Eastern and Western Cemeteries

Eastern and Western Cemeteries

Two of the largest preserved Old Kingdom cemeteries form a part of the pyramid complex of king Khufu (c.2589–2566 BC) in Giza. Called the Eastern and Western Cemeteries after their positions relative to the Great Pyramid, they include the tombs of members of the royal family and the highest-ranking nobles. As such, they contain some of the most beautiful tomb decoration from this period.

            The cemeteries consist mostly of mastabas, but rock-cut tombs are attested as well. The term mastaba (Arabic for “bench”) refers to a type of funerary structure that was generally rectangular in shape and built over the tomb proper, which was underground. Most of the mastabas of the Eastern and Western Cemeteries were built during the reign of Khufu, in tandem with his pyramid complex, whereas the rock-cut tombs were for the most part built later.

            Most of the tombs of the Eastern Cemetery dating to the reign of Khufu were intended for his closest relatives. The rock-cut tomb of his mother, queen Hetepheres I, along with her funerary equipment, was discovered here, and it is the site of the mastaba of his half-brother Ankh-haf, who had an important administrative position in the construction of the Great Pyramid. On the other hand, the mastabas of the Western Cemetery, which are mostly arranged in an orderly grid, were reserved for very high-ranking noblemen that were not as closely related to the king. Among them is the monumental mastaba of Hemiunu, who oversaw the building of the Great Pyramid.

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