramid.

The Bent Pyramid was then continued at a much-decreased slope of around 43 to 44 degrees giving it a pronounced bend. It may have been at this point before the upper part was finished, that the decision was taken to begin a new pyramid at North Dahshur. Around the same time, perhaps the 30th year of Sneferu’s reign according to Stadelman work also began on the satellite pyramid.

Frank Monnier suggests there were two possible interpretations to the change of the slope of the pyramid:

  • It was designed in a completely novel way from the outset.
  • A modification of the pyramid shape was improvised during the building work.

Alexander Varille says this profile of the pyramid could symbolize an expression of duality.

This theory is interesting as Sneferu built two pyramids at Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid has two entrances and two internal layouts – if evidence of structural collapse and modification had been found inside the pyramid.

This theory is also contradicted by the fact of the lower layout was never built.

According to the Italian architects (V. Maragiolio & C. Rinald (M & R)) that the unplanned structural issues were significant. The Bent Pyramid was enlarged and it led to unexpected consequences, that is to say, cracks and subsidence that forced architects to give this very non-typical shape of the pyramid.

Few new scholars have other different views that it was not failed, it was planned from the beginning.

The Old Kingdom engineers had to go deep into the desert to find a suitable location for the Bent Pyramid and the quarries to build it. That location was the Eocene rock, the same applied to the Red Pyramid, approximately 2 km to the north. In close proximity to the Bent Pyramid are four depressions that are said to be the quarries for the pyramid, and it has been calculated that their volume is about twice the volume of the pyramid. These quarries flank the pyramid along its north and eastern sides, trenches were dug in the eastern quarry approximately 140 meters from the pyramid. These quarries provided the stone that built the core of the pyramid, and we can be fairly confident that the core of the pyramid rests on the same Eocene rock and clay.

There’s a suggestion that the bedrock of the pyramid is located some 2.5 meters below the casing. This casing for the most part is laid on single foundation stones except for the corners where the foundation stones are more numerous and appear to rest on the bedrock some 2.5 meters below.

Was it a 60-degree pyramid?

Why the 60-degree pyramid was abandoned?

The simple answer could be that there is no 60-degree pyramid.

Simply the pyramid was built within 75 degrees, the original angle commencing from the bottom of the protuberance of the lower block.