located in the continuation of Gebel el-Ghigiga, the western fringe of the Nile Valley (30°2′N, 31°4′E). The archaeological area of Abu Rowash, which belongs to the very northern part of the necropolis at Memphis, joins various sites together, which date from the Early Dynastic period to the Coptic period. The elevation called Gebel Abu Rowash is limited in the north, by the depression of Wadi Qarun and, in the south, by Wadi el-Hassanah, where a section of the desert route leads from Cairo on the Nile River to Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. At a height of about 150 meters (500 feet), the elevation owes its name to the vicinity of the village of Abu Rowash, located 8 kilometers (5 miles) north of the Giza pyramids and 15 kilometers (10 miles) west of Cairo. The funerary complex of Djedefre, the third ruler of the fourth dynasty (c.2584–2576 BCE), was built at the top of this escarpment, on the plateau of Gaa. The location of this pyramid has been known since the nineteenth century from the descriptions of Howard Vyse (The Pyramids of Gizeh in 1837, vol. 3, London, 1842, pp. 8–9), of W. M. Flinders Petrie (The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh, London, 1883, pp. 53–55), and of Richard Lepsius (Denkmäler aus Aegypten und Aethiopien, vol. 1, Berlin, 1897, pp. 21–24).

Abu Rowash

Abu Rowash. The central section of the foundation level and the cleared descending ramp. (Photograph by M. Vallogia, 1997)

Excavations at the site were begun by the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo. Between 1900 and 1902, Émile Chassinat discovered the remains of a funerary settlement, a boat pit, and numerous statuary fragments that had the name of Didoufri (an early reading of Djedefre), which allowed for the identification of the tomb's owner. In 1912 and 1913, the French Institute, then under the direction of Pierre Lacau, continued the work and cleared new structures to the east of the pyramid. In connection with those excavations, Pierre Montet was asked to explore two sections of the huge Thinite necropolis and one of the fourth dynasty, located to the southeast of the village of Abu Rowash. In this cemetery, on a northern spur, Fernand Bisson de la Roque, between 1922 and 1924, excavated mastaba tombs of the fifth and sixth dynasties. In the southern part of the site, burials of the first and fifth dynasties and of the Middle Kingdom were surveyed by Adolf Klasens, between 1957 and 1959, under the patronage of the Museum of Antiquities of Leiden, the Netherlands.

In the north, in Wadi Qarun, many sites have been worked archaeologically since the beginning of the twentieth century: Charles Palanque, at the turn of the century, excavated the Coptic monastery of El-Deir el-Nahya; Pierre Lacau identified in 1913 a necropolis of the third and fourth dynasties; and in the 1920s, Bisson de la Roque sampled numerous borings in galleries that in the Late period served as burial sites for sacred crocodiles. In the 1930s, Rizkallah Macramallah discovered some solid remains of a Middle Kingdom fortress. In 1980, Zahi Hawass found a necropolis of the Early Dynastic period.

In 1995, a joint mission of the French Institute and the University of Geneva, with the collaboration of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, initiated a new program at the funerary complex of Djedefre. This monumental complex, like all the tomb complexes of the Old Kingdom, was built with a harbor on the Nile and several buildings in sequence. There was a temple at the foot of an ascending causeway that led to a funerary temple next to the royal pyramid; there was also a satellite pyramid, with one or more solar barks. The whole settlement was surrounded by a precinct wall. This funerary complex began to suffer desecration at the beginning of the Roman period, serving as a quarry from antiquity to modern times. This may help explain why Egyptologists who inventoried the various elements of the funerary complexes lacked so much data. It may also explain the marginalization of the site in the attempts at historic reconstructions of the fourth dynasty. The new program aims at a reevaluation of the reign of Djedefre. In the early 1900s, the discovery of a large number of broken royal statues had actually allowed Chassinat to suspect signs of a damnatio memoriae (Lat., to be stricken from the memory), connected with an illegitimacy in the claim to power by Didoufri/Djedefre. Today, however, a few stratigraphic sections demonstrated that those ancient destructions traced back only to the Roman period, when the site was occupied for a very long time. In the northeastern part of the complex, one can actually find reused remains that testify to a Roman presence. The site had an exceptionally strategic location, overlooking crossroads and offering the opportunity for the easy collection of already cut-and-dressed granite and limestone. Quarrying of the site materials, which occurred until the nineteenth century, left a smashed and open pyramid base. Its interior shows elements arranged in the form of a T, including a north–south descending ramp and, perpendicular to it, a shaft, which should contain the royal tomb.

According to the first results, the size of the pyramid was nearly the same as that of Menkaure: 106.20 meters (315 feet) on each side, with an estimated height of about 65.50 meters (200 feet), and the angle of slope being 51°57′. At foundation level, the foundation courses have lopsided beds of 12°. These become incrementally horizontal in their angles especially at the place of the foundation deposits. In the pyramid's interior, the excavation of the descending passage yielded, apart from a copper-ax deposit, guide markings on the rock, which determined that the original passage slope leading to the funerary apartment was 28°. Some graffiti left by quarrymen yielded the name of Djedefre in situ, as well as the mention of the first year of his reign (2584 BCE). In the central shaft, only the foundation level was saved; nevertheless, the discovery of a few architectural fragments of limestone and granite described the location of the royal burial. As of the 1990s, this substructure seems to show marked similarity with that of the northern pyramid of Zawiyet el-Aryan.


  • Chassinat, Émile. “A propos d'une tête en grès rouge du roi Didoufrî (IVe dynastie) conservée au Musée du Louvre.” Monuments et mémoires publiés par l'académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres 25 (1921–1922), 53–75. Presentation of the work carried out on the site and description of the discovered material, followed by a historical interpretation.
  • Grimal, Nicolas. “Travaux de l'IFAO en 1994–1995, Abou Rawash.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 95 (1995), 545–551. Summary of the preliminary report on the first excavation season.
  • Grimal, Nicholas. “Travaux de l'IFAO en 1995–1996, Abou Rawash.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 96 (1996), 494–499. Summary of the 1996 preliminary report.
  • Maragioglio, Vito, and Celeste Rinaldi. L'architettura delle piramidi menfite, vol. 5. Rapallo, 1966. Architectural description of the pyramids of Djedefre and Khafre.
  • Marchand, Sylvie, and Michel Baud. “La céramique miniature d'Abou Rawash. Un dépôt à l'entrée des enclos orientaux.” Bulletin de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale 96 (1996), 255–288. Analysis of the pottery discovered in 1995 and 1996.
  • Müller, Hans W. “Der Gute Radjedef, Sohn des Rê.” Zeitschrift für die Agyptische Sprache und Altertumskunde 91 (1964), 129–133. Presentation of the inscribed statuary fragments, kept in Munich, in the Staatliche Sammlung Ägyptischer Kunst.
  • Valloggia, Michel. “Le complexe funéraire de Radjedef à Abou-Roasch: état de la question et perspectives de recherches.” Bulletin de la Société française d'Égyptologie: Réunions trimestrielles et communications d'archéologie 130 (1994), 5–17. General presentation of the archaeological and historical aspects of the site that seem problematical.
  • Valloggia, Michel. “Fouilles archéologiques à Abu Rawash (Égypte). Rapport préliminaire de la campagne 1995.” Genava, n.s. 43 (1995), 65–72. Description of the work of the first season.
  • Valloggia, Michel. “Fouilles archéologiques à Abu Rowash (Égypte): Rapport préliminaire de la campagne 1996.” Genava n.s. 44 (1996), 51–59.
  • Valloggia, Michel. “Fouillés archéologiques à Abu Rowash (Égypte). Rapport préliminaire de la campagne 1997.” Genava n.s. 45 (1997), 125–132.

Michel Valloggia