Menkaure (also Menkaura, Egyptian transliteration mn-k3w-R?), was an ancient Egyptian king (pharaoh) of the fourth dynasty during the Old Kingdom, who is well known under his Hellenized names Mykerinos (Greek: ) (by Herodotus) and Menkheres (by Manetho). According to Manetho, he was the throne successor of king Bikheris, but according to archaeological evidence he rather was the successor of king Khafre. Africanus (from Syncellus) reports as rulers of the fourth dynasty Sôris, Suphis I, Suphis II, Mencherês, Ratoisês, Bicheris, Sebercherês, and Thamphthis in this order. Menkaure became famous for his tomb, the Pyramid of Menkaure, at Giza and his beautiful statue triads, showing the king together with his wives Rekhetre and Khamerernebty and with various deities.
Menkaure was the son of Khafra and the grandson of Khufu. A flint knife found in the mortuary temple of Menkaure mentioned a king's mother Khamerernebty I, suggesting that Khafra and this queen were the parents of Menkaure. Menkaure is thought to have had at least two wives.
Not many children are attested for Menkaure:
The royal court included several of Menkaure's half brothers. His brothers Nebemakhet, Duaenre, Nikaure, and Iunmin served as viziers during the reign of their brother. His brother Sekhemkare may have been younger than he was and became vizier after the death of Menkaure.
The length of Menkaure's reign is uncertain. The ancient historian Manetho credits him with rulership of 63 years, but this is surely an exaggeration. The Turin Canon is damaged at the spot where it should present the full sum of years, but the remains allow a reconstruction of "..?.. + 8 years of rulership". Egyptologists think that 18-year rulership was meant to be written, which is generally accepted. A contemporary workmen's graffito reports about the "year after the 11th cattle count". If the cattle count was held every second year (as was tradition at least up to king Sneferu), Menkaure might have ruled for 22 years.
Menkaure's pyramid at Giza was called Netjer-er-Menkaure, meaning "Menkaure is Divine". This pyramid is the smallest of the three main pyramids at Giza. This pyramid measures 103.4 m (339 ft) at the base and 65.5 m (215 ft) in height. There are three subsidiary pyramids associated with Menkaure's pyramid.
These other pyramids are sometimes labeled G-IIIa (East subsidiary pyramid), G-IIIb (Middle subsidiary pyramid) and G-IIIc (West subsidiary pyramid). In the chapel associated with G-IIIa a statue of a queen was found. It is possible that these pyramids were meant for the queens of Khafra. It may be that Khamerernebti II was buried in one of the pyramids.
The Valley temple was a mainly brick built structure that was enlarged in the fifth or sixth Dynasty. From this temple come the famous statues of Menkaure with his queen and Menkaure with several deities. A partial list includes:
At his mortuary temple more statues and statue fragments were found. An interesting find is a fragment of a wand from Queen Khamerernebty I. The piece is now in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Khamerernebti is given the title King's Mother on the fragment.
In 1837, English army officer Richard William Howard Vyse, and engineer John Shae Perring began excavations within the pyramid of Menkaure. In the main burial chamber of the pyramid they found a large stone sarcophagus 8 feet 0 inches (244 cm) long, 3 feet 0 inches (91 cm) in width, and 2 feet 11 inches (89 cm) in height, made of basalt. The sarcophagus was not inscribed with hieroglyphs although it was decorated in the style of palace facade. Adjacent to the burial chamber were found wooden fragments of a coffin bearing the name of Menkaure and a partial skeleton wrapped in a coarse cloth. The sarcophagus was removed from the pyramid and was sent by ship to the British Museum in London, but the merchant ship Beatrice carrying it was lost after leaving port at Malta on October 13, 1838. The other materials were sent by a separate ship, and those materials now reside at the museum, with the remains of the wooden coffin case on display.
It is now thought that the coffin was a replacement made during the much later Saite period, nearly two millennia after the king's original interment. Radio carbon dating of the bone fragments that were found, place them at an even later date, from the Coptic period in the first centuries AD.
According to Herodotus (430 BC), Menkaure was the son of Khufu (Greek Cheops), and that he alleviated the suffering his father's reign had caused the inhabitants of ancient Egypt. Herodotus adds that he suffered much misfortune: his only daughter, whose corpse was interred in a wooden bull (which Herodotus claims survived to his lifetime), died before him. Subsequently the oracle at Buto predicted he would only rule six more years.
The king deemed this unjust, and sent back to the oracle a message of reproach, blaming the god: why must he die so soon who was pious, whereas his father and his uncle had lived long, who shut up the temples, and regarded not the gods, and destroyed men? But a second utterance from the place of divination declared to him that his good deeds were the very cause of shortening his life; for he had done what was contrary to fate; Egypt should have been afflicted for an hundred and fifty years, whereof the two kings before him had been aware, but not Mycerinus. Hearing this, he knew that his doom was fixed. Therefore he caused many lamps to be made, and would light these at nightfall and drink and make merry; by day or night he never ceased from revelling, roaming to the marsh country and the groves and wherever he heard of the likeliest places of pleasure. Thus he planned, that by turning night into day he might make his six years into twelve and so prove the oracle false.