A project for the restoration of the smallest of the famed Giza Pyramids, the pyramid of Menkaure (Menkheres, c.2575 – 2465 BC) has aroused huge controversy among Egyptologists and archaeologists. Menkaure, according to the Turin Papyrus, reigned some 18 or 28 years.
Many have vocally criticised the project which they claimed intended to encase Menkaure Pyramid in a coating. Among the critics was Egyptian archaeologist Muhammad al-Kahlawi, head of the Council of Arab Archaeologists, who issued a statement in this regard titled: “Stop trifling with Egypt’s monuments”.
The statement declared that the restoration project was pointless, and would only serve to embarrass Egypt globally. Egypt’s monuments, it said, should not be subject to experimentation or disfigurement.
Menkaure’s pyramid stands 61 metres high, with a base 102 x 104 metres wide. It is constructed of limestone and Aswan granite. The first sixteen courses of the exterior were made of red granite, whereas the upper portion was encased in limestone. The pyramid has been on UNESCO world heritage list since 1979.
In response to the raging controversy, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa issued a ministerial decree forming a supreme committee of experts to review the project. Heading the committee is renowned Egyptian archaeologist and former Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass. Members include prominent Egyptian, American, Czech, and German archaeologists, some of them specialise in pyramids studies.
The committee’s task is to closely review the Egyptian Japanese restoration project of Menkaure Pyramid; the project is joint between Waseda University and Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Once it has reviewed the project, the committee should write a report which it should present to the Ministry of Antiquities. If the committee approves the restoration project; its report should include the measures and procedures to address UNESCO on the matter.
The Ministry should accordingly decide whether or not to go ahead with the restoration.
Nour Badr, expert conservator and professor at Cairo University’s Faculty of Archaeology, who heads the Menkaure Pyramid restoration project team, told the Egyptian media that the team uses state-of-the-art 3D Japanese digital technology to create a digital model of the pyramid and the granite blocks that had fallen off it. The blocks are documented with 3D laser technology. “We are reassembling and using the actual blocks that fell to the ground from the pyramid itself,” Mr Badr said.
A digital model of the pyramid and the fallen blocks is created, Mr Badr said, to know the archaeological history of the granites blocks and the possibility of returning them to their original spots. “It is absolutely untrue that we wish to create a casing for the pyramid. We only aim at returning the fallen granite to where they originally were.”
Another Egyptologist whose words were circulated by the Egyptian media, Ahmed Amer, said that the Menkaure Pyramid restoration project was no less significant than the “Pyramid scan” project undergone by the Great Pyramid. “It could be the project of the century,” Mr Amer said.
5 February 2024