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Sunday, November 25, 2007
Egypt's highest ranking Old Kingdom civil servants were interred at Saqqara, close to Memphis and the temple of Re at Heliopolis.
Here the burial chambers were gradually cut deeper until they passed into the bedrock. Lined with wood, their ceilings were topped with a low mound and then surrounded by a low, rectangular mud-brick building known as a mastaba after the Arabic mastaba (low bench).
Most mastaba superstructures were filled with storage chambers for grave goods, but this made them vulnerable to thieves. By the end of the 1st Dynasty the superstructure was being reduced in favour of extensive subterranean storage, reached by a stairway. Eventually the mastaba would become a solid, rubble-filled block
Khaefre, Khufu's son, built beside his father's pyramid. His is the smaller pyramid, but as it is built on higher ground, and has a slightly steeper angle, it appears the larger. Today Khaefre's complex is the most complete of the Giza three, while his is the only pyramid to retain some of its upper casing stones.
The Great Sphinx crouches beside Khaefre's Valley Temple. This fabulous beast consists of the king's head, 22 times life-sized, perched on a massive lion's body. It is 236ft (72m) long and 65ft (19.8m) tall, making it Egypt's largest statue. As it is carved from a naturally occurring rocky outcrop, covered in places with a stone block veneer, the Sphinx shows differential weathering due to the three limestone strata included in its body.