The Mystery Of The Missing Capstone Of Khufu’ By Robert Bauval

'The Mystery Of The Missing Pyramidon Of Khufu' By Robert Bauval

 \'The Mystery Of The Missing Pyramidon Of Khufu\' By Robert Bauval

One of the mysteries of Giza is the missing pyramidion or capstone of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Since modern recorded history the Great Pyramid has been topless, with several meters of its apex missing. Egyptologists have assumed that the pyramid was originally capped by a small pyramid called a pyramidion. If that is true, then what happened to it, and what could it have looked like?

 In October 1900 the guards of the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation (EAO) in the area of Dashur, a site on the western desert that is some 20 kilometers south of modern Cairo, were attacked by a group of armed brigands. A few days later, Gaston Maspero, the head of the EAO went to inspect the site. It was then that he was taken to see an amazing and rather unique artifacts that had been found embedded in the sand near a pyramid of the 12th Dynasty belonging to the pharaoh Amenemhet III. There, sticking partially out of the sand, was a magnificent pyramidion made of black granite. Maspero could hardly believe his eyes at the amazing preservation of this 4000 years old artifacts which, in his excitement, he described as “polished like a mirror”.  The pyramid, which measured 1.85 meters at the base and had a height of 1.40 meters, was decorated with wonderful inscriptions. On one face was a winged solar-disk flanked by two ureus (sacred cobras), and under the solar-disk were two large eyes. Under the eyes were three lutes with a large sun disk underneath. On each side of the sun-disk were the royal cartouches bearing the names of Amennemhet III, and  at the base of the triangular face were two lines of hieroglyphs. In an article published in the Annales Du Services Des Antiquités in 1902, Maspero gave this translation:

“May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon when he crosses the sky; may he cause the king to rise as a god, lord of eternity and indestructible… Horakhti has said I have given to the king of Upper and Lower Egypt the beautiful horizon who takes the inheritance of the two lands…so that you may unit with the horizon…the horizon has said that you rest upon it, which pleases me.”

“May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon when he crosses the sky; may he cause the king to rise as a god, lord of eternity and indestructible… Horakhti has said I have given to the king of Upper and Lower Egypt the beautiful horizon who takes the inheritance of the two lands…so that you may unit with the horizon…the horizon has said that you rest upon it, which pleases me.”

In view of the mention of Horakhti (Horus of the Horizon) who was regarded as the symbol of the rising sun in the east, Maspero concluded that this face with the winged sun-disk was the East face of the pyramidion. Maspero did not give a full translation of the other threes faces which also bore two lines of inscriptions each, but nonetheless adds that “the invocation is similarly addressed on the South face to Anubis; on the West face to Ptah-Sokar-Osiris; on the North face to Sah-Orion.”

The same view was later expressed by the American Egyptologist James Henry Breasted in 1912. Breasted wrote:

“On the side which undoubtedly faced the east appears a winged sun-disk, surmounted by a pair of eyes, beneath which are the words ‘Beauty of the Sun’, the eyes of course indicate the idea of beholding which is to be understood with the words, ‘beauty of the sun’. Below is an inscription of two lines beginning: ‘The face of king Amenemhet III is opened, that he may behold the Lord of the Horizon when he sails across the sky’…”

In 1964 the American Egyptologist Alexander Piankoff, renowed for his translation of the Pyramid Texts, gave the translation of part of the East face which mentioned the constellation of Orion:

The sou) of Amenemhet is higher than the heights of  Orion, and it unites itself with the Duat…”

Piankoff interpreted the above by writing that “here, as in the Pyramid Texts, Orion is the visible manifestation of Osiris who, like this constellation, descends to the Netherworld (Duat) and then appears again in the sky.”

In 1946 the British Egyptologist Sir I.E.S. Edwards, an authority on the pyramids of Egypt, gave his own translation of the East face:  

“May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon [i.e., Harakhte] when he crosses the sky; may he cause the king to shine as a god, lord of eternity and indestructible, (Harakhte replies that he has) given the beautiful horizon to the king”

Today Egyptologists agree that the pyramids of ancient Egypt represented the dead kings. Indeed, the pyramid was regarded as an actually personification of the dead king.  Indeed the name given to the pyramids show clearly that these monuments were considered to be the afterlife form of the king himself. According to A. Piankoff, for example,

“The embalmed body of the king lay in or under the pyramid, which together with its entire compound, was considered his body.”

Yet Egyptologists also agree that in the Pyramid Texts, the afterlife form of the king is said to be a ‘star’ in the sky.  This, then, may explain why in the case of at least three pyramids, the monuments were given stellar names while also personifying the dead king, such as “Djedefre is a Star in the Sky”, “Nebka is a Star” and the pyramid of Djoser being called “Horus is the Star at the head of the Sky”.  All this leads us to conclude that the pyramidion on top of the king’s pyramid was regarded as the stellar-transfigured king or his star-soul. It is only when we view it as such that the inscriptions on the East side of the pyramidion of Amenemhet III makes any sense: “May the face of the king be opened so that he may see the Lord of the Horizon…”

But two questions now must be also considered. For if indeed the pyramidion represented the form of the king as a star, then what could possibly have given the ancient Egyptians the idea that a star had the physical shape of a ‘pyramid” and, furthermore, that it was composed of very hard “black stone” such as black granite?

Most Egyptologists agree that the shape of pyramids was inspired by the Benben Stone that was venerated in the ‘Mansion Of The Phoenix’ at the city of Heliopolis. Many scholars claim that the Benben was symbolic of the sun. In 1912 the eminent American Egyptologist James H. Breasted noted the similarity of the word ‘Benben’ with the word ‘Benbenet’ –the pyramid-shaped apex of an obelisk– and concluded that “an obelisk is simply a pyramid upon a lofty base which has become a shaft… the obelisk, as is commonly known, is a symbol sacred to the Sun-god…[it followed that] the king was buried under the very symbol of the Sun-god which stood in the holy of holies in the Sun-temple at Heliopolis” This conclusion by an authority of the caliber of Breasted was quickly embraced by other authorities such as Sir I.E.S. Edwards who also proposed that the occasional sight of an immaterial triangle formed by the sun’s rays striking downwards through low clouds at sunset could have been the inspiration for the Benben’s shape “and its architectural derivative, the true Pyramid”.  Edwards quoted several passages from the Pyramid Texts that seem to support this idea:  

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