The Red Pyramid of Dahshur

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur is located about 2 km north of the Bent Pyramid. That’s why sometimes is called the North Pyramid of Dahshur. This was the second pyramid built by Sneferu – father of Khufu, for which the Great Pyramid of Giza was built- in Dahshur after the Bent Pyramid.

The pyramid stands on the west bank of the river, about 6 km from the River Nile. This pyramid is the first true pyramid in Egypt and has the second-largest base of all the Egyptian pyramids. There are three chambers in the pyramid, the first and the second have ground floor level aligned with the base of the whole pyramid. The burial chamber lies above the pyramid base level for 735 cm.

Mark Lehner in his book “The Complete Pyramids” says “In around his 30th year on the throne, Sneferu abandoned the Bent Pyramid as his burial place (He thinks the Bent Pyramid failed), although, as at Meidum, he later completed it. Instead, he began work on the North, or Red, Pyramid”.

Plan your tour: Tour to Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Saqqara, Dahshur and Memphis

Why called Red Pyramid of Dahshur:

The Red Pyramid name simply comes from the red hue that the pyramid core stones display. Locals call it the pyramid of bats. This Red Pyramid of Dahshur in terms of quality is a Giza class pyramid. The quality of the stonework is excellent and the corbelled walls of the chambers give us a hint of how fine the grand gallery would have looked in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Facts of Red Pyramid of Dahshur:

Length of square side of the pyramid at the ground level: 220 meters.

The area of the square is 48400,00 square meters.

The diameter of the circle is 247.5 meters and the circle is 48110,55 square meters.

The difference is 0.59% or 289.45 square meters.

The overall impression of this simplified calculation is positive.

Exploration history of the Red Pyramid of Dahshur:

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur was explored by Perring, who published it in “Pyramids of Gizeh part III” in 1839. Then Petrie explored the Red Pyramid in the 1880s. Abdul Salam Hussein explored the Red Pyramid in 1947.

The Italian architects Maragioglio and Rinaldi (M&R) explored the pyramid in the 1960s. Then George Hart explored the pyramid at the beginning of the 1990s. Rainer Stadelmann who worked at Dahshur for some years thinks that Sneferu was buried in the Red Pyramid.

Description of the Red Pyramid:

The Red Pyramid still has a lot of debris at the base which makes the measurement of the pyramid difficult. This pyramid had a base length of 220 meters and a height of 105 meters. Its angle of the slope was 43 degrees.

Lower chambers pavements are in alignment with the pyramid base. J. Dorner states that the floors of the lower chambers to be 3.15 meters above the pyramid base. Zahi Hawas says the pyramid is now only about 92 meters high due to stone robbers.

The core masonry and casing of the Red Pyramid are laid in horizontal courses. The limestone for the core is believed to come from a quarry some 500 meters west of the pyramid, which is of a reddish color.

Plan your trip: Trip to Giza Pyramids, Sphinx, Saqqara and Dahshur

In the Red Pyramid first chamber, a portion of the paving and underlying core stones have been removed to a depth of 1.7 meters and no sign of the bedrock is visible.

Some scholars think the structure of the pyramid is a homogenous structure. Due to graffiti left by the work gangs. One of these graffiti gives us a very clear picture of the length of time it took to build which is 30 years.

What is thought to be the Pyramidion of the Red pyramid was discovered in 1982 by the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo. It was found amongst debris on the pyramid’s east side and was in many fragments. This Pyramidion was thought originally to be 1-meter-high and to be placed on the top of the Red Pyramid. While Perring thinks the Pyramidion was 4.9 meters high.

Entrance of the Red Pyramid:

The entrance of this pyramid is on the north face, about 29 meters above the base, and extends about 63 meters down. At the end of the descending corridor is a hole in the floor about 1.3 meters deep. It is thought to be dug by robbers or similar to those found in Meidum Pyramid and Bent Pyramid of Senferu.

Entrance to the Red Pyramid









A horizontal corridor leads to the first lower chambers. This corridor is about 7.5 meters long and about 1 meter wide. The southern end of this corridor enters the first of the lower chambers via the northeast corner. There appear to be evidence of repairs in the descending entrance, but is not clear whether they are old or modern.

Lower chambers of the Red Pyramid of Dahshur:

The lower chambers of the Red Pyramid of Dahshur are in a very good state of preservation with corbelled ceilings. The first chamber is about 8.40 meters by 3.65 meters. While the second chamber is reached by a corridor that leaves the southwest corner of the first chamber. This corridor is 3 meters long. The second chamber is exactly similar to the first one.

Burial Chamber









Today, steps are placed against the south wall of the second chamber to provide access to the horizontal corridor that leads to the third chamber.

Upper chamber:

The third chamber is 8.3 meters long from east to west and 4.15 meters long from north to south. A total height from the original floor to the ceiling of 14.65 meters.  Massive excavation has taken place on the floor of this chamber. This missing material is about 98 cubic meters of stone has been removed.

How lon;g to build the Red Pyramid of Dahshur?

According to Mark Lehner’s interpretation of the gang graffiti, the Red Pyramid was built in 30 years. John Romer says in his book “The Great Pyramid, Ancient Egypt Revisited” “At the beginning of the work and in the first two years no fewer than thirty-five courses of the Red Pyramid would have been laid- for a brief while, the workforce would have comprised around a tenth of the adult male population of the ancient Egyptian state.” He suggests a figure of more than 40,000 people.

Plan your tour: Tour to Saqqara, Memphis and Dahshur

He also says “The relative time frame established for all of Sneferu’s building projects shows that the workload at the Red Pyramid represents an increase of almost 300 percent from that of the second failed pyramid.” According to Romer, the graffiti tells us that the Red Pyramid was completed in just 10 years and seven months.

Some other scholars think the Red Pyramid is not a homogenous structure but it is a stepped core and that the year 15 graffiti found on the casing cornerstone, is not the start of construction of the Red pyramid, but closer to the start of the casing phase that would cover the stepped core.

How the Red Pyramid closed?

The method of closure of the pyramid is not known yet. Regardless of what security measures were put in place, huge construction projects like these would always have many prying eyes from unsavory characters, biding their time and awaiting their opportunity to plunder; though there may be a deep shaft (as found in the Bent Pyramid) yet to be discovered. A possible location may be in the short corridor that connects both lower chambers.

Red Pyramid complex:

Many scholars in the past reported that the enclosure wall was not found. Then the enclosure wall was eventually found and appears to be a brick construction with parts covered in limestone cladding. The south and north wall are about 15 to 16m from the pyramid. West wall slightly further away at 19m, while the east wall is some 26m away. Inside the northeast corner of the wall, a mud-brick structure has been found. Scant remains of a pyramid temple have also been found on the east side, consisting of mud-brick and limestone elements. Apparently, north of this temple, tree pits were found.

It appears that there is no evidence of a causeway or preparation of one. The existence of a valley temple is not known, though some suspicion is attached to a structure 100m by 65m. The complex is also devoid of any subsidiary pyramid. It appears we only have the pyramid, remnants of a pyramid temple, and an enclosure wall, with a mud-brick building in its northeast corner.

The Red Pyramid of Dahshur is included in some of our Egypt Travel Packages as well some of Cairo Day Tours.