Dahshur Pyramid of Amenemhet II (White Pyramid)

Amenemhet II Nubkaure was the son of Senwosret I and the third king of Dynasty XII who chose to site his pyramid in the Old Kingdom necropolis at Dahshur, to the north-east of Snefru’s ‘Bent Pyramid’. The monument which is now little more than a scattered pile of eroded mudbricks, is curiously known as the ‘White Pyramid’ – its casing of white Tura limestone was removed by robbers and revealed a core framework of limestone, which when quarried, left piles of white chippings around the base of the structure which perhaps gave the pyramid its name. The monument’s ancient name was ‘Amenemhet Provides’.

Jacques de Morgan investigated the area in 1894-1895, but was understandably more interested in excavating the surrounding tombs of royal ladies and high officials which revealed treasures. Because the base of the structure has never been properly cleared, its base length is only estimated, at around 50m and its height and angle have never been determined. Neither has the mortuary temple, causeway and valley temple been systematically excavated.

The pyramid’s entrance was in the centre of its northern side, beneath an entrance chapel. A straight passage descended to a short horizontal corridor before it reached the burial chamber beneath the pyramid’s vertical axis. A barrier formed by two large granite slabs blocked the entrance. The subterranean chamber was constructed with four niches, probably intended for statues or burial goods, and a hidden lower chamber below the horizontal corridor. The ceilings of both the passages and burial chamber were flat, but protected from the weight of the stone by a gabled roof above. A quartzite sarcophagus was set into the floor against the western wall.

The funerary temple on the eastern side of the pyramid has been almost completely destroyed although de Morgan found fragments of reliefs during his investigation and two huge pylon-like structures at its entrance. The whole complex was surrounded by a rectangular enclosure wall, similar to those around Dynasty III pyramids.

Behind the pyramid, on its western side and inside the enclosure wall, de Morgan discovered the intact burials of Princesses Ita, Itweret, and Queen Khnemet, as well as the tombs of Prince Amenemhetankh and Princess Sithathormeret. The burials of Ita and Khnemet especially, revealed rich treasures of jewellery and burial goods which are now on display in Cairo Museum.

How to get there

The Dahshur necropolis officially opened in 1996 for the first time, after being occupied as a military zone for many years. The site can be reached from Cairo by taxi (perhaps combined with a visit to nearby Saqqara) or by bus to the modern village of Dahshur.

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