Menkaura (or Men-Kau-Re; Mycerinus in Latin; Mykerinos in Greek) was a Pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt (c. 2620 BC–2480 BC) who ordered the construction of the third and smallest of the Pyramids of Giza. His main queen was Khamerernebty II.
Some authors date his rule between 2532 BC–2504 BC or 28 years but the Turin King List data of 18 years for him is regarded as being closer to the truth since several of his statues were unfinished upon his death -suggesting a much shorter reign- while his pyramid is the smallest of all the 3 royal pyramids at Giza. His name means “Last long (Men) the vital forces (Kau) of Ra.” He was the successor of Khafra (Chephren).
According to Herodotus, Menkaura was the son of Khufu (Greek Cheops), and alleviated the suffering his father’s reign had caused the inhabitants of ancient Egypt. Herodotus adds that he suffered much misfortune: his only daughter, whose corpse was interred in a wooden bull (which Herodotus claims survived to his lifetime), died before him; additionally, the oracle at Buto predicted he would only rule six years, but through his shrewdness, Menkaure was able to rule a total of 12 years and foil the prophecy (Herodotus, Histories, 2.129-133). Other conflicting sources state that Menkaura was not the son of Khufu, butof Khafra, who in turn was the son of Khufu.
Menkaura was not succeeded by Prince Khuenre, his eldest son, who predeceased Menkaura, but rather by Shepseskaf, a younger son of this king.
In 1837, English army officer Richard William Howard Vyse, and engineer John Shae Perring began excavations within the pyramid of Menkaura. In the main burial chamber of the pyramid they found a large stone sarcophagus (8ft long, 3ft 1in wide, and 2ft 11in in height) made of basalt. The sarcophagus was uninscribed with hieroglyphs though it was decorated in the style of palace facade. Adjacent to the burial chamber were found wooden fragments of a coffin bearing the name of Menkaura, and a partial skeleton wrapped in a coarse cloth. The sarcophagus was removed from the pyramid and was sent by ship to the British Museum in London, but the ship carrying it was lost after leaving port at Malta on October 13, 1838. The other materials were sent by a separate ship, and the materials now reside at the museum, with the remains of the wooden coffin case on display. It is now thought that the coffin was a replacement made during the much later Saite period, nearly two millennia after the Pharaoh’s original interment. Radio carbon dating of the bone fragments that were found place them at an even later date, from the Coptic period in the first centuries AD.
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