Pyramids of Dashur, Egypt

Pyramids of Dashur, Egypt
  • Credit:

    Astronaut photograph ISS017-E-8285 was acquired on May 30, 2008 with a Nikon D2Xs digital camera fitted with an 800 mm lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations experiment and the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 17 crew. The image in this article has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast. Lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by William L. Stefanov, NASA-JSC.

While the pyramids of Giza are perhaps the most famous, there are several other ancient Egyptian royal necropolis (“city of the dead”) sites situated along the Nile River and its delta. One of these sites is near the village of Dashur, illustrated in this astronaut photograph. The gray-brown built area of Dashur is surrounded by green agricultural land of the Nile Delta, which forms a distinct boundary with the tan desert to the west. It is in the desert that the monuments of the ancient rulers of Egypt are found.

Several monuments are visible in this image, including the large Red and Bent Pyramids built by Snofru, first king of the Fourth Dynasty, which lasted from 2575–2465 BC. Other visible monuments include the pyramid complexes of Amenemhat III and Sesostris III, both kings of the Twelfth Dynasty (1991–1783 BC). Both of these complexes are poorly preserved, due to both the unstable ground conditions and the dismantling of the limestone blocks forming the outer pyramid casings during later historical periods.

The Bent Pyramid (image upper right) is so called because the slope of the outer face was lessened halfway through construction, leading to a distinctive “bent” profile. Scholars have offered different explanations for why this was done: perhaps to decrease the mass of the pyramid to prevent its collapse or to reduce the work necessary to complete it. The Red Pyramid to the north (image center) was built after the Bent Pyramid, and is named for the coloration of the building stone at the structure’s core. Compare the shadows of the Red and Bent pyramids in the image to see the different profiles of the structures (easier to see in the large image.) An irregular, dark feature to the southeast of the Bent Pyramid is not a shadow cast by a monument; it is an irrigation area extending into the desert.

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  • Data Date:

    May 30, 2008
  • Visualization Date:

    August 11, 2008
  • Sensor(s):

    ISS - Digital Camera
NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration