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Everyone knows Khufu -- usually seen in English as Cheops -- as the builder of the "Great Pyramid" in Giza -- one of the wonders of the ancient world. After the enormous build ling projects of his father, Sneferu, in Dashur and Maidum, Khufu moved his mortuary temple and monuments tot he great plateau at Giza and raised a pyramid that continues to astound the world today. It is not known why he moved his funerary moments away from not only his father's location (Dashur), but also the great necropolis of Saqqara.
Khufu had many sons, and at least one chronology posits that his was initially succeeded by his eldest son, Kauab but that Kauab was quickly usurped by a younger son, Re-djedef, who would take the throne as Djedefre. The usurper was on the throne only a short time and a third son took the throne -- Khephren.
The two major sources for his reign are wildly different -- Manetho and Herodotus both claim he ruled for 63 years, but the Turin King list only notes 23 years for the successor of Sneferu (although the name of Sneferu's successor is not given). The highest year referenced is the year of the 17th cattle count -- and depending on whether you believe the cattle counts took place annually, or every other year, he ruled for at least 17 or at least 33 years. The fact that we really don't know how often these major "counting events" occurred makes it very difficult to determine just how long each king was in office. Manetho, it has been pointed out, is not the most reliable of source since we really do not have his original works, only translations done centuries afterwards.
Herodotus is viewed much the same way -- quite unreliable. It is clear that his oft-repeated assertion that slaves built the pyramids is untrue. The skilled labor required, and the enormous support systems discovered ont the plateau instead point to the fact that the pyramids were designed and built by artisans, with the "heavy lifting" work done by the farmers and peasants during the time when the Nile was flooded (about four months a year). They were paid and well taken care of during this time, and the belief that the pharaoh was divine made the building of the pyramid desirable work.
The slave story is probably a bit of literary excess meant to illustrate the well-known reputation of Khufu as a tyrannical and cruel king. Contemporary Egyptian writings noted that he was not the "wise and kind" leader that his father was, and the tradition of Khufu as a "bad king" was ingrained by the Middle Kingdom. Later writings make the statement that he "ignored the gods", which is a serious accusation against a king who was seen as the divine presence of the gods on earth. Most likely, any representations of the king were destroyed or deliberately erased after his death This may be why only a single, tiny statue -- about four inches tall -- exists
The tiny ivory statue was found by Flinders Petrie in 1903 in Abydos. it clearly belongs to Khufu, as the Horus-name is inscribed on the right-hand side. Despite its tiny size, the details of the carving made the expression on the king's face quite recognizable. The king wears the Red Crown (of Lower Egypt) and holds a flail in his right hand. The statue is one of the important artifacts in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
A much larger granite head has also been found that some believe may be part of a statue of Khufu. The dates are right (end of Dynasty III, beginning of Dynasty IV) and the narrow eyes, broad nose and mouth seem to resemble the tiny ivory statue known to be Khufu. However, there are no identifying marks on the head to confirm the identification. It may belong to Huni the last king of Dynasty III.
There were few military threats to Egypt during his reign, although Khufu continued to post a military presence in the Sinai and Nubia to protect his interests there. He continued the expansionist policies of his father and extended the Egyptian borders to include Sinai and Upper Egypt and continued to trade with Syria in the north and Nubia in the south.