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Cheops, Suphis
Ivory statuette of Khufu in the Cairo Museum
Ivory statuette of Khufu in the Cairo Museum
Pharaoh of Egypt
Reign 2589–2566 BC[1][2] (63 years in Manetho),  4th Dynasty
Predecessor Sneferu
Successor Djedefre
Consort(s) Meritites I, Henutsen, plus two other queens whose names are not known[1]
Children Djedefra, Kawab, Khafre, Djedefhor, Bauefre, Babaef, Khufukhaef I, Minkhaf, Horbaef (?), Hetepheres II, Meresankh II, Khamerernebty I, Nefertiabet (?)[4]
Father Sneferu
Mother Hetepheres I
Died 2566 BC
Monuments Great Pyramid of Giza, Khufu ship

Khufu (in Greek known as Χέοψ, Cheops, pronounced /ˈhɛɒps/; according to Manetho, Σοῦφις, Suphis) was a Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom. He reigned from around 2589 to 2566 B.C.E Khufu was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He is generally accepted as being the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Khufu's full name was "Khnum-Khufu" which means "the god Khnum protects me."[5]



Khufu was the son of King Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres. Unlike his father, Khufu is remembered as a cruel and ruthless pharaoh in later folklore. Khufu had nine sons, one of whom, Djedefra, was his immediate successor. He also had fifteen daughters, one of whom would later become Queen Hetepheres II.

Khufu came to his throne in his twenties, and reigned for about 23 years, which is the number ascribed to him by the Turin King List. Other sources from much later periods suggest a significantly longer reign: Manetho gives him a reign of 63 years, and Herodotus states that he reigned 50 years. Since 2000, two dates have been discovered from his reign. An inscription containing his highest regnal year, the "Year of the 17th Count of Khufu", first mentioned by Flinders Petrie in an 1883 book and then lost to historians, was rediscovered by Zahi Hawass in 2001 in one of the relieving chambers within this king's pyramid. Secondly, in 2003, the "Year after the 13th cattle count" of Khufu was found on a rock inscription at the Dakhla Oasis in the Sahara.[6] See this photo which contains Khufu's name enclosed in a serekh and the aforementioned date.[1] He started building his pyramid at Giza, the first to be built there.[7] Based on inscriptional evidence, it is also likely that he led military expeditions into the Sinai, Nubia and Libya.[8]

The Westcar Papyrus, which was written well after his reign during the Middle Kingdom or later, describes the pharaoh being told magical tales by his sons Khafra and Djedefra. This story cycle depicts Khufu as mean and cruel, and as being ultimately frustrated in his attempts to ensure that his dynasty survives past his two sons. Whether anything in this story cycle is based on fact is unknown, but Khufu's negative reputation lasted at least until the time of Herodotus, who was told further stories of that king's cruelty to his people and to his own family in order to ensure the construction of his pyramid. What is known for certain is that his funerary cult lasted until the 26th Dynasty, which was one of the last native-Egyptian royal dynasties, almost 2,000 years after his death.

Funerary monuments

Picture of the Great Pyramid.

Most likenesses of Khufu are lost to history. Only one miniature statuette has been fully attributed to this pharaoh. Since he is credited with building the single largest building of ancient times, it is ironic that the only positively identified royal sculpture of his was discovered not at Giza, but in a temple in Abydos during an excavation by William Matthew Flinders Petrie in 1903. Originally this piece was found without its head, but bearing the pharaoh's name. Realizing the importance of this discovery, Petrie halted all further excavation on the site until the head was found three weeks later after an intensive sieving of the sand from the area where the base had been discovered.[9] This piece is now on display in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo. In more recent years, two other likenesses have been tentatively identified as being that of Khufu, based largely on stylistic similarities to the piece discovered by Petrie. One is a colossal head made of red granite of a king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt that resides in the Brooklyn Museum, and the other a fragmentary miniature head made of limestone that also wears the white crown of Upper Egypt, which can be found in the Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst in Munich.[10]

An empty sarcophagus is located in the King's Chamber inside the pyramid though it is unclear if it had ever been used for such a purpose as burial. While his mummy has never been recovered, his impressive and well preserved solar barge—or Khufu ship - was discovered buried in a pit at the foot of his great pyramid at Giza in 1954 by Egyptian archaeologists. It has been reassembled and placed in a museum for public viewing.

The so-called "Ring of Cheops", which bears the cartouche of Khufu and was once thought to have belonged to him. It is now thought to have belonged to a priest in the cult that deified Khufu at Giza. Late Period, Dynasty XXV or XXVII.

While pyramid construction had been solely for the reigning pharaoh prior to Khufu, his reign saw the construction of several minor pyramid structures that are believed to have been intended for other members of his royal household, amounting to a royal cemetery. Three small pyramids to the east of Khufu's pyramid are tentatively thought to belong to two of his wives, and the third has been ascribed to Khufu's mother Hetepheres I, whose funerary equipment was found relatively intact in a shaft tomb nearby. A series of mastabas were created adjacent to the small pyramids, and tombs have been found in this "cemetery". The closest tombs to Khufu's were those belonging to Prince Kawab and Khufuhaf and their respective wives. Next closest are the tombs of Prince Minkhaf and Queens Hetepheres II, and those of Meresankh II and Meresankh III.[11] When the largest of these tombs (Tomb G7510) was excavated in 1927, it was found to contain a bust of Prince Ankhhaf, which can now be seen in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Cultural depictions

The Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz's first novel Khufu's Wisdom (ABATH AL-AQDAR|Mockery of the Fates (1939)) dealt with Khufu, his son Khafra and the succession of Djedef-ra.

See also


  • Freeman, Charles. The Legacy of Ancient Egypt. Ed. John D. Ray. Spain: Fournier Artes Graficos S.Z. Vitoria, 1997. 22.
  1. ^ a b Clayton, Peter A. Chronicle of the Pharaohs. p42. Thames and Hudson, London, 2006. ISBN 978-0-500-28628-9
  2. ^ Malek, Jaromir, "The Old Kingdom" in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt, ed. Ian Shaw, Oxford University Press 2000, ISBN 9780192804587 p.88
  3. ^ King Kheops accessed November 18, 2006
  4. ^ Aidan Dodson & Dyan Hilton: The Complete Royal Families of Ancient Egypt. Thames & Hudson, 2004, ISBN 0-500-05128-3 pp.52-53
  5. ^ Jaromir Malék, The Old Kingdom (c.2686-2160 B.C.E) in The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt (ed. Ian Shaw), Oxford University Press, 2000. p.94
  6. ^ R. Kuper and F. Forster, "Khufu's 'mefat' expeditions into the Libyan Desert", Egyptian Archaeology 23, Autumn 2003, pp 25-28
  7. ^ Figures: King Khufu (BBC). Accessed April 8.
  8. ^ Guardian's Egypt: The Pharaoh Khufu
  9. ^ Kevin Jackson and Jonathan Stamp, Building the Great Pyramid (Firefly Books, 2003) ISBN 1-55297-719-6
  10. ^ Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), pp.194 and 219.
  11. ^ Aidan Dodson, "An Eternal Harem. Part One: In the Beginning", KMT, Summer mjgj f, pp. 47-55.
  12. ^ O'Hara, John; Carri Wagner (PDF). History of a Secret. Aspen MLT Inc.. pp. 6. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  13. ^ Civilization Revolution: Great People "CivFanatics" Retrieved on 4th September 2009

External links

Preceded by
Pharaoh of Egypt
Fourth Dynasty
Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CHEOPS, in Herodotus, the name of the king who built the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Following on a period of good rule and prosperity under Rhampsinitus, Cheops closed the temples, abolished the sacrifices and made all the Egyptians labour for his monument, working in relays of ioo,000 men every three months (see Pyramid). Proceeding from bad to worse, he sacrificed the honour of his daughter in order to obtain the money to complete his pyramid; and the princess built herself besides a small pyramid of the stones given to her by her lovers. Cheops reigned 50 years and was succeeded by his brother, Chephren, who reigned 56 years and built the second pyramid. During these two reigns the Egyptians suffered every kind of misery and the temples remained closed. Herodotus continues that in his own day the Egyptians were unwilling to name these oppressors and preferred to call the pyramids after a shepherd named Philition, who pastured his flocks in their neighbourhood. At length Mycerinus, son of Cheops and successor of Chephren, reopened the temples and, although he built the Third Pyramid, allowed the oppressed people to return to their proper occupations.

Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus are historical personages of the fourth Egyptian dynasty, in correct order, and they built the three pyramids attributed to them here. But they are wholly misplaced by Herodotus. Rhampsinitus, the predecessor of Cheops, appears to represent Rameses III. of the twentieth dynasty, and Mycerinus in Herodotus is but a few generations before Psammetichus, the founder of the twenty-sixth dynasty. Manetho correctly places the great Pyramid kings in Dynasty IV. In Egyptian the name of Cheops (Chemmisor Chembisin Diodorus Siculus, Suphis in Manetho) is spelt Hwfw (Khufu), but the pronunciation, in late times perhaps Khoouf, is uncertain. The Greeks and Romans generally accepted the view that Herodotus supplies of his character, and moralized on the uselessness of his stupendous work; but there is nothing else to prove that the Egyptians themselves execrated his memory. Modern writers rather dwell on the perfect organization demanded by his scheme, the training of a nation to combined labour, the level attained here by art and in the fitting of masonry, and finally the fact that the Great Pyramid was the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world and now alone of them survives. It seems that representations of deities, and indeed any representations at all, were rare upon the polished walls of the great monuments of the fourth dynasty, and Petrie thinks that he can trace a violent religious revolution with confiscation of endowments at this time in the temple remains at Abydos; but none the less the wants of the deities were then attended to by priests selected from the royal family and the highest in the land. Khufu's work in the temple of Bubastis is proved by a surviving fragment, and he is figured slaying his enemy at Sinai before the god Thoth. In late times the priests of Denderah claimed Khufu as a benefactor; he was reputed to have built temples to the gods near the Great Pyramids and Sphinx (where also a pyramid of his daughter Hentsen is spoken of), and there are incidental notices of him in the medical and religious literature. The funerary cult of Khufu and Khafre was practised under the twenty-sixth dynasty, when so much that had fallen into disuse and been forgotten was revived. Khufu is a leading figure in an ancient Egyptian story (Papyrus Westcar), but it is unfortunately incomplete. He was the founder of the fourth dynasty, and was probably born in Middle Egypt near Beni Hasan, in a town afterwards known as "Khufu's Nurse," but was connected with the Memphite third dynasty. Two tablets at the mines of Wadi Maghara in the peninsula of Sinai, a granite block from Bubastis, and a beautiful ivory statuette found by Petrie in the temple at Abydos, are almost all that can be definitely assigned to Khufu outside the pyramid at Giza and its ruined accompaniments. His date, according to Petrie, is 3969-3908 B.C., but in the shorter chronology of Meyer, Breasted and others he reigned (23 years) about a thousand years later, c. 2900 B.C.

See Herodotus ii. 124; Diodorus Siculus i. 64; Sethe in PaulyWissowa's Realencyclopddie, s.v.; W. M. F. Petrie, History of Egypt, vol. i., and Abydos, part ii. p. 48; J. H. Breasted, History. (F. LL. G.)

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