At 66 metres, the Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three world-famous pyramids of Giza, and is located near the Egyptian capital, Cairo. It is included with the Sphinx on the UNESCO World Heritage List and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The monuments attract more than 14 million visitors every year.
Egyptian Minister of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri, calls the plan to cover the monument, which dates back to the twenty-sixth century BC, with granite, “the project of the century.” In a video posted on social media, he tries to reassure critics in advance: A team of Egyptian and Japanese archaeologists will first conduct a year of research before restoration operations begin.
Archaeologists around the world are offended by this plan. They criticize the costs and feasibility and also fear the memorial will look like Disney. There was also a call to complete the entire research first and publish it in a scientific journal before starting the project.
Granite and limestone
It is not clear what condition the granite and limestone now cover the outer layer of the monument. “Granite and limestone have been exposed to the effects of weather for centuries,” says Daniel Solomon, curator at the National Museum of Archaeology in Leiden. “We don’t know if limestone can support very heavy granite blocks.”
Suleiman also has doubts about the viability of the plan for another reason. “The idea is to place each stone individually in its correct place. But not all of the original stones are still there, let alone in their original condition. So restoring the pyramid to its former glory is not actually possible.”
However, restoration projects are necessary, says the curator. “It enhances our experience of antiquity and also ensures the preservation of antiquity. In the past, for example, murals in ancient temples were cleaned, which is of great value. But this project is of a different nature.”
Despite the many obstacles, Suleiman gives the project the benefit of the doubt. “Let us first wait and see how the preparations go. The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has successfully led major projects several times before.