After the Great Pyramid was initially sealed, it's original entrance was hidden and faced with smooth limestone. Because this blended in so well with the surrounding casing, the opening was invisible. Around 820 AD, Abdullah Al Mamun mobilized men to bore a tunnel into the pyramid to search for chambers and treasure. Due to the difficulty of the task of breaking up the hard rock, fires were built to heat the rock and then cold vinegar was poured over the heated rock. Battering rams were used to pound away the weakened rock and clear a tunnel. Eventually, a passageway was found which descended into the lowest chamber of the pyramid. Following this passageway back upward, the original entrance was finally located. In these pictures of the NORTH side you can see the intrusive entrance lower down, and the original entrance higher up flanked by angled stones:
From the outside, near the original entrance. In the left view on the lower left you can see a granite block, believed to be one of the large portcullis blocks that were originally lowered in the antechamber to seal the main burial chamber. These have all been removed from their original place, this one remains here. The picture on the right is looking down the original entrance through the grating that is now in place, this passageway runs over 100 yards in length to the subterranean chamber:
Here, we enter the intrusive passageway, which in modern times is the main entrance. You can notice the rough nature of this tunneling, while the original passageways and chambers inside the pyramid are smooth and finished:
The right view includes modern metal braces which were added to
reinforce this tunneled passageway.
As mentioned, the original entry passageway was refound, this first view shows the descending passageway leading into the lowest subterranean chamber, and also leading back up to the original opening. During the intrusive tunneling, supposedly the sound of falling rock was heard above revealing the existence of an upper cavity. Al Mamun tunneled toward the sound and, amazing, burst into an ascending passageway. The second view shows the original granite blocks, known as portcullis blocks, that were set in place to originally seal access to these upper passageways and chambers. When Mamun had bored through to the ascending passageway he had tunneled just to the side of these blocks which are still in their original place:
To enter the descending passageway and the subterranean chamber,
Now modern steps lead you to a ramp that goes around the portcullis blocks and lead up through the ascending passageway.
Follow then as we enter the ascending passageway that leads to the magnificent Grand Gallery. From here we can enter the two main chambers of the upper section, now called the Queen's and King's chambers and explore the antechamber just before the King's Chamber:
to represent the pinnacle of the Pyramid Age, the Great Pyramid is the epitome
of the knowledge and experience of all previous pyramids. Khufu had every
advantage in growing up in an atmosphere of the several pyramid building
projects of his father, King Sneferu. In light of this it becomes easier to understand
that Khufu was more than qualified to oversee and organize the grand task of
building the monument that is the only surviving member of the Seven Wonders of
the World. So much uninformed speculation abounds as to the origin, engineering
and construction of the Great Pyramid, though we have a wealth of archaeological
evidence to piece together much of the accomplishment. Recently, remnants of
ramps have been found by
Dr. Zahi Hawass on the south side of the pyramid that
attest that some type of ramping was indeed used in the construction of this
monument. The attribution of the pyramid to King Khufu is supported by
workman’s markings that were found in the pyramid, located in small weight
relieving chambers that were
never intended to be opened or seen after they were completed.
The precision with which the pyramid was executed is often the source of marvel and speculation. It is likely that the attention to this precision was related to the many structural problems encountered in previous pyramids. To minimize many of the previous errors, the attention to precision produced a pyramid whose base is level within 2.1 cm (less than 1 in!), with the only difference in the length of the sides being 4.4 cm (1.75 in). The blocks used in the pyramid are large, with a commonly stated average of 2.5 tons. Many blocks are indeed smaller than this, the blocks toward the top decrease in size. Some of the casing stones at the base are very large, weighing as much as 15 tons. The heaviest blocks are the granite blocks used to roof the kings chambers and the weight relieving chambers above the king’s chamber. These are estimated to weigh from 50 to 80 tons each!!
The Great Pyramid has an internal arrangement that is more elaborate than most of the other pyramids. Here, for the first time we see a series of upper passageway and chambers that exist within the body of the pyramid. A unique ascending passageway leads to a magnificent corbelled gallery, know as the Grand Gallery. While it is tempting for people to think that this gallery looks to be ceremonial in appearance, the function of the gallery is more likely a holding place for large blocks which were to seal off the upper chambers after the burial of the king, in order to secure his sacred burial.
There is an antechamber between the grand gallery and the main chamber. It has a configuration that housed large portcullis blocking slabs which were designed to be lowered to seal the chamber after the burial of the king.
The main burial chamber has two small shafts in the north and south walls which extend through the substance of the pyramid to the surface. The north channel is only 5" high x 7" wide and ascends at an angle of approximately 3 1°and is 235' in length. The southern channel measures about 8" high x 12" wide, rises at an angle of 41° and is 175' in length. The middle chamber, the so-called Queen's chamber, has an even more peculiar feature. It also has similar small shafts, though these end with a closing plug and do not appear to pierce through to the outer surface of the pyramid. You can read about the robotic exploration of these HERE.
You can read about the Great Pyramid in more detail, complete with diagrams, HERE
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