Explore Fayoum .. Where History Meets Nature

3 May 2023

Meidum Pyramid

Meidum Pyramid

Meidum, Maydum or Maidum is an archaeological site in Lower Egypt. It contains a large pyramid and several mudbrick mastabas. The pyramid was Egypt's first straight-sided one, but it partially collapsed in ancient times. The area is located around 72 kilometres south of modern Cairo.

Meidum Pyramid in Fayoum

The pyramid at Meidum is thought to be just the second pyramid built after Djoser's and may have been originally built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty, and continued by Sneferu. Because of its unusual appearance, the pyramid is called el-heram el-kaddaab – (False Pyramid) in Egyptian Arabic.

Meidum Pyramid in Fayoum

The second extension turned the original step pyramid design into a true pyramid by filling in the steps with limestone encasing. While this approach is consistent with the design of the other true pyramids, Meidum was affected by construction errors. Firstly, the outer layer was founded on sand and not on rock, like the inner layers. Secondly, the inner step pyramids had been designed as the final stage. Thus, the outer surface was polished and the platforms of the steps were not horizontal, but fell off to the outside. This severely compromised the stability and is likely to have caused the collapse of the Meidum Pyramid in a downpour while the building was still under construction.

Meidum Pyramid in Fayoum

The Meidum Pyramid seems never to have been completed. Beginning with Sneferu and to the 12th Dynasty, all pyramids had a valley temple, which is missing at Meidum. The mortuary temple, which was found under the rubble at the base of the pyramid, apparently never was finished. Walls were only partly polished. Two stelas inside, usually bearing the names of the pharaoh, are missing inscriptions. The burial chamber inside the pyramid itself is uncompleted, with raw walls and wooden supports still in place which are usually removed after construction. Affiliated mastabas were never used or completed and none of the usual burials have been found. Finally, the first examinations of the Meidum Pyramid found everything below the surface of the rubble mound fully intact. Stones from the outer cover were stolen only after they were exposed by the excavations. This makes a catastrophic collapse more probable than a gradual one. The collapse of this pyramid during the reign of Sneferu is the likely reason for the change from 54 to 43 degrees of his second pyramid at Dahshur, the Bent Pyramid.

Meidum Pyramid

By the time it was investigated by Napoleon's Expedition in 1799, the Meidum Pyramid had its present three steps. 

Meidum Pyramid
It is commonly assumed the pyramid still had five steps in the fifteenth century and was gradually falling further into ruin, because al-Maqrizi described it as looking like a five-stepped mountain, but Mendelssohn claimed this might be the result of a loose translation and al-Makrizi's words would more accurately translate into "five-storied mountain", a description which could even match the present state of the pyramid with four bands of different masonry at the base and a step on top.

The Meidum Geese

The Meidum Geese. 4th dynasty   Reign of Sneferu (2575-2551 BC)  This fragment of wall decoration was part of the wall decoration of the mastaba of Nefermaat and Atet at Meidum. The scenes show six geese in a field.  The six geese are arranged in two groups of three, facing in opposite directions. Four have their heads lifted while the two at either end are pecking at the ground for food.  Various details, particularly the use of colour  enliven the painting , overcoming the lack of movement, and transform an ordinary scene into a masterpiece. The grouping of three is not a casual arrangement. Three  is used by the artist to express the concept of plurality in the ancient Egyptian language. The three geese on the right and left represent unspecified number of birds. Making the scene beyond simple artistic expression and can be considered a true example of pictographic writing system. The artist has not rendered the birds as they exist in nature, but rather they are archetypical geese, given the high degree of stylization in their rendering. ie plumage.  They resemble heiroglyphs rather than real birds. The background and tufts of gas continue the play of avoided symmetry that makes this a timeless masterpiece
The Meidum Geese

The Meidum Geese

Old Kingdom Hieroglyphs Fragment of a relief from Mastaba of prince Nefermaat, Meidum. Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, ca. 2613-2494 BC. Now in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo.

prince Nefermaat, Meidum. Old Kingdom

Prince Rahotep is an Old Kingdom, 4th Dynasty, Prince. He is probably a son of Pharaoh Sneferu and his first wife, although Zahi Hawass suggests his father was Huni. Rahotep's older brother was Nefermaat I, and his younger brother was Ranefer. Rahotep died when he was young, and so his half-brother Khufu became pharaoh after Sneferu’s death. Rahotep’s wife was Nofret. Her parents are not known. Nofret and Rahotep had three sons – Djedi, Itu and Neferkau – and three daughters – Mereret, Nedjemib and Sethtet. They are depicted in Rahotep’s tomb. This seated painted limestone statue of Rahotep sat belong side his wife Nofret was discovered by Albert Daninos, 21st December, 1871, near the pyramid of Meidum, Egypt.

Egypt - Itet in a scene originally from Nefermaat's tomb in Meidum. Now in the Oriental Institute in Chicago. Behind her on the bottom is a son named Ankherfenedjef. A son behind her to the top has not has a name preserved.

Panel From the Tomb of Nefermaat and Itet, Old Kingdom, Late Third to Early Fourth Dynasties. Limestone and colored paint. Oriental Institute Museum

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