The Unusual Bent Pyramid of Dahshur


Constructed by the Pharaoh Snederu around 2600 BC, the Bent Pyramid has a unique and intriguing history as interesting as any of the Egyptian pyramids. Located at Dahshur, a royal necropolis twenty-five miles south of Cairo on the west bank of the Nile, this unusual pyramid is one of two built by Snederu, the other being the Red Pyramid.

The pyramid is called the Bent Pyramid because it actually is bent at the top. It changes angles two-thirds of the way up from 54 degrees to 43, giving it the bent appearance it is known for. Archaeologists believe that this was done because of an engineering failure of the original angle, being too steep to support the structure. They also believe it represents a change of construction techniques, from step-sided construction to smooth-sided.

Much of its limestone casing is still intact, making it one of the best preserved pyramids of Egypt. It is thought that the larger spacing between the casing than later pyramids had allowed for expansion over the ages, making it more able to resist the damage done by thermal expansion.

The pyramid has two passages, one located higher up on the west face, the other much lower on the north side, leading to their respective burial chambers. It has not yet been completely explored, due to the fact that serious investigation had never been done until the 19th century, and some of the work was lost. Some Egyptologists think it’s possible there are secrets yet to be discovered, due in part to strong inner drafts caused by the wind that are unusual and also inhibit exploration.

Being an Old Kingdom pyramid (one of the oldest), this valley temple is considered the earliest one found connected to a pyramid. Pyramid architecture included not only the pyramid but was complex and usually contained a valley temple and a mortuary temple. The Bent Pyramid has only one temple, but its valley temple has elements of both, perhaps serving as such. The valley temple, located half way between the Nile and the pyramid, is linked to the pyramid by a causeway built by white limestone.

A smaller satellite pyramid is built to the south, about 55 meters, of the Bent Pyramid. This was to house the Ka (soul) of the Pharaoh. The entire complex, except for the valley temple, is surrounded by a great wall.

Egypt, with about ninety pyramids, certainly has its fair share of ancient structures. The Bent Pyramid deserves its place as one of the most intriguing. Many of the things learned from its construction were used in the later pyramids. The study of the pyramids have taught civilization much about its past, and none more so than the Bent Pyramid of Dahshur.