The Great Pyramid
in Giza is the Pyramid of Khufu, the only surviving member of the
Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
The Great Pyramid is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids
in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now Cairo.
The Great Pyramid was built by Khufu (also known as Cheops) who's
father, King Sneferu, had previously built the Bent
Pyramid and the Red Pyramid,
both at Dahshur.
Egyptologists generally agree the pyramid was constructed over
a 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC.
It originally stood some 146.59 metres (481 feet) high and covers
about thirteen acres of land. The total mass of the pyramid is estimated
at 5.9 million tonnes with a volume (including an internal hillock)
believed to be 2,600,000 cubic metres. The pyramid is the largest
in Egypt and the tallest in the world. It is surpassed only by the
Great Pyramid of Cholula in Puebla, Mexico, which, although much
lower in height, occupies a greater volume.
Though we really do not know with absolute certainty, the pyramid
complex of Khufu probably remained mostly intact for almost 4,000
years. During that period of time, most visitors to it must have
been amazed by its enormity, and probably by the ancient Egyptian's
reverence toward the structure.
Much speculation exists regarding how
the Great Pyramid was built.
Materials Used To Build The Great Pyramid
The pyramid was constructed of cut and dressed blocks of limestone,
basalt or granite. The core was made mainly of rough blocks of low
quality limestone taken from a quarry at the south of Khufus
Great Pyramid. These blocks weighed from two to four tonnes on average,
with the heaviest used at the base of the pyramid. An estimated
2.4 million blocks were used in the construction. High quality limestone
was used for the outer casing, with some of the blocks weighing
up to 15 tonnes. This limestone came from Tura, about 8 miles away
on the other side of the Nile. Granite quarried nearly 500 miles
away in Aswan with blocks weighing as much as 60-80 tonnes, was
used for the portcullis doors and relieving chambers.
The total mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes
with a volume (including an internal hillock) believed to be 2,600,000
cubic metres. The pyramid is the largest in Egypt and the tallest
in the world. It is surpassed only by the Great Pyramid of Cholula
in Puebla, Mexico, which, although much lower in height, occupies
a greater volume.
When completed the Great Pyramid was covered in a highly polished
limestone casing. This limestone covering caused the pyramid to
shine brightly in the sun and, even in the evening under moonlight,
they were visible from mountains in the south of Egypt as far away
as 200 miles (300 km). Today, none of the limestone casing remains
on the Great Pyramid, probably having been plundered for use on
other building projects (as happened with other pyramids). Though
we really do not know with absolute certainty, the pyramid complex
of Khufu probably remained mostly intact for almost 4,000 years.
Inside The Great Pyramid
There are three chambers inside the Great Pyramid. These are arranged
centrally, on the vertical axis of the pyramid. The lowest chamber
(the "unfinished chamber") is cut into the bedrock upon
which the pyramid was built. This chamber is the largest of the
three, but totally unfinished, only rough-cut into the rock.
The middle chamber, or Queen's Chamber, is the smallest, measuring
approximately 5.74 by 5.23 metres, and 4.57 metres in height. Its
eastern wall has a large angular doorway or niche, and two narrow
shafts, about 20 centimeters wide, extending from the chamber to
the outer surface of the pyramid, but blocked by limestone "doors"
at several points. Some egyptologists believe that the Queen's chamber
was intended as a serdaba structure found in several other
Egyptian pyramidsand that the niche would have contained a
statue of the interred. The Ancient Egyptians believed that the
statue would serve as a "back up" vessel for the Ka of
the Pharaoh, should the original mummified body be destroyed. The
true purpose of the chamber, however, remains a mystery.
At the end of the lengthy series of entrance ways leading into
the pyramid interior is the structure's main chamber, the King's
Chamber. This chamber was originally 10 x 20 x 5V5 cubits, or about
17 x 34 x 19 ft, roughly a double cube.
The other main features of the Great Pyramid consist of the Grand
Gallery, the sarcophagus found in the King's Chamber, both ascending
and descending passages, and the lowest part of the structure mentioned
above, what is dubbed the "unfinished chamber".
The Grand Gallery (49 x 3 x 11 m) features an ingenious corbel
halloed design and several cut "sockets" spaced at regular
intervals along the length of each side of its raised base with
a "trench" running along its center length at floor level.
What purpose these sockets served is unknown. The Red Pyramid of
Dashur also exhibits grand galleries of similar design.
The sarcophagus of the King's chamber was hollowed out of a single
piece of Red Aswan granite and has been found to be too large to
fit through the passageway leading to the King's chamber. Whether
the sarcophagus was ever intended to house a body is unknown, but
it is too short to accommodate a medium height individual without
the bending of the knees (a technique not practised in Egyptian
burial) and no lid was ever found.
The "unfinished chamber" lies 90ft below ground level
and is rough-hewn, lacking the precision of the other chambers.
This chamber is dismissed by Egyptologists as being nothing more
than a simple change in plans in that it was intended to be the
original burial chamber but later King Khufu changed his mind wanting
it to be higher up in the pyramid. Given the extreme precision and
planning given to every other phase of the Great Pyramid's construction,
this conclusion seems surprising.
Two French amateur Egyptologists, Gilles Dormion and Jean-Yves
Verd'hurt, claimed in August 2004 that they had discovered a previously
unknown chamber inside the pyramid underneath the Queen's Chamber
using ground-penetrating radar and architectural analysis. The believe
the chamber to be unviolated and could contain the king's remains.
They believe the King's Chamber, the chamber generally assumed to
be Khufu's original resting place, was not constructed to be a burial