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Layer Pyramid of Khaba in Zawyet al-Aryan

The Layer Pyramid (known locally in Arabic as il-haram il-midawwar, meaning rubble-hill pyramid) is located 8 km south-west of Giza, close to the necropolis of Zawyet el-Aryan. It is thought to be the tomb of pharaoh Khaba of the III Dynasty, but this is disputed.
The Layer pyramid was first excavated and examined in 1839 by John Shae Perring. The subterranean passages were found and excavated in 1896 by Jacques de Morgan. Further and more detailed investigation were performed in 1900 by Alessandro Barsanti and in 1910 - 1911 by
George Reisner and Clarence Fisher. They also investigated the pyramid surroundings. Unfortunately, the pyramid and its surroundings lie within an a military restricted area since 1970 and there has been no excavation ever since
The Layer pyramid has a square base measuring 84 x 84 m, its layers and outer walls have an inward inclination angle of 68°. If finished the pyramid would have comprised five steps and reached c. 45 m in height. Today only two steps remain and reach about 17 m in height. The current ruined state of the pyramid allows a view of its core: its foundations are made of the natural bedrock and measure 11 x 11 m. These are surrounded by layers made of mud bricks. Each layer is 2,6 m thick. It is disputed, if the pyramid was finished, or left unfinished. Egyptologists such as Rainer Stadelmann believe that the pyramid was finished, but others, such as Miroslav Verner, think that the building was left unfinished because of the pharaoh's sudden death.

The entrance lies on the eastern site. A pretty steep stairway leads down to a corridor which heads toward west. The corridor ends in a straight vertical shaft, which splits up into a T-shaped crossway. To the left it leads to the king's chamber, to the right it leads to a U-shaped gallery system. The ground plan of the gallery system reminds to the shape of a comb, it consists of 32 chambers and was possibly used as storage room for the grave goods. The king's chamber was nearly quadratic and contained no traces of a sarcophagus.
Interestingly, the necropolis of the Layer pyramid shows no traces of an enclosure wall. At its eastern site, the pyramid shows traces of a mortuary temple, but the archaeological traces are so scarce, that any closer examination and more precise reconstruction is impossible today. The same goes for the ruins of a building several hundred metres away from the pyramid, it might have been the valley temple. An eastern position of the building would be unusual, though. Around 200 m from the pyramid, a huge mastaba can be found, it's today known as Mastaba Z500. Inside this mastaba several stone bowls with the horus name of king Khaba were found.
The architecture of the Layer pyramid allows a secure datation in the time span between the rulership of king Sekhemkhet and king Snofru, the founder of the
IV Dynasty. Stadelmann, Verner and Jean-Philippe Lauer compare the architecture of the Layer Pyramid with that of the step pyramids of Djoser and Sekhemkhet, expecting the Layer Pyramid to have once consisted of 5 steps, just as its contemporary predecessors. The building shows at one site developments concerning complex substructures and simplifications concerning the building methods on the other side. The Layer pyramid is a clearly advanced version of the buried pyramid of Sekhemkhet.
The only problem about the Layer pyramid is the question of who builded it. Most of today scholars believe that it was Khaba, since his name appears on bowls found in Mastaba Z500. Rainer Stadelmann goes further and identifies Khaba with king Huni, the last ruler of the
III Dynasty. His evaluation is based on the Turin Canon. King Huni is credited with a rulership of 24 years. According to Stadelmann, this time span would perfectly cover the time span needed to complete the building of the Layer pyramid. He also argues, that royal monuments of the first three Egyptian dynasties only present a king's horus name, later document only the throne- or birth name. Thus, he connects the cartouche name Huni with Khaba. The Layer pyramid would therefore be Huni's tomb, too.

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