Considered 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 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 in small
chambers that were never intended to be opened.
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 inch!), with the only difference in the length of the sides being
4.4 cm (1.75 in). The base covers an area of 13 ½ acres. 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
pyramid has three main chambers. The original entrance of the pyramid is located
7.29 m (24 ft) east of the center of the pyramid on the north face, at a height
of 16.76 m (55 ft) above ground level.
the evidence proposed to support this
theory include the fact that the floor appears to be only roughly finished.
Also, there are small rectangular apertures, in the north and south walls which
lead to small shafts which appear to have been prematurely discontinued. Similar
shafts in the upper chamber pierce through the surface of the pyramid. The
southern shaft of this chamber has
been determined by robotic exploration to abruptly end with a plugging block.
The northern shaft has yet to be explored, but no exit aperture has been found
outside the pyramid.
At the south end of the Grand Gallery there is an entrance that leads to 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.
coffer is no longer has it’s lid and the southeast upper corner has been
broken away. It is also made from a single block of rose granite weighing about
3.75 tons. Its western edge sports three drilled pinion holes that were used to
hold the lid in place after the interment. The lid would have weighed over 2
tons and was slid into place within angled grooves. The size of the coffer
necessitates that the chamber was built with the coffin already in place – it
would not have fit through the entrance, nor would it have fit through the lower
section of the ascending passageway.
unusual feature if the Great Pyramid is the Well Shaft and grotto.
well shaft is a roughly cut passage that connects the lower portion of the Grand
Gallery with the lower portion of the descending passageway. It is about 28“
square throughout its course and in places there are rough footholes. It is
believed that this obscure passageway was cut to act as an escape route for the
workers that would slide the large portcullis blocks into place sealing the
burial. Portcullis blocks were lowered into place in the antechamber sealing off
the main burial chamber and then three other 7-ton granite plug stones were slid
into the ascending passageway sealing off the entire array of upper chambers.
The workers responsible for the plugging would be trapped in the Grand Gallery
and so it is theorized that the well shaft was cut to allow for their escape. In
hearing of this passage one may think that it defeats the entire purpose of the
plugging blocks, but this passage is tortuous and extremely dangerous to climb
through. The Grotto is a small cavity located where the pyramid masonry meets
the core, though this is 25 feet
higher than the pyramids base as this is an area in the bedrock where there was
an outcropping rise in the central pyramid plateau that was used to full
advantage in the pyramid core, alleviating the need for filling material in this
section. It is thought that the Grotto may have originally been a small natural
cavity in the bedrock that was enlarged during the tunneling of the well shaft.
Mysteriously, there is a large granite block in the grotto, and it is unclear as
to how this stone got here or why it was left here. The most likely explanation,
as evidenced by its mere dimensions, is that this granite block is one of the
portcullis stones that originally blocked the antechamber.
After the escape of the
workers, the opening at the bottom of the well shaft was probably sealed with a
block of limestone that was designed to completely camouflage the passageway.
Khufu Pyramid Complex
All that remains of the Mortuary temple of
Khufu are the remnants of the floor which was paved with black basalt. The floor
plan is much larger than the chapels associated with the Pyramid at Meidum and
the Bent Pyramid. The temple is very different from Mortuary temples that
preceded it or followed it. Sockets are evident in the floor which would have
held the granite pillars that comprised the colonnade that surrounded an open
court. At the western end of the temple is a recess thought to be a sanctuary
and signs of an outer wall. This is flanked by two vestibules. The interior
walls were made of limestone and were carved with fine reliefs. There are no
sign that there were any niches in this temple. This temple is the first known
temple to make use of limestone, granite and basalt.
Valley Temple of Khufu has not yet been found though it is assumed that it
existed and lies at the end of the causeway. Presently, this leads to under the
present day village of Nazlet el-Saman, and has yet to be uncovered and
boats pits have been discovered in the immediate area around Khufu’s pyramid.
Two are on the southern side of the main pyramid, two are on its eastern side
flanking the Mortuary temple and the last is to the north of the causeway. In
the southeastern pit the first intact boat was found dismantled in the pit. This
was reassembled and now resides in a special climate controlled museum on the
south side of the main pyramid. The southwestern pit has been found to contain
yet another boat which still remains in situ.
is an excerpt from the book,
© 2000-2005 Andrew Bayuk
The Great Pyramid – diagrams - Guide to the Pyramids of
Egypt, Alberto Siliotti
Illustration of the rose granite coffer of Khufu - The Egyptian Pyramids – J.P. Lepre
The Relieving Chambers – J & M Edgar
Pyramids of Egypt.
New York and London, Penguin Books, 1985
Fakhry, A. The
Pyramids. Chicago and London, 1969
Pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Pittsburgh. 1990
Lehner, Mark. The Complete Pyramids. London. 1997
North Carolina. 1990
Mendelssohn, K. Riddle
of the Pyramids. New York. 1974
Petrie, W. M. F. The
Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. London. 1883
Siliotti, Alberto. Guide
to the Pyramids of Egypt, Cairo, 1997
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