Definitions

Khufu

Khufu

[koo-foo]
Khufu or Cheops, fl. c.2680 B.C., king of ancient Egypt, founder of the IV dynasty. He was king for 23 years and was famous as the builder of the greatest pyramid at Giza.
Khufu (in Greek known as Χέωψ, Cheops; ) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. He reigned from around 2589 to 2566 B.C. Khufu was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He is generally accepted as being the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. Khufu's name means "Protected by Khnum.

Life

Khufu was the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres. Unlike his father, Khufu is remembered as a cruel and ruthless pharaoh in later folklore. Khufu had nine sons, one of whom, Djedefra, was his immediate successor. He also had fifteen daughters, one of whom would later become Queen Hetepheres II.

Khufu came to his throne in his twenties, and reigned for about 23 years, which is the number ascribed to him by the Turin King List. Other sources from much later periods suggest a significantly longer reign: Manetho gives him a reign of 65 years, and Herodotus states that he reigned fifty years. Since 2000, two dates have been discovered from his reign. An inscription containing his highest regnal year, the "Year of the 17th Count of Khufu", first mentioned by Flinders Petrie in an 1883 book and then lost to historians, was rediscovered by Zahi Hawass in 2001 in one of the relieving chambers within this king's pyramid. Secondly, in 2003, the "Year after the 13th cattle count" of Khufu was found on a rock inscription at the Dakhla Oasis in the Sahara. See this photo which contains Khufu's name enclosed in a serekh and the aforementioned date.

He started building his pyramid at Giza, the first to be built in this place. Based on inscriptional evidence, it is also likely that he led military expeditions into the Sinai, Nubia and Libya.

The Westcar Papyrus, which was written well after his reign during the Middle Kingdom or later, depicts the pharaoh being told magical tales by his sons Khafra and Djedefra. This story cycle depicts Khufu as mean and cruel, and is ultimately frustrated in his attempts to ensure that his dynasty survives past his two sons. Whether or not this story cycle is true is unknown, But Khufu's negative reputation lasted at least until the time of Herodotus, who was told further stories of that king's cruelty to his people and to his own family in order to ensure the construction of his pyramid. What is known for certain is that his funerary cult lasted until the 26th Dynasty, which was one of the last native-Egyptian royal dynasties, almost 2,000 years after his death.

Funerary monuments

Most likenesses of Khufu are lost to history. Only one miniature statuette has been fully attributed to this pharaoh. Since he is credited with building the single largest building of ancient times, it is ironic that the only positively identified royal sculpture of his is also the smallest that has ever been found: a 7.6cm (3 inch) ivory statue that bears his name. It was discovered not at Giza, but in a temple in Abydos during an excavation by William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1903. Originally this piece was found without its head, but bearing the pharaoh's name. Realizing the importance of this discovery, Petrie halted all further excavation on the site until the head was found three weeks later after an intensive sieving of the sand from the area where the base had been discovered. This piece is now on display in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. In more recent years, two other likenesses have been tentatively identified as being that of Khufu, based largely on stylistic similarities to the piece discovered by Petrie. One is a colossal head made of red granite of a king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt that resides in the Brooklyn Museum, and the other a fragmentary miniature head made of limestone that also wears the white crown of Upper Egypt, which can be found in the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst in Munich.

An empty sarcophagus is located in the King's Chamber inside the pyramid though it is unclear if it had ever been used for such a purpose as burial. While his mummy has never been recovered, his impressive and well preserved solar barge--or Khufu ship--was discovered buried in a pit at the foot of his great pyramid at Giza in 1954 by Egyptian archaeologists. It has been reassembled and placed in a museum for public viewing.

While pyramid construction had been solely for the reigning pharaoh prior to Khufu, his reign saw the construction of several minor pyramid structures that are believed to have been intended for other members of his royal household, amounting to a royal cemetery. Three small pyramids to the east of Khufu's pyramid are tentatively thought to belong to two of his wives, and the third has been ascribed to Khufu's mother Hetepheres I, whose funerary equipment was found relatively intact in a shaft tomb nearby. A series of mastabas were created adjacent to the small pyramids, and tombs have been found in this "cemetery". The closest tombs to Khufu's were those belonging to Prince Kawab and Khufuhaf and their respective wives. Next closest are the tombs of Prince Minkhaf and Queens Hetepheres II, and those of Meresank II and Meresank III. When the largest of these tombs (Tomb G7510) was excavated in 1927, it was found to contain a bust of Prince Ankhhaf, which can now be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Cultural depictions

The Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz's first novel Khufu's Wisdom (ABATH AL-AQDAR|Mockery of the Fates (1939)) dealt with Khufu, his son Khafra and the succession of Djedef-ra.

References

  • Freeman, Charles. The Legacy of Ancient Egypt. Ed. John D. Ray. Spain: Fournier Artes Graficos S.Z. Vitoria, 1997. 22.

External links

See also

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