Giza Central Field covers the area roughly between the pyramid causeways of Khafre and Menkaure. The area can be explored by beginning behind Khafre’s’s Valley Temple, although parts of it are often fenced off when excavations are being carried out. At this eastern end the tombs seem to be a jumble of rocks, some still buried by sand and others partly uncovered.
There are many doorways with inscriptions of the tomb-owners and even rock-cut statues. In the middle of this part of the cemetery there is a ‘Street of Priests’ which leads up to a large rock-cut tomb with a courtyard. To the north and adjacent to the rock-cut tomb, there is another very large mastaba that was the last resting place of an individual named Ra-wer, which was excavated by Selim Hassan. During the excavations Hasan found around 100 statues from the three phases of the construction of the tomb. Many smaller mastaba tombs can be seen to the south when walking down Khafre’s causeway towards the Sphinx and some of these have been recently investigated and restored by the SCA.
The southern edge of the Central Field is dominated by the huge tomb of Khentkawes I which was once believed to be the mastaba of the Dynasty IV king Shepseskaf. Around her mastaba there are many shafts and rock-cut tombs. Another group of mastabas on the western edge of the Central Field just below Khafre’s Pyramid have also been restored and opened to the public in rescent years. These include the tombs of Iwn-min and Debehen.
The Mastaba of Khentkawes (LG100)
Queen Khentkawes is a mysterious and enigmatic figure. Her tomb was investigated in the 1930s and her title was read as either the ‘Mother of Two Dual Kings’ or ‘Dual King and Mother of Dual King’. Many scholars interpret this to mean that she may have reigned in her own right or more probably as a regent for one of her sons in the unstable time at the end of Dynasty IV.
On a granite door jamb in her tomb, Khentkawes is shown seated on a throne and seems to be wearing the royal regalia of a king, the beard, flail and uraeus, but her name is mysteriously not written in a cartouche. There are many theories about where she fits into the Dynasty IV royal family. Perhaps a daughter of Menkaure, it is most likely that she was the wife of Shepseskaf or the wife (or mother) of Userkaf and posssibly the mother of Sahure and Neferirkare of early Dynasty V. Facts about this period of history are very ambiguous.
The mystery deepened in the 1970 when Czech archaeologists working at Abusir discovered a pyramid of Queen Khentkawes, which was at first thought to be the same lady, as she held the same titles as the former Queen and was also depicted in royal regalia. However, it was found that Khentkawes namesake was the wife of Neferirkare, mother of Neferefre and the two Khentkawes’ were found to be a generation apart. The Abusir queen is now known as Khentkawes II. Meanwhile the confusion continues.
The tomb of Khentkawes which towers high over Giza Central Field was cut from a huge piece of native rock left behind by the surrounding quarrying, rather like the sphinx. The stratigraphy can be see clearly from the western side. The tomb entrance is on the south-east corner but the internal structures were badly damaged in antiquity. A sloping passage descends into the rock and the underground chambers consist of an antechamber, store-rooms and a granite-lined vaulted burial chamber. The tomb was topped with a superstructure of stone blocks and the whole was encased in white Tura limestone which must have given it the appearance of a step pyramid. A boat pit, another common feature of royal tombs and pyramids from Early Dynastic times onwards, was discovered near the south-west corner of the tomb.
Khentkawes may have shared Menkaure’s causeway and valley temple, as her own has not been found and her structures seem to be merged with those of Menkaure. To the east of her tomb there was an L-shaped settlement of houses dating to Dynasty V and VI, probably inhabited by priests and servants of Khentkawes or Menkaure’s funarary cult. This is marked on maps as ‘Pyramid City’. The mastaba of Khentkawes was the last royal tomb to be built at Giza and this influential lady was undoubtedly a link between the kings of Dynasty IV and Dynasty V.
The Giza Pyramids blog from AERA in March 2009 reported the find of a curious structure in the Queen Khentkawes Complex. Beneath a road or ramp in the comlex, excavators have uncovered a square mudbrick platform that was first recorded in the 1930s by Selim Hassan who described it as a Wabet (purification tent). It is now suggested that the plinth may be some kind of administrative platform. More information and picture on AERA.
Tomb of Debehen
The tomb of Debhen is a newly restored tomb to the south of Khafre’s causeway. His titles were ‘Lector Priest’ and ‘Overseer of the Divine Places of the Great Palace’ during the Dynasty IV reign of Menkaure.
He seems to have been a favourite of the king who gave this official permission to construct a tomb near his own pyramid as a gift, including white limestone from the royal Tura quarries across the river – an honour which is recorded in the tomb. The tomb is beautifully decorated with interesting unpainted reliefs of daily life, many animals and also a depiction of a dwarf.
Tomb of Iwn-min
The tomb of Iwn-min (Iun-min, Yun-min) is close to that of Debhen, to the south of Khafre’s causeway. Iwn-min was the ‘Vizier’, ‘Judge’ and eldest son of Menkaure of Dynasty IV. The walls of his tomb-chapel containing two chambers have no reliefs but the doorway of the inner chamber is elaborately decorated and unique in style.
The tomb of Khentkawes is not open to the public but it may be possible to view the outside structure. The tombs of Debehen and Iwn-min have been restored and opened in recent years. Photography is no longer allowed inside any of the Giza tombs.