Explore Fayoum .. Where History Meets Nature

7 April 2023

Hawara pyramid in Fayoum photo collection

The Hawara Pyramid is an ancient Egyptian pyramid located in the Faiyum Oasis of Egypt. It was built during the 12th Dynasty of Egypt, around 1800 BC, by Pharaoh Amenemhat III. The pyramid is one of the largest and best-preserved pyramids in Egypt, and it is also one of the most impressive monuments from the Middle Kingdom period.

Hawara pyramid in Fayoum photo collection

The Hawara Pyramid was built as a funerary monument for Pharaoh Amenemhat III, who ruled from 1855 to 1808 BC. The pyramid was constructed using limestone blocks and mud bricks, and it stands at a height of about 60 meters (197 feet). The pyramid has three distinct levels: a base level, a middle level, and an upper level. The base level consists of a large courtyard surrounded by walls that are decorated with reliefs depicting scenes from Amenemhat III's life. The middle level contains a series of chambers that were used for storage and ritual purposes. Finally, the upper level contains the burial chamber where Amenemhat III's mummy was placed after his death.

Hawara pyramid in Fayoum photo collection
 The Hawara Pyramid is also known for its complex system of underground tunnels and chambers that were used to protect the burial chamber from tomb robbers. These tunnels were filled with traps such as false doors and dead ends to deter would-be robbers. In addition to these security measures, the entrance to the burial chamber was sealed with several layers of stone blocks that weighed up to 20 tons each!

Hawara pyramid in Fayoum

Today, visitors can explore the Hawara Pyramid and its surrounding area by taking guided tours or visiting on their own. The site is open year-round and offers stunning views of the surrounding desert landscape. Visitors can also explore nearby archaeological sites such as Kom el-Sultan Mosque or visit nearby villages like El-Lahun or El-Hawawish to learn more about local culture and history.

Hawara is an archaeological site of Ancient Egypt (Figure 1), south of the site of Crocodilopolis (Arsinoe) at the entrance to the depression of the Faiyum oasis. The first excavations at the site were made by Karl Lepsius, in 1843. William Flinders Petrie excavated at Hawara, in 1888, finding papyri of the first and second centuries, and, north of the pyramid, a vast necropolis where he found 146 portraits on coffins dating to the Roman period, famous as being among the very few surviving examples of painted portraits from Classical Antiquity, the "Faiyum portraits" illustrated in Roman history textbooks.

Amenemhet III was the last powerful ruler of the 12th Dynasty, and the pyramid he built at Hawara (Figures 2 and 3) is believed to post-date the so-called "Black Pyramid" built by the same ruler at Dahshur.

In common with the Middle Kingdom pyramids constructed after Amenemhet II, it was built of mudbrick round a core of limestone passages and burial chambers, and faced with limestone. Most of the facing stone was later pillaged for use in other buildings— a fate common to almost all of Egypt's pyramids— and today the pyramid is little more than an eroded, vaguely pyramidal mountain of mud brick, and of the once magnificent mortuary temple precinct formerly enclosed by a wall there is little left beyond the foundation bed of compacted sand and chips and shards of limestone.

The huge mortuary temple that originally stood adjacent to this pyramid is believed to have formed the basis of the complex of buildings with galleries and courtyards called a "labyrinth" by Herodotus, and mentioned by Strabo and Diodorus Siculus. The demolition of the "labyrinth" may date in part to the reign of Ptolemy II, under whom the Pharaonic city of Shedyt (Greek Crocodilopolis, the modern Medinet el-Faiyum) was renamed to honour his sister-wife Arsinoe; a massive Ptolemaic building program at Arsinoe has been suggested as the ultimate destination of Middle Kingdom limestone columns and blocks removed from Hawara, and lost.

No matter how you choose to explore it, visiting the Hawara Pyramid is sure to be an unforgettable experience!

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