Egypt: Djedefre, 3rd King of Egypt's 4th Dynasty

Djedefre, 3rd King of Egypt's 4th Dynasty

by Jimmy Dunn

Cartouche of Djedefre

A lot of the history surrounding Djedefre is changing as we find out more about his pyramid at Abu Rawash. He was presumably the 3rd King of Egypt's 4th Dynasty, and traditionally is considered the son of Khufu by a minor blond, Libyan consort. Perhaps his main significance is that he was the first king to adopt the name, "son of Re". This is significant from the standpoint of the 5th Dynasty, when kings would completely embrace this sun god. Though he was indeed the son of Khufu, the mother has been bought into question by some modern Egyptologists. In fact, our whole understanding of this king seems to be in doubt. The Turin King list gives Djedefre eight years of rule, though because of some cattle counts, some Egyptologists credit him with a little longer reign. We know of two of Djedefre's wives, who were apparently named Hetepheres II, his sister, and Khentetenka. Hetepheres II is interesting, in that she was probably one of the longest living of her family line. Djedefre had at least three sons, named Setka, Baka (Bakare) and Hernet, all by Khentetenka, and perhaps two daughters, of which one was Neferhetepes. Fragmentary statues of these children were found in his pyramid complex.

Statue of Setka, Djedefre's son, as a scribe

Statue of Setka, Djedefre's son, as a scribe

The king, who's birthname was Djedef-re, meaning Enduring like Re, is also know as Djedefra, Redjedef, and Radjedef. He was believed to have possibly usurped the throne by murdering his older half brother, Kauab. As the son of a more prominent Egyptian queen, Kauab (Kawab) would probably have had a better claim to the throne than Djedefre. Interestingly, Hetepheres II, Djedefre's queen, was apparently married to Kauab before his death. In turn, it was believed that Khafre, Djedefre's younger half brother by Khufu and successor, may have murdered him, perhaps out of revenge. Apparently, most of these assumptions are based on matters surrounding Djedefre's pyramid at Abu Rawash. Its location alone, abandoning the pyramid field at Giza for Abu Rawash, seems to indicate some sort of split within the family. Then we also have statuary fragments found in the complex that would appear to have been intentionally smashed. It was thought that Khafre may have been responsible for this destruction. Also, the fact that Khafre succeeded Djedefre and immediately moved his mortuary complex back to Giza was believed to substantiate a break, and than a return to the family traditions. However, much of this is now in dispute (as some of it has always been), or has been proven to be completely wrong. For example, evidence now suggests that it was presumably Djedefre who completed his father's burial at Giza and was particularly responsible for the provision of his funerary boats, where Djedefre's name was found. This does not appear support a break within the family. Furthermore, the broken statues now seem to have been the results of locals, particularly in the Roman and Christian era.

Head of Djedefre

Head of Djedefre

Furthermore, it would also appear from fragmentary evidence around his pyramid that after Djedefre's death, he enjoyed a lengthy cult following that was not disrupted by his successor. Why Djedefre chose to build his pyramid at Abu Rawash remains a mystery, but in many respects, we find evidence that Djedefre certainly had a religious departure from his family. His pyramid has a number of elements that seem to revert to earlier times, while his adoption of a "son of Re" name also suggests religious deviations signaling many things to come. It is now believed that Kauab was in fact probably not murdered by Djedefre, and that Djedefre may have been fairly old when he ascended the throne, and probably died in a manner other than at the hands of his half brother, Khafre. Djedefre is further attested to by an inscription, along with one also of his father, in the gneiss quarries deep in the Nubian Western Desert. We also find his name inscribed at a structure in Zawiyet el-Aryan. A number of statues have been discovered of this king, including several head recovered from his pyramid. One of these is thought to have possibly been the first known form of a sphinx.






Reference Number

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