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Meidum Pyramid
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 12, 2009 10:15 pm 
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I am at present doing a study of pyramid building. The Meidum pyramid of Sneferu(?) intrigues me.
It is labelled as a failure, having collapsed, although there is no indication that it was not completed. The rubble at its base contains no building implements as might be expected if it had been abandoned.

It is tempting to see this as a intermediate step in development. The traditional problem with building any kind of height was that the whole structure tended to collapse, or at least to slump. This can be seen in some of the older single level mastabas where rubble was used to fill them. And it was a factor (allegedly)in the conversion of the bent pyramid from 54 degrees to 43 degrees inclination.

By dynasty 4, the architects had realised that for stability the whole structure had to made of interlocked stone blocks, with no mudbrick and no infill.

But it does look as though the architect of Meidum decided to construct a central tall "post" of stone around which he expanded with brick and then a final covering of the usual limestone. This would be to give some central strength to the pyramid.

The stepping then would serve as ledges on which the mudbrick would partially be supported.

Most of the pyramids, including those at Giza, had their limestone, and also some of the lower courses of outer blocks, removed for other building at later dates. Many of the pyramids also show damage from earthquakes, which seems to affect the bottom corners mostly. This is predictable from an engineering view.

The pyramid at Meidum would not have been very "amenable" to having its lower courses removed, or even shaken. There would not have been enough structural adhesion between the central column and the surrounding material. We know that it had collapsed by the New Kingdom, and it is possible that it collapsed following pilfering of the lower courses.

Does anyone on this forum know the architect involved at Meidum, and does anyone have their own theory on the design of this pyramid?

I am not inclined to see it as a copy of the step pyramid of Djoser. Inhotep obviously built that pyramid in stages, proceeding more ambitiously once each stage was successful. So the progression of pyramid building is not a matter of ideological considerations, but one of materials and civil engineering.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 2:51 am 
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The pyramid at Meidum is thought to have been originally built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. It was completed and probably usurped by his successor, Sneferu, who also turned it from a step pyramid to a true pyramid by filling in the steps with limestone encasing. The Meidum pyramid was built in different stages, beginning as a seven-step pyramid to which an additional step was added at a later stage. It appears to have collapsed sometime during the New Kingdom. A subsidiary pyramid is located on the south side, between the main pyramid and the enclosure wall, and a memorial temple is on its east side.

Known as "the collapsed pyramid", the outer layers of the casing began to collapse, leaving the exposed core showing. Because of its appearance, it is called el-haram el-kaddab — (False Pyramid) in Arabic. Some believe it was the collapse of this pyramid during the reign of Sneferu that led him to change the angle on his second pyramid at Dahshur to 43 degrees. In the fifteenth century, it was described as looking like a five-stepped mountain by al-Maqrizi, gradually falling further into ruin so by the time it was investigated by Napoleon's Expedition in 1799 it had its present 3 steps.

It was excavated by John Shae Perring in 1837, Lepsius in 1843 and then by Flinders Petrie later in the nineteenth century, who located the mortuary temple, facing to the east. In 1920 Ludwig Borchardt studied the area further, followed by Alan Rowe in 1928 and then Ali el-Kholi in the 1970's.

In its ruined state, the structure is 65m high, and its entrance is aligned north-south, with the entrance in the north, 20m metres above present ground level. The steep descending passage 57 metres long leads to a horizontal passage, just below the original ground level, that then leads to a vertical shaft 10 metres high that leads to the corbelled burial chamber itself. It is thought to be unlikely that Sneferu was buried here — whether Huni was may never be known, though construction may have begun during his reign.

Flinders Petrie was the first Egyptologist to establish the facts of its original design dimensions and proportions. In its final form it was 1100 Cubits of 0.523m around by 175 Cubits in height, thus showing the same proportions as the Great Pyramid at Giza, and therefore the same circular symbolism. Petrie wrote in the 1892 excavation report that "We see then that there is an exactly analogous theory for the dimensions of Medum[sic]to that of the Great Pyramid ; in each the approximate ratio of 7 : 44 is adopted, as referred to the radius and circle.."


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:07 am 
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Akhenaton has said:
Some believe it was the collapse of this pyramid during the reign of Sneferu that led him to change the angle on his second pyramid at Dahshur to 43 degrees.
This is the first time I've ever head that theory. Where did you get this information?
The changes in the pitch of his pyramid, creating the so-called "Bent" pyramid, was down by the builders in the hopes of relieving the stress that clearly was show in the interior. There are several very large cracks, and there has been a great deal of shoring up, trying to prevent further damage, especially to the interior. The main problem was that the builders, when they selected the site for the pyramid, did not clear to the bed-rock, but started their construction on sand. The increasing weight of the pyramid, as it was built, caused the sand to shift, and this shifting of the sand caused the stresses on the pyramid, and this resulted in the cracking of the interior. The builders changed the slope hoping this would help, but it did not, effectively, and the pyramid was thought to be abandoned. Some Egyptologist question that assumption now, and say that there were burials in the pyramid.


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Truth
PostPosted: Sun Mar 15, 2009 12:06 pm 
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Hi Osiris II your theory (explanation) is just as plausible. After all, we can rule nothing out in our quest for the truth, can we?


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Meidum Pyramid
PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:15 am 
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Dear Akhenaton & Osiris II,

Thanks to both of you - I was aware of the background of Meidum, although I did not realise it was started by Huni.

Like Osiris, I believe that it was the experience of the Bent Pyramid which led to the change in angle from 54 to 43 for the upper slopes, and 43 degrees was carried through into the Red Pyramid. I am glad to hear your full explanation, Osiris, for the structural problems, but again I wonder why the pyramid was not simply abandoned.

Do we accept that the builders were faced with a huge structure that was showing internal distress, and yet decided that it would hold if only they reduced the top angle? These days engineers would have weeks of computer modelling before they could give a confident answer on something like that surely.

Certainly in the progression of pyramid design there seems to be a realisation that the whole structure must be integrated, and made of stone not mudbrick or filler. But as I said, the D3 and earlier structures suffered from having soft cores. At Meidum this is reversed.

Akhenaton, I can see that it will be described as a step design, but it looks more like a sun temple Benben obelisk than a regular step, because the sides are so steep and not equal, as you would expect in a 'mastaba-derived' design. So I am still not convinced its true nature is understood.

As an additional coment - conventional views are that there was a steady progression in design and implementarion of these monuments, but Shapseskaf broke the mould when he built an ordinary mastaba at Saqqara !!

Thanks to you both.


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 2:35 am 
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I'm glad I could be of a little help Scribe2 :)


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:04 am 
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The later pyramids had mud brick coes & seem to have lasted till they were robbed for building stone.


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truth
PostPosted: Wed Mar 18, 2009 8:12 am 
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Sadly, you speak the truth!


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