Unfinished Pyramid

Why Construction of These Pyramids Remained Unfinished? Nobody Knows

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The pyramid is one of such ancient monument which has been studied for hundreds of years. Scholars are still trying to figure out why Khufu built the Pyramid of Giza. The more scholars try to solve it, the more mysterious it becomes.

There more than 70 pyramids were created in Egypt in ancient times during the Old dynasty to New dynasty. The common fact about pyramid is, a pyramid is a burial ground of the Pharaoh who built that pyramid.

But here one question may arise. How Pharaoh could be so sure about the completion of the pyramid as the construction of the pyramid was an affair of decades.

Interesting Read: Exceptional Facts About the Seals of Tutankhamun’s Tomb

Normally, each Pharaoh, as soon as he came to the throne, began his pyramid on a small scale, to assure himself a complete tomb.

As time went on he enlarged it with layers or casings built over the smaller original pyramid. When he died his son finished the last stage. Thus each king had a pyramid roughly commensurate with the length of his reign.

The problem appears when Pharaoh’s reign was so short due to his sudden demise or due to any other reason. For those pharaoh’s their pyramids could not reach their completion stage. Here we are going to explore four such pyramids their construction remained unfinished due to one or other reason.

Buried Pyramid

Alternate NamePyramid of Sekhemkhet
Constructed2645 BC
TypeStep Pyramid
Actual Planned Height70 meter
Current Height8 meter
Base115 meter

Sekhemkhet was originally designed this step pyramid to surpass the step pyramid of Djoser but barely made it above ground level during his short six years reign and hence was given the name the Buried Pyramid.

It was discovered by Egyptologist Zakaria Goneim in 1951. During the excavation, it was found that the pyramid was 5.2 m (17 ft) tall and 18 m (60 ft) thick, and the wall further extended on both sides to dimensions of 520 m (1,700 ft) in the north-south axis and 180 m (600 ft) to the east-west and was full of false doors and niches.

The pyramid itself was located at the center of the complex, it had only one step and was unfinished.

An unfinished and undecorated burial chamber was discovered which contained an alabaster sarcophagus cut from a single block with a vertical lid that seemed to still be sealed. After great difficulties to unblock and raise the lid, the sarcophagus was opened but found empty[1].

With a base of 115 meters (377 ft) in length, it is believed that after completion, it could have surpassed the pyramid of Djoser with seven steps and rising to 70 meters (230 ft).

Layer Pyramid

Alternate Name
Contruction Time2630 BC
TypeLayer Pyramid
Actual Planned Height42–45 m
Current Height17 m
Base84 m

The Layer Pyramid is a ruined step pyramid dating to the 3rd Dynasty of Egypt which is located in the necropolis of Zawyet El Aryan. Its ownership is uncertain and may be attributable to pharaoh Khaba.

The cemetery which is placed near the pyramid contains four large mud-brick mastabas[2] of the type common in the late Third Dynasty. In one of these mastabas were found eight marble bowls, each inscribed with the name of the Horus Kha-ba. Normally the mastabas belong to people who were connected with the king who built the pyramid. On that basis, it is probable that the king’s name was Khaba.

Unfortunately, the upper part of the Zawiah Pyramid is so destroyed that the question of its form cannot be determined, but the angle of the slope and the type of masonry indicate that it is a step pyramid.

The king’s burial chamber is located 26 m (85 ft) below ground, is nearly square in shape, with a base of 3.63 m × 2.65 m. The burial chamber contained no traces of a sarcophagus, which together with the absence of artifacts in the gallery, hints to the premature death of the king.


Alternate Name
Construction Time2613 BC
TypeStep Pyramid
Actual Planned Height91.65 m
Current Height65 m
Base144 m

The pyramid at Meidum is thought to be just the second pyramid built after Djoser’s and may have been originally built for Huni, the last pharaoh of the Third Dynasty. Because of its unusual appearance, the pyramid is called el-heram el-kaddaab — (Pseudo Pyramid) in Egyptian Arabic.

It started out as a step pyramid until someone decided to attempt to fill in the steps with a smooth straight casing of limestone. This pyramid was incomplete and can find out by the fact that:

Two stelas inside, usually bearing the names of the pharaoh, are missing inscriptions. Usually, Stèle contains pharaoh name and their achievements. Probably achievements were remained to inscribe.

The burial chamber inside the pyramid itself is unfinished, with raw walls and wooden supports still in place which is usually removed after construction.

Affiliated mastabas were never used or completed and none of the usual burials have been found. 

It is believed that till the fifteenth century the pyramid still had five steps and later it was gradually falling further into ruin, because al-Maqrizi, a medieval Egyptian Arab historian described it as looking like a five-stepped mountain.

Pyramid of Djedefre

Alternate NameSehedu Djed-ef-re
TypeNormal Pyramid
Construction Time2566 BC
Actual Planned Height67 m
Current Height11.4 m
Base106 m

As its name suggests this pyramid was built by Djedefre, son and successor to king Khufu which is located at Abu Rawash. If completed, it has been about the same size as the Pyramid of Menkaure – the third largest of the Giza pyramids.

During the Roman period (ca. 2000 years ago) the pyramid was quarried for its stone and, as such, there is little left standing today.  During the 20th century, it was used as a military camp and its proximity to Cairo exposed it to modern development which further leads to demolition.

The archaeological team also found solid evidence that the construction of the pyramid began as soon as Djedefre became pharaoh which is clear by the descending corridor which is a painted mark of the first year of Djedefre.

Abu Rawash’s natural elevation is higher than Giza’s. This means that, although Djedefre’s pyramid is smaller than the Khufu’s, topographically it is almost the same height.  With lesser means, it had the same level in the sky.

There are such huge piles of granite that it of course means that this monument was at least half-finished and probably more when Djedefre died.


  1. “The Mystery of Sekhemkhet”
  2. http://gizapyramids.org/static/pdf%20library/bmfa_pdfs/bmfa09_1911_54to59.pdf
  3. https://archaeologynewsnetwork.blogspot.com/2010/05/could-djedefre-pyramid-be-solar-temple.html

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