The builder of Giza's second pyramid, Khafra is perhaps best known because his face was the model for that of the Great Sphinx, which guards his tomb site.
One of the younger sons of the pharoah Khufu, by his wife Henutsen, Khafra succeeded his half-brother Djedefra (c.2566BC - c.2558 BC) to become fourth king of the Fourth Dynasty. Khafra also adopted the title 'Son of Ra' (sa Ra), which his half-brother had initiated to reflect the importance of the cult of the sun god Ra at this time.
Unlike Djedefra, who built his pyramid at the site of Abu Roash, Khafra returned to Giza to build his own tomb - close to that of his father, Khufu. Although a little smaller than his father's, Khafra's pyramid was built on slightly higher ground, to lessen the difference in height. Its ancient name, Khafra is Great, reflects the status of its omnipotent owner.
Khafra's pyramid complex is also the most complete example of such a complex to have survived. From the king's huge funerary temple at the base of his pyramid, a long causeway runs down to his valley temple, where mummification of his body would most likely have taken place. The granite-lined temple, with its floor of white alabaster, was once adorned with 23 superb statues of the king and Horus the falcon god, made of diorite obtained from Nubian quarries almost 155 miles (250km) to the south.
His wife, Meresankh III, outlived him and was buried in a splendid tomb close to her husband's pyramid. Its wall scenes show the queen with her hair cropped short, wearing the leopard-skin robes denoting her additional priestly role. Close beside her stands her powerful mother, the dowager queen Hetepheres II. Both these royal ladies reflect the prominent roles played by women at Khafra's court.
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