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Lord Harry

Khufu's Ka Statue

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I am about to propose here an interesting hypothesis concerning the function of the so-called "Queen's Chamber" in the Great Pyramid of Khufu.  When one enters this chamber, their attention is immediately gravitated towards a 16' high corbelled niche occupying the eastern wall.  It is my opinion, that this served the function of a serdab, the purpose of which was to hold a larger than life sized statue of the king.  While this theory in and of itself is not controversial, as many if not most Egyptologists agree the Queen's Chamber was most likely a serdab, what I am about to propose may sound somewhat unlikely at first glance. 

I contend that not only did this room contain Khufu's ka statue, but that his ka statue was found by the Caliph al-Mamun and his exploration party when they were the first to enter the pyramid since ancient times around AD 820.  There is in fact strong but subtle evidence for this hypothesis.  According to legend, when al-Mamun and his men entered the Queen's Chamber they found what they described as "a green emerald statue of a man."  Other Arab accounts describe the niche as containing a statue of green stone. This statue was said to have been removed from the chamber and taken to the Caliph's palace in Cairo during the early 12th century.

http://www.pyramidofman.com/Body.htm

Now upon reading this you may wonder why I would be so convinced about the accuracy of medieval Arab accounts.  Here is where this starts to get interesting.  The Arab accounts referred to the statue as being made of "green stone."  This green stone was most likely malachite, which was mined by the Egyptians in the eastern desert since predynastic times.  Now the reason this reference to green stone is interesting, has to do with the fact that according to ancient Egyptian mythology, green was considered to be the color of fertility and rebirth.  The medieval Arabs certainly would not have been aware of this, and I would surmise that if they were going to invent a fantastical account of treasures being found in the Great Pyramid, they would have described the statue as being made of solid gold, not of something as comparatively mundane as green stone.  Unlike the ba, which was fully independent of the body, the ka had to return either to the body or to a recognizable likeness of it each night in order for the deceased to continue to exist in the afterlife.  Therefore, it would only be fitting for the king's ka statue to have been made of green stone, since the color green symbolized resurrection and life.

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29 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

I am about to propose here an interesting hypothesis concerning the function of the so-called "Queen's Chamber" in the Great Pyramid of Khufu.  When one enters this chamber, their attention is immediately gravitated towards a 16' high corbelled niche occupying the eastern wall.  It is my opinion, that this served the function of a serdab, the purpose of which was to hold a larger than life sized statue of the king.  While this theory in and of itself is not controversial, as many if not most Egyptologists agree the Queen's Chamber was most likely a serdab, what I am about to propose may sound somewhat unlikely at first glance. 

I contend that not only did this room contain Khufu's ka statue, but that his ka statue was found by the Caliph al-Mamun and his exploration party when they were the first to enter the pyramid since ancient times around AD 820.  There is in fact strong but subtle evidence for this hypothesis.  According to legend, when al-Mamun and his men entered the Queen's Chamber they found what they described as "a green emerald statue of a man."  Other Arab accounts describe the niche as containing a statue of green stone. This statue was said to have been removed from the chamber and taken to the Caliph's palace in Cairo during the early 12th century.

http://www.pyramidofman.com/Body.htm

Now upon reading this you may wonder why I would be so convinced about the accuracy of medieval Arab accounts.  Here is where this starts to get interesting.  The Arab accounts referred to the statue as being made of "green stone."  This green stone was most likely malachite, which was mined by the Egyptians in the eastern desert since predynastic times.  Now the reason this reference to green stone is interesting, has to do with the fact that according to ancient Egyptian mythology, green was considered to be the color of fertility and rebirth.  The medieval Arabs certainly would not have been aware of this, and I would surmise that if they were going to invent a fantastical account of treasures being found in the Great Pyramid, they would have described the statue as being made of solid gold, not of something as comparatively mundane as green stone.  Unlike the ba, which was fully independent of the body, the ka had to return either to the body or to a recognizable likeness of it each night in order for the deceased to continue to exist in the afterlife.  Therefore, it would only be fitting for the king's ka statue to have been made of green stone, since the color green symbolized resurrection and life.

Very interesting but what happened to the statue after that? If it was that tall/size how could it have been removed and taken out?

As it was manlike I wonder if it was destroyed as haram during one of the recurring outbreaks of piety? Or might it still exist - where was Al-Mamun's palace?

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That would be outside the normal cultural practices.

The ka statue is the means through which the soul receives offerings in the afterlife. It has to be easily accessible so that the priests can set down food and drink and other things in front of it.  In the older mastaba tombs there were openings that the priests and family could enter (through the top, actually) to leave these offerings.

Ka statues are usually found in mortuary temples.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka_statue#Purpose_and_use

Baird (Bard, Kathryn A. An introduction to the archaeology of ancient Egypt. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.) cites Amenenhat III's Ka statue being found inside the tomb in a special antechamber.

While they made some things out of malachite, that amount of malachite is really hard to come by.  It's far more likely that it was wood or another stone and was painted green.  This, again was a typical practice.

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5 minutes ago, Hanslune said:

Very interesting but what happened to the statue after that? If it was that tall/size how could it have been removed and taken out?

As it was manlike I wonder if it was destroyed as haram during one of the recurring outbreaks of piety? Or might it still exist - where was Al-Mamun's palace?

That is an interesting question. It's possible the statue could have been removed from the Queen's Chamber and down through the Grand Gallery through the robber's tunnel. As the statue was reportedly man sized or larger, there would have been some difficulty in removing it. Though since the ancient Egyptians were able to maneuver it into the Pyramid, it must have been possible to remove it.

I'm not sure if the source, but I seem to remember it mentioned that the statue could have been seen in the palace at Cairo as late as the 15th century. What, if anything, has since happened to it is anybody's guess. 

Does anyone know of any primary Arabic sources which may contain further information?

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Posted (edited)

8 minutes ago, Kenemet said:

That would be outside the normal cultural practices.

The ka statue is the means through which the soul receives offerings in the afterlife. It has to be easily accessible so that the priests can set down food and drink and other things in front of it.  In the older mastaba tombs there were openings that the priests and family could enter (through the top, actually) to leave these offerings.

Ka statues are usually found in mortuary temples.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ka_statue#Purpose_and_use

Baird (Bard, Kathryn A. An introduction to the archaeology of ancient Egypt. John Wiley & Sons, 2015.) cites Amenenhat III's Ka statue being found inside the tomb in a special antechamber.

While they made some things out of malachite, that amount of malachite is really hard to come by.  It's far more likely that it was wood or another stone and was painted green.  This, again was a typical practice.

That is possible also. However, the current Egyptological consensus was that the Queen's Chamber was a serdab for Khufu's ka statue. See Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids.

He almost certainly would have had multiple statues in the Mortuary Temple which would have been serviced by the priests of his cult. Though, he may have had a statue inside the Queen's Chamber as a backup in the event that his other statues and mummy were destroyed.

Edited by Lord Harry

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Posted (edited)

3 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

That is an interesting question. It's possible the statue could have been removed from the Queen's Chamber and down through the Grand Gallery through the robber's tunnel. As the statue was reportedly man sized or larger, there would have been some difficulty in removing it. Though since the ancient Egyptians were able to maneuver it into the Pyramid, it must have been possible to remove it.

I'm not sure if the source, but I seem to remember it mentioned that the statue could have been seen in the palace at Cairo as late as the 15th century. What, if anything, has since happened to it is anybody's guess. 

Does anyone know of any primary Arabic sources which may contain further information?

I'd presume something that big (if it filled the niche) would have been placed there during construction.

That might be an interesting item to research for its bits and piece may exist somewhere.

 

Quote

During the reign of al-Ma'mun, astronomical observatories were set up, and the House was an unrivalled center for the study of humanities and for science in medieval Islam, including mathematics, astronomy, medicine, alchemy and chemistry, zoology, and geography and cartography. Drawing primarily on Greek, but also Syriac, Indian and Persian texts, the scholars accumulated a great collection of world knowledge, and built on it through their own discoveries. By the middle of the ninth century, the House of Wisdom had the largest selection of books in the world.[5]

It was destroyed in the sack of the city following the Mongol Siege of Baghdad (1258).

 

Edited by Hanslune
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55 minutes ago, Hanslune said:

I'd presume something that big (if it filled the niche) would have been placed there during construction.

That might be an interesting item to research for its bits and piece may exist somewhere.

 

Exactly. We should scour the medieval Arabic sources, as that would be our best bet. Unfortunately, I can't read Arabic and will have to rely on English and German language translations.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Hanslune said:

I'd presume something that big (if it filled the niche) would have been placed there during construction.

That might be an interesting item to research for its bits and piece may exist somewhere.

 

 

Thank you for posting this. So I would assume that the statue, if it existed, would have been destroyed during the Mongol seige of 1258? 

Though after further reading the article I posted, I notice that it mentioned the statue could be seen at the palace in Cairo during the 12th century. The Mongols never invaded Egypt. So the statue, or parts of it, might still be in existence. Though I would like to track down relevant primary sources. 

Edited by Lord Harry
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58 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

Thank you for posting this. So I would assume that the statue, if it existed, would have been destroyed during the Mongol seige of 1258? 

Though after further reading the article I posted, I notice that it mentioned the statue could be seen at the palace in Cairo during the 12th century. The Mongols never invaded Egypt. So the statue, or parts of it, might still be in existence. Though I would like to track down relevant primary sources. 

I would suspect that someone else earlier might have looked into it but I cannot suggest how to find their earlier research

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59 minutes ago, Lord Harry said:

Thank you for posting this. So I would assume that the statue, if it existed, would have been destroyed during the Mongol seige of 1258? 

Though after further reading the article I posted, I notice that it mentioned the statue could be seen at the palace in Cairo during the 12th century. The Mongols never invaded Egypt. So the statue, or parts of it, might still be in existence. Though I would like to track down relevant primary sources. 

If it was indeed somewhere in the vicinity of Cairo it fragments might still exist somewhere.

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5 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

That is possible also. However, the current Egyptological consensus was that the Queen's Chamber was a serdab for Khufu's ka statue. See Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids.

He almost certainly would have had multiple statues in the Mortuary Temple which would have been serviced by the priests of his cult. Though, he may have had a statue inside the Queen's Chamber as a backup in the event that his other statues and mummy were destroyed.

The problem as I see it is that pyramid building was continuous and in some cases simultaneous there at Giza.  If it was a serdab for Khufu's ka statue then we would see indications in the other Gizamids as well as elsewhere that this was the function of that space.  

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Wow, refreshing. An alternative theory that involves prospects of reality. This is refreshing. No liquid hydrogen, no intimate connections with Orion's Belt, no astronomical observatory, no geysers...

For over thirty years now I've been reading theories that the Queen's Chamber may have been used for the placement of a statue. It's only theoretical because no one can know for certain. I find it plausible. Kenemet's notes on the nature and uses of ka statues are spot-on, but who's to say a statue placed within that chamber was a ka statue in the strictest sense of the term? The Queen's Chamber in reality seems to have been an older and discontinued burial chamber, which was rendered irrelevant when the King's Chamber was planned. They might've ended up using it for something different altogether.

For that matter, perhaps the corbeled vault inside the Queen's Chamber never had anything at all in it, or perhaps there was a statue but it wasn't as large as the vault (didn't fill it, in other words). Some tombs contain multiple ka statues for the same person, such as showing him through different stages in life. Almost certainly the mortuary temple for Khufu had numerous ka statues for him. It couldn't hurt to have another, even if priests would never directly service it. And an important function of such statues was to stand as a physical backup in the event the tomb owner's mummy was destroyed. It could've been for that purpose, too. We certainly don't have a full understanding of their religion and monuments, especially in the Old Kingdom, so a statue in that chamber might have been for some purpose of which we're unaware. After all, to this day no one really has a good understanding of the small monument we call the "satellite" pyramid, so there's no harm in speculating. As long as it follows reality. I think Lord Harry's theory does.

I don't know how much weight to put on legends and yarns from the early Muslim period. I tend not to regard them too seriously, myself. For that matter maybe the statue, if it existed, wasn't even green.

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4 hours ago, Hanslune said:

If it was indeed somewhere in the vicinity of Cairo it fragments might still exist somewhere.

It's also possible the statue was finished and ready to be installed in the Queen's Chamber...and never was for some reason. In that case it very well might have been used by another king or nobleman for his own tomb, and was ultimately destroyed ages ago. Or maybe it's in Zahi Hawass's closet. Or Rupert's.

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13 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

...

I'm not sure if the source, but I seem to remember it mentioned that the statue could have been seen in the palace at Cairo as late as the 15th century. What, if anything, has since happened to it is anybody's guess. 

Does anyone know of any primary Arabic sources which may contain further information?

 

Frank Doernenburg, citing al-Kaisi, suggests it was a malachite sarcophagus.

Jason Colavito provides a quote from a translation of al-Kaisi:

 

Quote

It is said that a man who entered [the pyramid] in Al-Ma’mun’s time discovered a small room therein where there was a statue of a man in stone green as dahang. This statue was brought to Al-Ma’mun. It had a lid that could be removed, and within they found the body of a man wearing a gold breastplate encrusted with all kinds of jewels. On his chest lay a sword of inestimable price, and near the head was a red ruby the size of a hen’s egg which shone like a flame, which Al-Ma’mun took for himself. The statue within which this dead man was encased was put up near the door of the king’s palace in Cairo where I saw it in the year 511 (1138 CE).

(Colavito adds more here, and also here.)

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5 hours ago, Windowpane said:

 

Frank Doernenburg, citing al-Kaisi, suggests it was a malachite sarcophagus.

Jason Colavito provides a quote from a translation of al-Kaisi:

 

(Colavito adds more here, and also here.)

Very interesting information. After reading these articles, it would seem many of the medieval Arab stories about the Great Pyramid were derived from somewhat distorted accounts containing a grain of truth, but otherwise heavily embellished.

Perhaps the malachite sarcophagus, if indeed there was one, was from a later intrusive burial. Or, as the author of the article seems to imply, it may have come from a different site entirely and was later associated with the Great Pyramid as a result of al-Mamun's explorations. 

However, the Arab accounts were written before the large scale quarrying of the Giza monuments. They may in fact contain a veritable gold mine of Egyptological information. More translations into English and other European languages are desperately needed.

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12 hours ago, kmt_sesh said:

Wow, refreshing. An alternative theory that involves prospects of reality. This is refreshing. No liquid hydrogen, no intimate connections with Orion's Belt, no astronomical observatory, no geysers...

For over thirty years now I've been reading theories that the Queen's Chamber may have been used for the placement of a statue. It's only theoretical because no one can know for certain. I find it plausible. Kenemet's notes on the nature and uses of ka statues are spot-on, but who's to say a statue placed within that chamber was a ka statue in the strictest sense of the term? The Queen's Chamber in reality seems to have been an older and discontinued burial chamber, which was rendered irrelevant when the King's Chamber was planned. They might've ended up using it for something different altogether.

For that matter, perhaps the corbeled vault inside the Queen's Chamber never had anything at all in it, or perhaps there was a statue but it wasn't as large as the vault (didn't fill it, in other words).

I agree that it's an interesting and refreshing theory and one worthy of exploring.  My counter to this is that there are a number of pyramids that also have these corbelled chambers with the exact same construction and there are no traces of statuary there, either.

Menefer Pepi, for instance.  The corbel chamber contains his Pyramid Text and is the burial chamber.  My French is terrible (I don't speak it all and can figure out only a little) but it appears that the ka statue was in this chamber and not a separate one.

The Pyramid of Unas has the Pyramid Text (some of it) and the sarcophagus in the corbelled area and the "magazines" were ka-statue areas.

Menkauhor's "Headless Pyramid" also shows a sarcophagus inside a corbelled chamber - while I (personally) think an interior ka statue is plausible I expect that they are found closer to the body and not a distance away (in chambers in the wall of the burial room.

 

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

Very interesting information. After reading these articles, it would seem many of the medieval Arab stories about the Great Pyramid were derived from somewhat distorted accounts containing a grain of truth, but otherwise heavily embellished.

Perhaps the malachite sarcophagus, if indeed there was one, was from a later intrusive burial. Or, as the author of the article seems to imply, it may have come from a different site entirely and was later associated with the Great Pyramid as a result of al-Mamun's explorations. 

However, the Arab accounts were written before the large scale quarrying of the Giza monuments. They may in fact contain a veritable gold mine of Egyptological information. More translations into English and other European languages are desperately needed.

While it's relatively plentiful, it's generally lower grade stuff associated with copper ore and is found in smaller chunks and veins.  Slabs large enough to carve are rare (you see vases and figures similar to jade) but with a Moh's scale of 3-4, it's a fairly fragile stone (I've cut and polished malachite.)

I'm calling "fantasy" on a malachite sarcophagus.  

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Posted (edited)

55 minutes ago, Kenemet said:

I agree that it's an interesting and refreshing theory and one worthy of exploring.  My counter to this is that there are a number of pyramids that also have these corbelled chambers with the exact same construction and there are no traces of statuary there, either.

Menefer Pepi, for instance.  The corbel chamber contains his Pyramid Text and is the burial chamber.  My French is terrible (I don't speak it all and can figure out only a little) but it appears that the ka statue was in this chamber and not a separate one.

The Pyramid of Unas has the Pyramid Text (some of it) and the sarcophagus in the corbelled area and the "magazines" were ka-statue areas.

Menkauhor's "Headless Pyramid" also shows a sarcophagus inside a corbelled chamber - while I (personally) think an interior ka statue is plausible I expect that they are found closer to the body and not a distance away (in chambers in the wall of the burial room.

 

 

 

 

 

That is true, but there is a niche in the eastern wall of the Great Pyramid's Queen's Chamber.

This certainly would appear well suited to contain a larger than life sized statue.

I agree with you about the malachite sarcophagus most likely being a medieval legend and nothing more, however that doesn't necessarily negate the possibility of the Queen's Chamber once containing a statue.

Edited to add: For some reason, I am unable to successfully copy and paste the image.  Here is a link to a webpage where the niche can be seen.

https://www.google.com/search?q=queen's+chamber+niche&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBo4XN6JDVAhVM6mMKHe5WC1wQ_AUIBigB&biw=1252&bih=604#imgrc=dfNZycoVZvuB1M:

Edited by Lord Harry
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3 hours ago, Lord Harry said:

Edited to add: For some reason, I am unable to successfully copy and paste the image.  Here is a link to a webpage where the niche can be seen.

https://www.google.com/search?q=queen's+chamber+niche&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBo4XN6JDVAhVM6mMKHe5WC1wQ_AUIBigB&biw=1252&bih=604#imgrc=dfNZycoVZvuB1M:

queen98e.jpg

queen98d.jpg

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I believe I have solved the mystery of the corbeled niche in the Queen's Chamber:

QC-TubeDude_zps2qeydgic.jpg

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On 7/17/2017 at 0:16 PM, Lord Harry said:

That is true, but there is a niche in the eastern wall of the Great Pyramid's Queen's Chamber.

This certainly would appear well suited to contain a larger than life sized statue.

I agree with you about the malachite sarcophagus most likely being a medieval legend and nothing more, however that doesn't necessarily negate the possibility of the Queen's Chamber once containing a statue.

Edited to add: For some reason, I am unable to successfully copy and paste the image.  Here is a link to a webpage where the niche can be seen.

https://www.google.com/search?q=queen's+chamber+niche&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiBo4XN6JDVAhVM6mMKHe5WC1wQ_AUIBigB&biw=1252&bih=604#imgrc=dfNZycoVZvuB1M:

I believe that's the entrance to one of the shafts, isn't it?  That seems like an unlikely place for a ka statue since they could not have gotten up there to give offerings.

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2 hours ago, Kenemet said:

I believe that's the entrance to one of the shafts, isn't it?  That seems like an unlikely place for a ka statue since they could not have gotten up there to give offerings.

No, the air shafts are much smaller.  A matter of inches.  The niche in the Queen's Chamber has been noted since at least the early Islamic period.

It could have been a "back-up" ka statue.  Kings would generally have several ka statues.  Khafre for example, had over 50 life sized statues placed within his pyramid complex, 23 of these within his valley temple.  Khufu almost certainly would have had at least several ka statues in his mortuary temple alone.

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I'll say again that a statue need not have been open and visible, especially if there were others that fit that situation already. As I mentioned before, not all such statues are even visible. This is true with some serdab statues, which are very much like ka statues. And a good example of this is the statue of Hemiunu, likely architect of the Great Pyramid:

190px-Statue-of-Hemiun.jpg

His statue was found in the beginning of the twentieth century, walled up in his mastaba at Giza. The Queen's Chamber in the Great Pyramid, once no longer set to be used as a burial chamber, may have served as a kind of serdab for Khufu.

That statue kind of looks like me, except he has more hair. And bigger boobies. And looks better in a kilt.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, kmt_sesh said:

I'll say again that a statue need not have been open and visible, especially if there were others that fit that situation already. As I mentioned before, not all such statues are even visible. This is true with some serdab statues, which are very much like ka statues. And a good example of this is the statue of Hemiunu, likely architect of the Great Pyramid:

190px-Statue-of-Hemiun.jpg

His statue was found in the beginning of the twentieth century, walled up in his mastaba at Giza. The Queen's Chamber in the Great Pyramid, once no longer set to be used as a burial chamber, may have served as a kind of serdab for Khufu.

That statue kind of looks like me, except he has more hair. And bigger boobies. And looks better in a kilt.

Exactly.  Djoser's ka statue was also discovered walled up in a serdab in the South Tomb of his Step Pyramid Complex.  Kings would generally have multiple ka statues.  Take Khafre for example, his Pyramid Complex once contained more than 50 ka statues.  Khafre's satellite pyramid most likely contained an additional ka statue, since the remains of a wooden frame of the type that was used for transporting a large statue was found there.  See, Mark Lehner, The Complete Pyramids.

Edited by Lord Harry
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Didn't Djoser's serdab have two little eye holes so his statue could "see" out? That's what I've always read. I can't say with certainty. Only Hanslune is old enough to have been there when it was made.

Oh, here's a photo:

DCP02307.JPG

Again, I've never set foot there myself, but that serdab looks recreated. I can't relate the original condition. Or were the little holes for geyser-pressure relief? :D

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