The Pyramid of Pharaoh Khafre

   Posted by: Keith Payne   

Categories: Old Kingdom, Lower Egypt, Pyramids, The Giza Plateau

kha-tabThe second pyramid built on the Giza Plateau, and the second largest in Egypt, Khafre’s Pyramid takes advantage of its superior location to steal the limelight on the plateau.

Possibly symbolic of a second son who was not his father’s first choice to reign, Khafre’s Pyramid steps forward from the plateau’s horizon as if to say “I will have my day in the sun…”


Pharaoh Khafre

Pharaoh Khafre (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pharaoh Khafre (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Pharaoh Khafre was known as Chephren to the Greeks, and his name, Khaf-Ra, means “Appearing like Ra.”  One of Pharaoh Khufu’s sons, he was preceded in kingship by his brother, Djedefre, who ruled for about eight years.  After Djedefre’s early death, Khafre assumed the throne, making him the fourth king of the Fourth Dynasty. He was succeeded by his son, Menkaure.

Khafre is believed to have reigned between 2572—2546 BC, although this is not certain.  It is probable that the length of his reign was 25 years or so, although the Ptolemaic-Era historian Manetho gives the length of his reign as a very unlikely 66 years. 

In addition to building the second largest pyramid in Egypt, Khafre had a penchant for commissioning statues of himself.   Egyptologist Dr. Zahi Hawass noted that Khafre had placed 23 life-sized statues of himself in his valley temple, seven larger-than-life statues of himself in his mortuary temple, with an additional 12 around its courtyard, and either built the Great Sphinx in his own image or (even worse) had his face carved over the original. 

The Pyramid of Khafre with the Great Sphinx and a canine friend

The Pyramid of Khafre with the Great Sphinx and a canine friend (Photo by Keith Payne)


The Pyramid of Khafre

The Pyramid of Khafre, also called the Pyramid of Chephren, is the second largest in Egypt.  We are not sure of when its construction was completed, but it was most likely early in Khafre’s reign.  The original height of the Khafre‘s Pyramid would have been about 471 feet, although there has been some loss due to erosion and its missing capstone.  It is currently about 455 feet high.  The limestone casing at the topmost section of the pyramid is still largely intact, giving an idea of how the pyramids might have originally appeared.

The majestic Pyramid of Pharaoh Khafre

The majestic Pyramid of Pharaoh Khafre (Photo by Keith Payne)


Looking up the side of Khafre's Pyramid at its limestone layer high above

Looking up the side of Khafre's Pyramid at its limestone layer high above (Photo by Keith Payne)

The sarcophagus in Khafre’s burial chamber is cut from a single large block of granite, and is partially sunk into the floor.  No mummy or other remains were found in Khafre’s pyramid.  There is a second pit in the floor which may have held the canopic jars containing Khafre’s internal organs, but this is not certain.  It has been speculated that Khafre’s Pyramid may have served a ceremonial purpose rather than as a burial place, although both possibilities could be true.  There is a second chamber within the pyramid the purpose of which is unknown.

Khafre's Pyramid on the horizon, with Khufu's Pyramid in the background

Khafre's Pyramid on the horizon, with Khufu's Pyramid in the background (Photo by Keith Payne)

There are two entrances to Khafre’s Pyramid situated one above the other.  Some Egyptologists speculate that this may be because the pyramid was originally planned to be much larger, but others postulate the second entrance was built simply as a result of a change in plans.

Khafre’s mortuary temple was plundered for building materials, but its foundation remains and shows that the temple was quite large, and was constructed in a manner similar to his valley temple, which is intact.  Khafre’s valley temple was buried under sand until the 1800’s and is in excellent condition, serving as a valuable example of temple construction from that era.  Like the mortuary temple, the valley temple is constructed of a limestone core lined with pink Nubian granite imported from Aswan.

Khafre's Pyramid seen from the causeway

Khafre's Pyramid seen from the causeway (Photo by Keith Payne)


 Further Reading


Egyptian Monuments:

Pyramid of Khafre





National Geographic:

Pyramid of Khafre:  Home of the Sphinx


Tour Egypt:

The Great Pyramid of Khafre at Giza



Photograph “WIKI – Khafre_statue.jpg” by Jon Bodsworth is provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons  and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one. Official license 

ALL OTHER photographs and text are copyright by Keith Payne, 2009, all rights reserved.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, July 9th, 2009 at 7:06 pm and is filed under Old Kingdom, Lower Egypt, Pyramids, The Giza Plateau. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

4 comments so far

Garry Miller

Hi Keith,

Slowly working my way through your great site and got a couple of questions I’d like to put out there if I may?

I read elsewhere on your site that Jean-Pierre is of the opinion that the Meidum pyramid, the Bent pyramid, the Red pyramid, the Great pyramid and Khafre’s pyramid were built using an internal ramp (later pyramids being smaller and not requiring an internal ramp). Also (if I read correctly) Jean-Pierre is of the opinion that elements of previous pyramids were used to better the next one (Meidum – don’t build on sand, Bent – don’t build it too steep, Red – could be bigger, Great – use Red’s antechamber design (as yet undiscovered), etc).

So what I’m wondering is does anyone have any idea what went ‘wrong’ with Khafre’s?

It’s almost as big as Khufu’s but so much simpler inside.

Are there yet undiscovered chambers?

Or, did Khafre die at an early stage of building so the subterranean chamber was all that was needed and they just decided to make the top solid stone?

Could Khafre’s pyramid be just as exciting as Khufu’s for further exploration?

Sorry if this has been answered elsewhere already, just point me in the right direction if it has and I’ll read up there.

Also I see from Talking Pyramids (am I allowed to mention another site?), that Khafre’s pyramid is now open and Khufu’s is closing for ‘cleaning’.

Are we now in a position where the Djedi team and Jean-Pierre might be able to get some time to do further work on the Great Pyramid?

Regards, Garry

October 16th, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Hi Garry,

First, thank you for reading Em Hotep! And also thank you for reading my friend Vincent’s excellent website, Talking Pyramids. I would also suggest Marc Chartier’s website Pyramidales. I give a lot of space to Jean-Pierre because I think he has, as Ted Talks puts it, ideas worth sharing. But for the real discussions of pyramids, Vincent and Marc are the guys to go to. But I will take a stab at your questions, and maybe others will see them as well and offer their feedback.

Regarding Khafre’s Pyramid, I know that Jean-Pierre has done some work regarding that monument as well, but it is as of yet unpublished. I can tell you that he will soon be releasing another tsunami of research dealing with the other pyramids, and I would not be surprised to see Khafre discussed, but I do not know for a fact that it will be. Without getting too Rumsfeldian, there are things I know I know, and there are things I know I don’t know, and I know I don’t know if he will be talking about Khafre. A little further south is another matter….

There could very well be undiscovered chambers within Khafre, just as Jean-Pierre suggests there are hidden chambers still within Khufu. The idea of there being hidden chambers within these massive edifices is not in itself controversial. Most people have an open mind about it. It is when you start getting specific that you are in the “testable hypothesis” territory, and people are reluctant to tread there until they are fairly sure they are safe. The problem is, and this touches on one of your other questions, work with the pyramids is hard to do with the political situation now.

I am not sure off the top of my head the circumstances under which building Khafre’s burial chambers was halted, I would highly suggest you take that question to Vincent and Marc. They are the brightest in that department.

I absolutely believe that Khafre’s pyramid could be every bit as exciting as Khufu’s, we just need to keep looking.

As for Jean-Pierre and the Djedi team being allowed to resume work, as I like to tell people, when you are dealing with the pyramids, Nefertiti’s bust, the Great Sphinx, and King Tut’s stuff, you are dealing with national symbols. Archaeological work is continuing elsewhere in Egypt, but where the pyramids are concerned, Egypt seems reluctant at the moment. What if some great discovery was made? How do you divide the credit to make sure the right egos are stroked and the right palms greased? I hate to be so tactless about it, but that was the old reality, and I am not convinced that with regard to the national symbols much has changed.

You ask some great questions, and they show that you are following the situation very well! I think the next big news we get about pyramids will come from Jean-Pierre, and hopefully the right people in Egypt will see that the sort of attention he brings to the pyramids is good for Egypt.

I hope I have at least partially addressed you questions. Like I said, Vincent and Marc can fill in some details as well, so work your network!


October 21st, 2012 at 11:44 am
Garry Miller

Hi Keith,

Thanks for the reply. Very interested to hear that Jean-Pierre has more work on pyramids due out soon.

I like to think that all the major pyramids still have a few secrets to give up and let’s hope someone in a position of authority in Egypt feels the same and will authorise some work to take place!

I’ve checked out Pyramidales at your suggestion. Is there an English language version of this site?

Cheers, Garry

October 27th, 2012 at 6:58 pm

Hi Garry,

Marc’s site is in French only, with the exceptions of where his source material is in another language. I usually copy the text and paste it into Google Translator, which does not give a perfect translation but close enough to read.

I hope that helps some!


October 28th, 2012 at 2:40 pm

One Trackback/Ping

  1. academic.mcu.edu.tw    Jul 23 2016 / 1am:


    The Pyramid Of Pharaoh Khafre

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)