King Sneferu was the first pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty in Egypt. His birth name Sneferu is also spelled as Snefru or Snofru. Snefer, his name in Egyptian language literally means “to make beautiful”. His Horus or title name was Nebmaat. He was the first pharaoh to put both his birth and Horus name within a cartouche ( cartouche is an ellipse enclosing a name with a horizontal line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name.)
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Succession of Power. He was said to be the son of King Huni, the pharaoh who reigned before him. His mother, Meresankh I, was a concubine making Sneferu, not of royal lineage earning the speculations that this was the reason a new dynasty started with him. Traditionally, the power and divinity of a pharaoh was passed through by a woman, either through birth or by marriage. That is why even if he was the son of the preceding king; he married his probably half sister, Hetepheres I, to legalize his throne. It was a common practice in ancient Egypt. They became the parents of Khufu, the king who succeeded after Sneferu, the one credited for building the Great Pyramid at Giza.
Family Man. King Sneferu was believed to have at least two other wives and several daughters and other sons. Two of them belonged to the prestigious line of officers reporting to the king known as the vizier, the eldest Nefermaet, and Kanefer.
Leadership and Government. Sneferu made big changes in the government during his time. He centralized the administrative power to the royal family by appointing members of his family to key positions. This worked well in Egypt and brought great results for the country. He also changed the land ownership system within the nobles to avoid them to gain great influence and also to promote the development of swampy areas.
He ruled over a peaceful and prosperous time in Egypt. During his time, biennial tax collection was widely practiced. It was an era of a leap in arts and architecture, and he contributed to it when he perfected the first true pyramid.
However, his leadership was also one of numerous military conquests with Egypt growing more powerful by invading other countries taking their assets and ruling the trade. He was actively trading with the Mediterranean countries, but his main goal was to create a prosperous nation because trade with another nation was not that successful as it was often stopped by battles. In his time, he managed to conquer Nubia and Libya, built a garrison in Buhen, and put Sinai under the possession of Egypt.
Pyramids and Cult of King Snefru
King Sneferu, just like with the other pharaohs gave importance to his death, and so he ordered the construction of his future tomb when he died, the pyramid. The Egyptians believed that the pyramids were resurrection machines and on the walls of a burial chamber were passages about the safe journey to the next life. He built the three big and well-known pyramids still standing up to this day, one in Meydum and two in Dahshur. He also led the construction several smaller step pyramids found in Seila and at Elephantine Island. These small pyramids were presumably used as the place of cult worship.
His foreign policy was a huge part of the success of his pyramids. The construction of pyramids not only needed a large amount of materials but huge numbers of human power as well. His invasions of Libya and Nubia gained him both the access to the materials he needed for the construction found in the two nations and the captives he could use to work for his labor force.
The Palermo Stone declares that his conquest of Nubia had gained him 7,000 human prisoners and 200,000 head of cattle.While in Libya, he was also able to gain 11,000 prisoners and 13,100 head of cattle.
There is also evidence found in Sinai Peninsula showing huge quarry activity that possibly produced the stones used for the construction of the pyramids.
The step pyramid in Meydum was believed to be originally started by his father, King Huni. He just continued the construction trying to make it a real pyramid but failed. The two pyramids in Dashur, namely, the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid were the third and fourth largest pyramids in Egypt. The Bent Pyramid though not perfectly shaped as a pyramid is considered to be a great leap from the ancient step pyramids to the true geometrically shaped pyramids. While constructing it, they discovered a great technique to create a perfectly shaped pyramid that they applied to the North or Red Pyramid and became successful.
The North Pyramid became known as the Red Pyramid because it glows with red color under the sun. It is where Sneferu is believed to be buried because his cartouches were found inside it, but the mummy of the late King has still not been found.
King Sneferu started the big innovation in pyramid designs. He changed the ancient north to south main axis to an east to west orientation. This change also marked the shift of Egyptian religious beliefs, from the ancient astronomical north-south star belief to the east-west sun. Sneferu magnified the worship of the sun god, Ra. He put the mortuary temple at the east side as opposed to the traditional north side.
Before his time, the kings or pharaohs were thought of as a human personification of Horus, who would only become full deities upon death. He changed it by proclaiming himself as the living sun god, Ra. And so Khufu, who succeeded the throne after him, gained the title as the Son of the Sun God which was also passed on to the succeeding pharaohs. This cult survived even after his death up until the Middle Kingdom.
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