The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt

By W. Stevenson Smith | Go to book overview

PART TWO
THE OLD KINGDOM

CHAPTER 5
DYNASTY IV 2680-2565 B.C.

THE peculiar stepped structure at Medum now rises in three stages, although the lowest is hidden by the mounds of debris that have accumulated around its base (Plate 24A). Originally it was constructed in eight steps, which were later filled in and cased as a true pyramid. Until recently this had all been considered the work of Sneferu. It now appears that he only finished a monument left incomplete by his predecessor Huni at the end of Dynasty III, giving it a form which had been established by the North Stone Pyramid at Dahshur, the first to be constructed throughout as a true pyramid. The South Pyramid at Dahshur, the so-called Bent Pyramid (Plate 25A), had its angle changed to one which was less steeply inclined when the structure had reached a height not quite half that of the present one. It seems to be a transitional form between the stepped structure at Medum and the North Pyramid. Quarry-marks with the name of Sneferu on both pyramids at Dahshur make it clear that they were built by him. His two pyramids are mentioned in inscriptions which include a decree of Pepy I found among scanty vestiges of a valley temple on the edge of the cultivation in front of the northern pyramid.1 If Sneferu completed Huni's monument at Medum, it would account for the mention of his name in the later graffiti inscribed on the walls of the small stone temple built against its eastern face after the casing for the pyramid was in place. The dates roughly painted by the quarrymen or builders on the masonry of this casing and that of the North Stone Pyramid at Dahshur suggest that both monuments were being completed in the last years of the reign of Sneferu. Dahshur is near Saqqara; Medum further south.

We therefore have to take into consideration the possibility that the temple at Medum is a slightly later development in stone of the simple brick enclosure built as an offeringplace in front of the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur.2 In this stood a pair of large, free-standing, round-topped stelae inscribed with the king's name and in front of them an altar covered by two low side walls and a roofing of stone. Later alterations to the brick court leave its original form uncertain (Figure 11). The rest of the space inside the enclosure wall around the pyramid has not yet been completely excavated. Another pair of inscribed round-topped stelae was set up in front of the small pyramid which lies to the south of the large one. They indicate that this was intended as a secondary tomb, probably for the king's canopic chest as at Zoser's Step Pyramid. Two similar stelae, also

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