Accounts of the Great Pyramid.
structures at Giza have suffered from natural erosion,
defacement, pillage, additions and alterations, all of which
have reduced us to interpretation in order to visualize the
complex in its original condition. In order to compensate for
the lack of original Egyptian references, it is worth first
exploring the accounts of the earliest explorers, whose
observations read like the frames of a film.
Brothers (1909 AD)
(Other European accounts of the pyramids
1440; Breydenbach, 1486; Bellonius, 1553; Johannes Alfricus, 1585, Lawrence
Aldersey, 1586; Jeane Palerma, 1531; Prosper Alpinus, 1591; Baumgarton,
1594; Sandys, 1610; Pietro Della Vale, 1666; De Villamont, 1618; Rabbi
Benjamin 1638, most of whom themselves visited the pyramid'. And then,
following Greaves 1646 account, 'De Monconys, 1647; Thevenot, 1655:
Melton, 1661; Vausleb, 1664; Kircher' 1666; Lebrun, 167; Maillet, 1692-1708;
De Careri, 1693;Lucas, 1699; Veryard, 1701; Quartremere, 1701; Egmont,1709;
Perizonius, 1711; Pere Sicard, 1715; Shaw, 1721; Morden, 1737; Pococke,
1743; Dr Perry, 1743; Fourmount, 1755; Niebuhr, 1761'. (15)
- The earliest accounts of Giza record that it was a site of pilgrimage for 'Sabian'
star worshippers from Harran.
Found at Giza by Auguste Mariette in the
1850's, in the ruins of the 'Temple of Isis'
(10). It states
reasonably clearly that Khufu restored the Sphinx. It
reads as follows:
'Long live the King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Khufu, given life.
He found the
house of Isis, Mistress of the Pyramid, by the side of the hollow of Hwran
And he built his pyramid beside the temple of this goddess and
he built a pyramid for the King's daughter Henutsen beside this temple.
place of Hwran Horemakhet is on the South side of the House of Isis,
Mistress of the pyramid.
He restored the statue, all covered in painting of
the guardian of the atmosphere, who guides the winds with his
He replaced the back part of the Nemes
head-dress, which was missing with gilded stone.
The figure of this god, cut in stone, is solid and will last to eternity,
keeping its face looking always to the East' .
This text strongly implies that the Sphinx (and a temple to Isis), were
The French Egyptologist and Director General
of Excavations and Antiquities for the Egyptian government, Gaston Maspero, who surveyed the Sphinx in the 1920s asserted that:
'The Sphinx stela shows, in line thirteen, the
cartouche of Khephren. I believe that to indicate an excavation
carried out by that prince, following which, the almost certain proof
that the Sphinx was already buried in sand by the time of Khafre and
his predecessors'. (8)
Middle Kingdom Papyrus at Leiden
(Ref: 5 pp. 58).
contemporary account of 'Ipu-wer', is a long list
of lament, revealing a state of turmoil and
"All is in ruin" he said, "A man kills his brother. Blood is everywhere. A
few laws of the judgement hall are cast forth. Officials are slain and their
of the kings of upper and Lower Egypt are
divulged. What the pyramid concealed has become empty
and the palace is destroyed'.
It is suggested that this text is a reference to the 're-opening'
Question: When was the Great pyramid first
It is not uncommon to
read that Al-Mamoun (see below) was the first person to gain access to the
upper parts of the Great pyramid since its original closure.
However, in order to explain certain features of the 'Well-shaft', it is now generally accepted that the pyramid had already
been entered before Al-Mamoun's time.
The evidence of 'repair work' in the
'King's chamber and relieving chambers has led to the suggestion that the lower
parts of the Well-shaft may have been cut through by a team of repair
workers after the upper parts had been sealed.
Whoever cut the passage
that leads from the Grand gallery to the lower relieving chamber, now called
'Davison's chamber', left a neat, square-cut passage. They also
plastered-over the cracks in the granite blocks above the Kings chamber. This
work, at least, certainly appears to be that of a 'repair-crew'. However,
the last, rough-cut section of the well-shaft shows no such precision, the
same can be said for the entry into the Grand gallery, the Queens chamber,
the 'portcullis' system, and the Coffer, all of which show evidence of a
more 'forced' entry.
Extract from Petrie : When,
then, was the Pyramid first violated? Probably by the same hands that so
ruthlessly destroyed the statues and temples of Khafra, and the Pyramids
of Abu Roash, Abusir, and Sakkara. That is to say, probably during the
civil wars of the seventh to the tenth dynasties.
It is probable then that while repair-work may have been carried out within the
pyramid at some time, there is also evidence that the pyramid was
forcibly entered and 'stripped' of its possessions soon after its completion. The accuracy of the tunnelling
of the well-shaft and apparent knowledge of all its upper chambers is supported by
the Leiden papyrus (above), and although the evidence is still circumstantial, it is
a distinct possibility that the document could explain a number of
unexplainably accurate 'forced entries into early dynasty pyramids,
especially Mastaba 17, for example.
that the Sphinx was cleared of sand by Thutmose IV
following a dream.
Evidence for Thutmosis IV's campaign is
preserved in the so-called dream Stele he erected between the two paws of
the Sphinx in ca. 1400 BC. According to the story inscribed in the Stella,
the Sphinx spoke to him in a dream and asked the prince to free him from
the sand. The Sphinx (Hor-em-Akht) offered in return the crown of Upper
and Lower Egypt. It is often quoted as associating the sphinx with
When the Dream stele was
discovered however, the lines of text were incomplete, only referring to a
“Khaf,” and not the full “Khafra.” The missing syllable “ra” was later
added to complete the translation by Thomas Young, on the assumption that
the text referred to “Khafra.” Young’s interpretation was based on an
earlier facsimile in which the translation reads as follows:
...which we bring for him: oxen...
and all the young vegetables; and we shall give praise to Wenofer ...Khaf....
the statue made for Atum-Hor-em-Akhet.
From this story we at least know that the Sphinx
was buried up to its neck again in 1400 BC.
Ramasses II Restoration.
Pochan (16), makes note of an inscription carved in the bedrock opposite Kephren's pyramid. It records a 'restoration' of the two great pyramids of
Giza by Ramasses II minister of labour, 'Mai, "grandee of the temple of
Maat," and Seankh-Pa, superintendent of construction at the temple of Amon
in Thebes'. Pochan also mentions the similarity with a symbol 'carved
deep in the bedrock, the same as the mysterious symbol that is carved in the
ceiling of the great pyramid's subterranean chamber'.
Herodotus. (c.450-435 BC):
from Herodotus - c. 430 BC. 'The Histories', Vol II: 124. By Sir.
Herodotus' record remains the first known historical account of the complex.
He wrote that 'Cheops' built the great pyramid (but that he was despised for
it). He said that the casing stones had 'inscriptions of strange
characters', and was told that it took 100,000 men 20 years to complete (the
Great pyramid), that iron was used in the construction, and that they used
'machines' made of 'short planks of wood' to lift the blocks.
(16), quotes Herodotus concerning the ten years preparatory work on
Khufu's pyramid as follows:
'...So the ten years were for this (the
causeway), and also for the underground chambers on the hill where the
pyramids stand, which he made as a tomb for himself in an island, bringing a
channel from the Nile..', and with regards Khafre's pyramid ' for
there are neither chambers under the earth beneath it, nor doth a channel
come into it from the Nile, like that which floweth into the other through a
conduit of masonry and encircleth an island within, where Cheops himself is
said to lie..'
- Was the pyramid complete at the time of Herodotus report?
It appears that the casing stones were present at the time of his
visit. However, he fails to mention whether there is a top or not. This
leans towards the idea that it was there, as one would expect the fact to
have been noted had it been missing (or gold). In fact, he gives
measurements of the two pyramids, clearly, (and reasonably correctly),
stating that Khafre's pyramid is '40 ft lower', without mentioning
While Herodotus reports are all clearly important, in this case, it is not
for the details he includes (i.e. the tale of the phoenix, the means by
which Khufu's wife procures the blocks for her pyramid, an inscription about
the price of vegetables and 'machines' made of
small planks), but more for the details he neglects to include. It is
already noted for example, that the top is neither mentioned of as missing
or in any way different to the rest of the pyramid in this report; he makes
no mention of any entrances, or even the sphinx, not even its head
(strange?). There is little sense of the natural awe or wonder one would
expect from a visitor to Ghiza, and while he tells us that his information
came from 'priests', his report lacks a number of significant facts while
elaborating over trivia. It is worth considering how extensively he visited
the site himself.
Manetho (of Sebennytos) - (c. 280-270 BC)
Egyptian High priest who said:
"There came up from the East, in a strange manner, men of an ignoble
race, who had the confidence to invade our country, and easily subdue it
without a battle. All this invading nation was
that is Shepherd Kings".
The following extract purports to be a conversation between Herodotus and
Extract from Miracle of Ages - 'In the course of his questioning he
(Herodotus) encountered one
an Egyptian High Priest, scholar and Historian, with whom he conversed at
length thru the agency of an interpreter. Manetho informed his distinguished
guest that the architect of the huge mass of stone was one "Philition", or "Suphis",
of a people known as the "Hyksos", that is "Shepherd Kings". According to
Manetho, the Shepherd Kings were "a people of ignoble race" who came from
some unknown land in the East; they were a nomadic band who numbered not
less than 280,000 souls; they brought with them their families and all
mobile possessions, including vast flocks of sheep and herds of cattle; and
they "had the confidence to invade Egypt, and subdued it without a battle".
this same people, said Manetho, overthrew the then-reigning Dynasty,
stamped out idolatry and endeavored to firmly establish in the place thereof
the worship of the One true God having completed the Great pyramid, migrated
eastward into the land afterwards known as Judea and founded there the city
of Salem, which later became Jerusalem, the Holy city.'
He also says of 'Suphis' that 'He was arrogant to the gods and
which is regarded by the Egyptians as a work of great importance'.
Pochan says that according to Manetho,' the erection of the great pyramid
is assigned to the reign of Cheops (Khnum-Khufu, 4829-4766 BC), the second
king of the Fourth Dynasty and the twenty-eighth king of Egypt, starting
with Menes.'. Also that in his epitome, handed down by Syncellus, the
oldest pyramids mentioned are those of Kochme (Cho, in the Armenian version
of Eusebius), the work of Uenephes, the fourth
king of the First dynasty. He says that Suphis (second King of the Fourth
dynasty) built the great pyramid (neither Cheops nor Khufu?), and that Queen
Nitocris (sixth ruler of the sixth dynasty), built the third pyramid.
(15), adds that 'Manetho is quoted by Josephus and others, as
saying "We had formerly a king who's name was
Timaus. In his time it came to pass, I know not how, that the deity was
displeased with us; and they came from the east and when they had our
rulers in their hands they demolished the temples of the gods" (see coreys
fragments, p257) This Timaus of Manetho is doubtless the same person as the
Chemes of Diodorus, the Ceops of Herodotus, and the Chufu or Suphis of the
monuments'. And that "some say they were Arabians" which left
Egypt in large numbers and went to "That country
now called Judea, and there built a city and named it Jerusalem".
(Note: Check Manetho text in 'Fragments' by Isaac Preston Cory, Cambridge.
Extract from Seiss
'Josephus the learned scribe, gives it as
historical fact that Seth and his immediate descendants "were the inventors
of that peculiar sort of wisdom which is concerned with the heavenly bodies
and their order. And their inventions might not be lost before they were
sufficiently known, upon Adam's prediction that the world was going to be
destroyed, they made two pillars (Note: Masonic
the one of brick, the other of stone. They inscribed their discoveries on
both of them, that in case the pillar of brick should be destroyed by the
flood, the pillar of stone might remain and exhibit these discoveries to
mankind." He also said, "Now this (pillar) remains in the land of siriad
(Egypt) to this day." (Jewish antiquities, I, 2).
(c. 56-60 BC) -
(Book I, 63.4-64.14).
from: Diodorus Siculus (56 BC) from Book I, 63.4-64.14:)
He tells us that in his day, the Pyramid stood 'complete and without the
least decay, and yet
lacked its apex stone'.
Diodorus also states that the remains of Cheops were never
Extract from Petrie: Diodorus Siculus states the distance of the
Pyramids from the Nile with great accuracy The base of the Great Pyramid he
gives as 7 plethra, or 700 Greek feet, as against 747 such feet in reality;
hence he is accurate to less than half a plethron. The height, he says, is
more than 6 plethra; the arris height is actually just over 7 plethra, when
complete. He mentions the fine preservation of the stone, and that the
original jointing was uninjured by time, showing that the fine joints
attracted his attention. The Second Pyramid he only roughly describes as a
stadium wide; but this is not far wrong, as it is 7/6 stadia. The Third
Pyramid he underrates as 300 feet long, whereas it is 340 Greek feet; if
however, he originally wrote 3 plethra, he would be correct to less than
half a plethron, as he is in the Great Pyramid size. It is noticeable that
he slightly underrates all the Pyramids, his statements being respectively
.94, .87, and .88 of the truth. He states that the sides up to the 15th
course were of black stone; actually it seems probable that the dark red
granite ended at the 16th course : and he says that the upper part was cased
with the same stone as the other Pyramids, which is plainly true to anyone
who sees the angular fragments lying thickly around it. Though Vyse was
disappointed at not finding the name of Menkaura inscribed over the doorway,
yet Diodorus only says that it was on the N. side of the Pyramid; hence it
was probably on the fine limestone above the granite.
Diodorus mentions a step carved into the second (Khafre's) pyramid face.
Strabo's account. (24 BC) -
from 'The geography of Strabo' (Trans. By H. L.
Jones) (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons) Vol. III, p. 84-5).
Strabo, a Greco/Roman
geographer/historian, arrived in the first century AD. He recorded an
entrance on the South (Actually the North) face which had a 'hidden' door
"The Greater (Pyramid), a little way up one
side, has a stone that may be taken out , (exairesimon,
exemptilem) which being raised up (arqentoV,
sublato) there is a sloping passage to the foundations."
Extract from Petrie: Strabo's account is less careful in the
dimensions, merely giving roughly a stadium for the height and base of each
of the larger Pyramids, and saying that one is a little larger than the
other. As these dimensions vary from .85 to 1.25 stadia, he is, at least,
quite as accurate as he professes to be. He gives the invaluable description
of the Great Pyramid doorway, which . so exactly accords with the only
remaining doorway of a pyramid. He also mentions the Third Pyramid being
cased nearly up to the middle with black stone from
Strabo also stated that this entrance led into a narrow and low passage,
about 4 feet by 4 feet, which descended 374 feet into a damp,
vermin-infested pit dug from the bedrock 150 feet below the base of the
Pliny's account. (20 AD)
(From 'Natural History'
: Book 36).
from Pliny 'The Elder' - c. 20 AD. - (Natural History, Book
Pliny quotes Herodotus on the price of vegetables but apart from that his
account provides new information. He wrote that 'In the interior of the
largest Pyramid there is a well, eighty-six cubits deep, which communicates
with the river, it is thought', and; 'It is asserted by most persons
that the only motive for constructing them was either a determination [by
the kings] not to leave their treasures to their successors . . . or to
prevent the lower classes from being unoccupied'. (Ref:
Calculation: From Petrie and Pliny:-
1 Egyptian Cubit = approx 20.541
86 X 20.541 = 1766.526 inches
1766.526 / 12 =approx 147.21ft
The Well-shaft can be separated into seven sections, with the upper three
sections passing through 60 ft of limestone masonry and the lower segments
being tunnelled through another
of natural rock.
Extract from Petrie: Pliny gives a more exact measurement than any
other ancient author, stating the Great Pyramid base as 883 feet. This would
require a foot of 10.2705 inches; and this is just half of the cubit of
20.541, or a rather short form of the Egyptian cubit, Taking the mean cubit,
we cannot tax him with a greater error than 1/230 of the whole, which is
quite as close as some of the most credible measures taken in this century.
Pliny said that 360,000 men were needed, and that it took 78 years and four
months to complete all three pyramids. As he quotes Herodotus elsewhere,
perhaps this is just an extension of his original figure. He introduces some
different building methods and says that the third pyramid was built by a
woman called 'Rhodopis', once a slave-courtesan of Aesopus. He also notes
that the locals were 'in the habit of ascending them'.
Pliny also said 'The authors who have written upon them are Herodotus, Euhemerus,
Durius, Samius, Aristagoras, Dionysius, Artemedorus, Alexander, Polyhistor,
Butorides, Autisthenes, Demetrius, Demoteles, and Apion.'
Comment - Pliny makes only one reference to the interior of the pyramid,
and he ends it with the words 'it is thought'. We can assume that he
did not enter. He also makes no reference to the missing top. His
information about the well-shaft is revealing. Who told him and how
did they know?
Solinus pointed out the phenomenon of the 'consumption of the shadow' on the
(16). We also know from later accounts that the pyramid still
had its casing stones on after this date. We can safely assume that
the effect was a part of the original design.
Dionysius of Telmahre:
(Date unknown - From Jomard).
that 'he examined an excavation 50 cubits deep (in one of the
pyramids), and found that it had been built from hewn stones, from five
to ten cubits in length'. He says that the pyramids were 250 cubits
high, which makes the 'excavation' approximately a fifth of
the height, which makes it just less than 100 ft long.
(Approximately the length to the granite plugs, but not
necessarily in the great pyramid).
The first recorded 'Forced
the 7th Abbasid
of Baghdad, son of Harun Al-Rashid from the 'Arabian knights', Caliph of
Cairo. It is
generally considered that he was the first person to re-enter
upper parts since the pyramids closing. Unfortunately, as Col. H. Vyse
'The only fact which seems to be established by the Eastern authors to whom
we have now referred (the Arabians), is the opening of the Great pyramid by
Al Mamoun; and even of that, no distinct or rational account exists.'
According to most versions, he arrived at the Pyramid with an
army of scholars (workmen, engineers, architects and masons). For days they
scoured the surface for an entrance, but drew a blank. He apparently decided
to enter by force at the 7th level of masonry. (The actual entrance is on
the 19th course). Having dug or blasted their way through approximately over
30 metres of masonry, they apparently heard (from about 24 ft away through
solid masonry), the sound of a stone falling, at which point they turned
towards the noise and eventually broke into the descending passage. At this
point, they apparently realised that the fallen prismatic block had
previously concealed the mouth of the ascending passage and so dug around
the granite blocks.
Extract from Miracle of the Ages - 'The whole ascending
passage, to their great dismay, was filled with large, loose stones. When
one was removed the next, beneath the weight of the others above, slid down
into the place of the first. Finally the last block was removed Up they went
into the Grand Gallery. One or two stopped to examine and peer closely into
the well Into the queen's chamber the men forged Into the Ante-Chamber they
went. Still the promised riches eluded them. Beneath the last, low-suspended
stones they crawled, coming out into the beautiful Kings chamber Alas the
coffer was empty". The account continues '
That night under the cover of darkness, while his weary men slept soundly,
Mamoun, who was very rich, carried, with the aid of a few trusted officers,
many gold coins to a spot adjacent to the pyramid and buried them securely.
Next day he confronted his men and in his grandiose manner announced that in
a vision during the night Allah had revealed to him where the wealth that
they had been seeking really lay. The man dug at the spot directed by the
Caliph, and soon uncovered the cache of gold'.
There are problems associated with the Al-Mamun story:
A number of pyramids had already been opened, and the
descending polar passages would have been general knowledge by the time of
Al-Mamun. The presence of an entrance and internal tunnels in the great
pyramid had been recorded by Pliny, Strabo, etc. As we are told that the
pyramid was sealed when he arrived, one has to ask why he started digging
where he did (off-centre), and why he continued to dig horizontally
into the pyramid for so long (over 30 metres), when no other pyramid has
upper chambers or corridors.
His passage leads in an almost (uncannily) direct line to the
junction of the ascending and descending passage. Although Petrie states the
tunnel to have been cut through the 7th course of masonry, he
also shows it to run through the 6th course. At present, it is
cut through at least two (the height of an average person). It is a curious
fact that the 6th
course of masonry is also the top level of the bottom stone that hid the
granite blocks. This means that they would have been digging only one level
above the actual junction of the descending and ascending passages. While
the tunnel certainly bears down and left, it only does so at the end, after
the ascending passage, and at the point of the granite plugs and junction.
Is it really possible to hear/feel a stone drop 4ft, from
behind approx 24ft of solid stone, and identify its exact direction,
presumably while digging etc..
- Was Al-Mamun trying to reach the granite 'plugs' specifically?
-If the original, northern entrance was truly lost when he arrived, he took
an incredible risk (almost foolish), digging into the pyramid the way he
did. As 'polar' passages in pyramids were already well known, it is likely
that he had more information available to him at the time.
The same conclusions were reached by Mark Foster and Ralph
Ellis ('Tunnel Vision, About the Great Pyramid'), who believe that
the 'Trial passages' were left as a clue, that Al Mamun realized this
and the reason he dug such a large 'exit' tunnel was to 'get
something out' of the pyramid, and that he had with him the coffer lid - now
the K'aba of Mecca.
An interesting theory.
The main criticism with this theory is
that the 'Trial passages' are not the same. In fact they
show distinct differences. (i.e.
Why didn't they try to find the vertical tunnel above
A stone slab (6ftx4ft), was reported by 'Maillet'
in the Antechamber (see below)
Isn't the K'aba supposed to be a
While most books on the Great Pyramid talk about the first
'forced-entry' by Al-Mamun, the following quote from 'Egypt
- Gods, Myths and religion',
creates a different version of events altogether. 'It is, in fact, highly
likely that Al-Mamuns men made use of a passage created by ancient thieves.
A man named Denys of Telmahre, the Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch, was
present when Al-Mamun entered the pyramid, and he states that
the pyramid had already been opened
before their visit...The same but (albeit tamed) story was recorded by Abu
Szalt of Spain. Rather than fabulous treasure, he reports that Al-Mamun's
men discovered only a sarcophagus with some
If it is the case that it had been forcibly-entered
before, then we are faced with a new set of questions (i.e. who and when).
It is recorded that following entry, Al-Mamun first crawled
back up to find the original entrance, then down
the descending corridor to the subterranean chamber, there he reported
torch marks on the ceiling
of the Subterranean Chamber. Should this have been the case, it is curious
that the lower exit of the well-shaft wasn't noted. Apparently, he continued
upwards into the Queens chamber, and
ordered the hole at the back of the 'niche'
to be dug. He continued upwards past the grand gallery to the king's chamber
where he apparently found nothing but the already opened coffer. It is also
believed that he was also responsible for the excavations under the
coffer, and the large bore hole in the floor on the north wall.
- The direction of the hole that Al-Mamun dug is beyond
serendipity. We should consider the probability that he was specifically
reach the upper parts. It is possible that if this were the case, the upper parts
had already been previously breached.
- (Extracts from 'Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems').
- (Abu'l Hassan Ma'sudi)
He (Surid) also ordered the priests to deposit their wisdom within them
(The pyramids), written accounts of their wisdom and acquirements in the
different arts and sciences with the writings of the priests containing all
manner of wisdom, the names and properties of medical plants, and the
sciences of arithmetic and geometry, that they might remain as records, for
the benefit of those who could afterwards comprehend them In the eastern
pyramid (Great pyramid) were inscribed the heavenly spheres, and figures
representing the stars and planets The king, also, deposited the positions
of the stars and their cycles; together with the history and chronicle of
time past, of that which is to come, and every future event which would take
place in Egypt' (2).
'When questioned about the construction of the pyramids, he said, "They
were the tombs of kings. When one of their kings died, his body was placed
in a basin of stone, similar to what is called a djaroun in
Egypt and Syria; the cover was sealed, then they began to build, having
determined the height of the pyramid in advance. They placed the sarcophagus
in the centre of the structure and continued to raise the vault until it
reached the eight that you see"
"The door was placed under the pyramid itself, and one entered it through a
vaulted, underground passage, which could be 100 or more cubits long; each
pyramid had such a door and entry".
"But," he asked, "How were the smooth pyramids built?
How could the workers climb up and work? With the help of what machinery did
they transport these enormous stones, a single one of which cannot be lifted
now without incredible effort, if at all?"
The Copt answered "They built the pyramids in superimposed
layers, step-by-step, like a staircase; then they polished them from the top
to the bottom. This was the working procedure of these people who combined
admirable strength and patience with religious respect for their kings".
He was asked why the inscriptions which cover the pyramids and
the temples were indecipherable. He answered: "Since the learned men and
those who used this writing have disappeared, and
Egypt has been occupied by a succession of foreign peoples, the Greek
alphabet and writing have prevailed. As the Copts became familiar with this
writing, they used it and combined the letters with those of their own
alphabet; from their contact with the Greeks, resulted in a writing related
both to Greek and ancient Copt, and thus they lost the understanding of the
writing of their ancestors."
This text is a likely candidate for the origin of the
'prophetic' theory of the pyramid. It is suggested by Davidson that the
origin of the Coptic traditions from which the Arabs recorded, are in fact,
erroneous references to the 'pyramid texts', which became confused with
known facts of the Great pyramid.
Extract from 'The Index'
'These monuments - that is, the pyramids - have a length of 480 hachemique
cubits and a width that is also 480 cubits. The edifice recedes as it rises
from the base and at the summit the dimensions are only 40 cubits; this was
done intentionally and by design. In the middle of the plateau a beautiful
chamber was built, inside of which a sort of mausoleum was set up. At the
top of the tomb are two magnificent, perfectly dressed blocks, surmounted by
two stone statues representing a man and a woman facing each other. The man
holds in his hand a stone tablet covered with writing and the woman a mirror
and a gold tablet decorated with wonderful carvings. Between the two
pedestals is a stone vessel sealed with a gold lid; lifting the lid, one
perceives a sort of odourless dried resin in which has been placed a gold
box enclosing a quantity of blood, which, upon exposure to the air, shows
the coagulation peculiar to blood, then dries up. The tombs are sealed with
stone lids that, when withdrawn, reveal, in one of the tombs, a man lying on
his back, perfectly preserved and dried; his flesh, as well as his hair, is
still visible. In the neighbouring sarcophagus is the body of a woman in the
same position and the same condition as the man'.
pavement is pierced by a man sized passage
that plunges like a tunnel; its vault is made of stone, and one finds there
portraits and seated or standing statues, and a quantity of other things,
the meaning of which is not known'.
170 AD (Died) - Abdallah Muhammed bin Abd ar-Rahim al Kaisi
- (Extracts from 'Gift to the insight')
"The pyramids have all four sides, whereas each side is a triangle. Their
number is 18. Opposite of Misr al-Fustat
(Cairo) are three pyramids.....The largest of them
has a circumference of 2000 ells,
with 500 ells on each side, and a height of 500 ells.....Every stone is 30
ells wide and 10 ells thick and is prepared and fitted to the
finest.....Near the town of Pharaoh Joseph is a pyramid much larger as this
one. Its circumference is 3000 ells, its height
is 700 ells. Each of the stones it is built of is 50 ells long.....Near the
city of the Pharaoh Moses are some pyramids even larger and mightier, and
one pyramid, called the pyramid of Maidum, is as large as a mountain. She
consists of five layers......Al-Mamun has opened the large pyramid opposite
of al-Fustat. I went into it and saw a large domed chamber, which was
squared on the floor and
at the beginning of the dome. In the middle of this chamber is a square well
pit of 10 ells depth. If one steps down there one sees a door on any of its
four sides (Then a description of some mummies).....In the domed chamber is
an opening that leads to a passage to the highest point of the pyramid, but
there are no steps in it. It is 5 spans wide
(about 1 Meter). It is said, that in the time of el-Mamun
they went up there and had reached a small domed chamber where the
statue of a man was found"....
A possible entry account if we assume that the 1st
domed chamber is the Gallery, and the 2nd the Kings chamber. Hard to explain
the round features of the dome (Possibly Menkaure's pyramid).
1236-45 AD -
Petrie says of him: - 'The
clear and unexaggerated account of the passages of the Great Pyramid given
by Edresi, deserves notice for its superiority to
the greater number of Arabic accounts'.
There are some items of information in his account that may be worth noting.
Firstly, he is quoted by Vyse as saying 'To
the right of him, who ascends, is a well situated between the two alleys
(Ascending passage and Grand Gallery), and the just-mentioned door
(Horizontal passage to
Queens chamber), but below the second alley'
(5). The mention of the recesses cut
into the sides of the grand gallery, give credence to his personal account.
He also has some interesting things to say about the 'Queens' chamber. The
following is an extract from Petrie - '(he) mentions an
in the Queen's Chamber; and that this was not a confused notion of the
coffer now known, is proved by his saying that in the King's Chamber "an
empty vessel is seen here similar to the former", Whether any fragments of a
coffer remained there, among the great quantity of stone excavated from the
floor and niche, it is almost hopeless to inquire, since that rubbish is now
all shot away into various holes and spaces. Caviglia, however, did not find
a coffer when clearing the chamber, but fragments might have been easily
Apart from the implications of another coffer, Edresi also wrote that 'On
the roof of the room are writings in the most ancient characters of the
heathen priests'. Lawton and Ogilvie-herald
(5) rightly point out that
had the script been in Arabic or Latin, Edresi would have understood their
origin. The suggestion is that they were Egyptian hieroglyphs.
836 AD -
Papyrus of Abou
992 AD -
1340 AD - Sir John 'The Brave' Mandeville:
that he was too afraid to enter the pyramid because it was
full of serpents. (7)
1637/8 AD - Prof. John Greaves.
structure of it hath been the labor of an exquisite hand, as appears by the
smoothness and evenness of the work, and by the close knitting of the joints"
An intrepid 36-year-old Oxford mathematician and astronomer who visited
Giza in 1938.
He made a number of interesting observations, including that the Queens
chamber was coated with stucco, and was full of debris. He also notes the
two 'ducts' in the kings chamber (with evidence
of soot and blackness). (16) He also noted that at the bottom of the Grand
Gallery on the right, a stone block had been removed and a passage appeared
to have been dug down into the pyramid. This was later called the "Well
Shaft". The opening was a little over 3 feet wide and
notches were carved
opposite one another on the sides of this shaft so someone could climb down
with support. Greaves lowered himself down about 60 feet, where he found
that the shaft was enlarged into a small chamber or grotto. The shaft
continued below him but it was so dark and the air was foul that he decided
to climb back up. He wrote ' At the end
of it (The Ascending passage), on the right hand, is the well mentioned by
Pliny: which is circular, not square, as the Arabian writers describe'.
(10). He published his investigations under the title, 'Pyramidographia:
A Description of the Pyramids in
This was the first book ever published on the Great Pyramid alone.
Greaves also describes the second pyramids external appearance. He says 'the
sides are sooth, and equal, the whole fabric (except where it is exposed to
the south) seeming very entire, free of any deformed ruptures, or breaches'.
His drawings show the great pyramid stepped throughout, while the other two
pyramids still have straight sides.
1735 AD. Benoit de Maillet's 'Description de l'Egypt'.
(French consul general in Egypt 1692 - 1708).
Benoit de Maillet was the first Frenchman to record the Great
pyramids measurements. He believed that all the pyramid's passages had been
plugged with blocks. His record, which is admired more for the 'richness of
his imagination' is of very little use, however he does mention that at his
at a depth of 133 ft (43.2 m) by
sand and pebbles from the excavation of the grotto.
1763 AD - Nathaniel Davison.
A British Consul at Algiers, lowered a lamp into the vertical section of
the Well Shaft, tied a rope around his waist, and had himself lowered after
it - only to find the bottom blocked with sand and rubbish. He was the first
to discover the lowest of the series of five spaces (called "The
Chambers") over the King's Chamber. The story is that at the top of the
Grand Gallery, he noticed that his voice was echoed in a strange way and
seemed to resonate from above him. Davison tied a candle at the end of two
long canes, raised it up, and noticed at the top of the Grand Gallery the
small rectangular hole about 2 feet wide. He put 7 ladders together to
climb to the top. He found 16 inches of bat dung in this 2 foot hole that
had accumulated throughout the centuries. Davison put a handkerchief over
his face and made his way into the hole. After crawling 25 feet, he reached
a chamber about 3 feet high but as wide and as long as the Kings chamber
beneath. He observed that the floor consisted of the tops of 9 rough hewn
granite slabs each weighing up to 70 tons. The ceiling of the King's
Chamber was formed by the under sides of these blocks. He also noticed the
ceiling of this chamber was also constructed of a similar row of granite
blocks. This is a far as he went. This chamber referred to as "Davison's
Chamber" was named after him. His measurements also confirmed the fact that
the pyramid was constructed so that its sides faced the cardinal points of a
Apparently, Lehner has established that other explorers were already trying
to find this chamber, and describing it as directly above the Kings chamber
and of lower height. They were German orientalist Karsten Niebuhr and French
Davison said of the Descending corridor - 'At the end of one hundred and
thirty one feet (from the junction of the first Ascending passage), I found
it so filled up with earth, that there was no possibility of proceeding'.
It is a curious fact that the only one of the relieving cambers without
graffiti was Davidson's, the only accessible one.
from Coutelle - Napoleon's Expedition. (1799-1801))
Napoleons military expedition to Egypt in 1798 was not only military but archaeological as well. He took with him engineers, surveyors, astronomers,
artists and archaeologists. The investigation relevant to this essay is the
work of Coutelle, who surveyed, measured, explored, and
made drawings of the great pyramid. His work was published in many volumes
from 1809 to 1822 by order of Napoleon.
The fact that he arrived with so many professionals makes one wonder how
exactly they missed the descending corridor. However, the picture on the
right confirms that fact. Apart from that, it also records a number of other
serious inaccuracies such as the location of the chambers and well-shaft.
The following is an extract from the memoirs of Napoleons personal secretary:- Fauvelet de Bourienne, in his Memoirs of Napoleon Bonaparte, Scribner's and
Sons, 1912, pp.222:
"On the 14th of July Bonaparte left Cairo for the Pyramids. He intended
spending three or four days in examining the ruins of the ancient
necropolis of Memphis; but he was suddenly obliged to alter his plan.
This journey to the Pyramids, occasioned by the course of war, has
given an opportunity for the invention of a little piece of romance....
......Now the fact is, that Bonaparte never even entered the great
Pyramid. He never had any thought of entering it. I certainly should
have accompanied him had he done so, for I never quitted his side a
single moment in the desert. He caused some persons to enter into one
of the great Pyramids while he remained outside, and received from them,
on their return, an account of what they had seen. In other words, they
informed him there was nothing to be seen!"
They were the first to survey the site trigonometrically and to discover two
of the corner sockets at the base. The following observation
was made by one of Bonaparte's scientists "It is very remarkable that the
opening of pyramids are all to the north. The passage seemed fitted for an
1817 AD - Captain Giovanni Battista Caviglia.
The Italian explorer, later hired by Col. Vyse cleared the descending
passage of debris, exposing the 'pit' for the first time since the
Pyramid had first been opened by Al Mamun (Was it open before then or not).
He lowered himself down the well shaft, got over 100 feet below the Grotto,
and found, as others had before him, that the air was so scarce his candle
sputtered, making it difficult for him to breathe, and that the bottom
appeared to be blocked by sand and loose rocks. He had workers remove some
debris, but stopped, as the conditions were too bad. Caviglia believed he
could discover even more treasure in the King's Chamber. With the use of
dynamite, he blasted various holes in the pyramid, searching for chambers
Vyse apparently said of him 'He informed me that he had made the
excavations in the subterranean chamber, that to the south of the
Davidson's chamber, and the one also along the Northern air Channel; and
that he had attempted to force the southern air-channel in the kings
Caviglia reported finding Latin
characters on the subterranean chambers ceiling,
(as did Al-Mamun) we cannot be sure when these were daubed, but we know the
Descending Passage had been blocked for some centuries before he cleared it,
so these could well date to classical times.
(Apparently Caviglia also cleaned out the bat dung from Davison's Chamber
and turned it into an apartment in which he resided).
An important piece of information emerges here. It seems that he discovered
the bottom of the well shaft having cleared out the descending passages
enough to 'crawl down' it. Ordering the workmen to clear to dig upward into
the hole behind it, he noticed the smell of sulphur, which he had been using
to clear the air of the 'bottom' of the well shaft. This suggests that the
lower entrance to the well shaft was either opened before al-Mamun (in which
case he probably explored it, although this information is missed in
reports), or after him, but before Cavaglia by intruders. The reports of the
well shaft by the Greeks suggest that it was opened in antiquity.
1818 AD - Giovanni Batista Belzoni.
Discovered the ancient intrusive tunnels into the second pyramid.
He described that the portcullis was still lowered, the lid to the coffer pushed aside and was filled with earth
and stones and some
He found an inscription which said 'The Master Mohammed Ahmed, lapicide,
has opened them; and the Master Othman attended this; and the King Alij
Mohammed at first to the closing up'. He noticed two square horizontal
openings in the in the upper chamber, which he compared with those in the
kings and queens chamber of the great pyramid.(10)
This information is relevant for context.
1837 AD - Colonel Howard Vyse and J. Perring.
Re-opened the forced entry made originally by Al Mamoun early in the ninth
century AD (How, when and by who was it blocked). He also rediscovered the
corner-sockets previously uncovered by the French in 1799. He discovered
two of the original polished limestone casing stones and also discovered and
opened up the air shafts to the King's Chamber. He learnt that these shafts
extended over 200 feet to the outside of the pyramid. Once opened, an
immediate rush of cool air entered the King's Chamber and maintained an even
temperature of 68 degrees regardless of the weather outside. Vyse also
discovered four other chambers above Davison's Chamber by blasting his way
through with gunpowder. It was while exploring these chambers that Colonel
Vyse came across the cartouches of 'Khufu' and 'Khum-Khufu',
in the form of mason's marks, painted in red ochre, sometimes inverted, on
the ceiling beams.
(More about the Khum-Khufu cartouches)
Vyse also dug up the floor in the Queen's chamber but apparently only found
old basket (?)
so he refilled the holes. It is also quoted that he dug up two stones in the
Q. Chamber, first, the stone in front of the niche, then the blocks under
the step in the passage near the entrance to the chamber. In both cases they
came across 'cavities of some 3 or 4 feet in depth, apparently formed by
gaps between the core blocks, filled with sand and "black particles". Petrie
interpreted them as being remnants of "decayed stone".
Could these chambers and others at the Queens level be a remnant of an
He extended Cavaglia's subterranean digging (also found nothing), and
extended the hole in the Kings chamber, apparently dug by al-Mamun.
(10) He measured separately all the 203
masonry courses of the great pyramid and discovered a flat iron plate, 12'
by 4' and 1/8' thick. This plate was removed from a joint in the masonry at
the place where the southern airshaft of the king's chamber exits to the
outside. Experts concluded that it was left in the joint during the building
of the pyramid and could not have been inserted afterwards.
on the Iron Plate)
1859 AD - John Taylor . Wrote: 'The great pyramid: Why was it
built and who built it'.
Was the first to suggest the 'Divine
construction' theory. The following extract concerns the builders of the
'They came into the country as strangers; they were not of
the same race nor of the same religion with the Mizraim (Egyptians), who
proceeded them in its occupation; they did not invade it as conquerors,
though, as Manetho tells us, "they easily subdued it by their power without
a battle". They must, therefore, have come either in such large numbers as
to make opposition hopeless, or they must have been received as benefactors
by the common people whom they employed and this evident superiority of
intellect may have caused the ignorant to envy and misrepresent them. But
that they improved the conditions of the people among whom took up their abode during not less than 100 years, must be
His perspective is interesting in terms of the chronology of Egypt, and
the great change experienced in the early dynasties. He passed the baton to Charles Piazzi Smyth
just before he died, and asked him to confirm his beliefs by measuring the
pyramid, which Piazzi attempted to honour.
1865 AD - Charles Piazzi
Astronomer Royal for
Became a believer in the 'Divine construction' theory.
Egypt to measure the great pyramid.
He took the first ever photographs inside and measured it more accurately
than ever before. He later published the book 'Life and Work at the Great
Extract from Miracle in stone - 'After a rain, Prof. Smyth
paced about amongst the gutters which the wash cut into these piles of chips
and splinters of stone, to see what he could find. Towards the top of the
heap and just in front of, though at a great distance from the pyramids
entrance portal, he found frequent splinters and
fragments of green and white diorite.
It is the material of which the celebrated stone statue now in the Boolak
museum is cut. It is not native to the region'
Scholars published some devastating criticisms of his
theories. They showed, for example, that when deriving his formulas Smyth
juggled facts and figures until he came up with a seeming
correspondence and that much of the data upon which he based his theorizing,
such as the average size of the casing stones that had once covered the
Great Pyramid, was wrong.
AD - Waynman Dixon and D. R. Grant.
Found and opened the 'Queens' star-shafts.
Explored and discovered objects in the North shaft of the Queens chamber.
The shaft was explored with an extendable metal rod. (A
part of which was found by Upuaut in 1993). The relics were sent to
Piazzi Smyth in a cigar box where they were recorded in his diary with
accompanying drawings and sketches. Two of the objects were left in the
trust of the
are now recorded as unexplainably lost.
1880 AD - Sir William Mathew Flinders Petrie.
(The father of modern Egyptology)
from Petrie (1882)).
Without doubt, Petries'
report is the most accurate that I have personally read so far. He proved that the
pyramid was not divinely constructed, by pointing out construction
imperfections, which in most cases he concluded as a result of a 'change of
plan' during the construction phase. A credible
argument. He made note of numerous features previously missed. His
analysis of his own observations is excellent. For example:-
In examining the King's
Chamber in the Great Pyramid, Petrie found that every roof beam on the south
side had broken. Only the inward thrust of the massive walls held the
four-hundred-ton granite roof in place. He concluded that his damage had
probably occurred before the Egyptians had finished the construction, as
mortar covered the cracks. Petrie believed that two architects had worked on
the Great Pyramid and that the second was less skilled than the first. The
second architect had used rough stone and had often forgotten to dress the
stone. The plaster applied to such areas failed to hide these imperfections.
Petrie also found cracks that the workers had made in cutting the block for
My personal respect for Petrie is reflected in the number of times he is
quoted verbatim in the course of this essay.
1909 AD - The Edgar Brothers.
(Believed in the 'Divine construction' theory).
from the explorations of John and Morton Edgar in 1909).
The Edgar brothers cleaned out the lower passages completely
and made a basic and accurate report of all the internal features of the
pyramid. They argued that the 'flaws' found by Petrie, in order to prove it
was not divinely constructed, were in fact deliberate and symbolic. Possibly
the most important find they made is discussed in the following extract.
This discovery is not commonly recorded:
Extract from Vol 1: -
(In reference to clearing out the Descending passage and Subterranean
Chamber) - 'we see that the floor of this descending passage has never
been so thoroughly cleared, at least in modern time, as it now is. That the
debris which my men carried out is part of the ancient rubbish, is proved by
the fact that they found embedded in it
several small fragments
of green idols'.
They concluded that the
angles inside the pyramid were a reference to Christ's birth in Bethlehem,
at an angle of 26°18'
10" from Ghiza. They also made some interesting associations from the
Jerusalem area. The following extracts are from Vol I:
Extract from Vol I: -
(In reference to Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.). 'The tomb which is of
particular interest to us, is that of Zechariah, the capstone of which is a
complete pyramid! - Plate XCV. When we remember that this prophet uttered
the words, "He shall bring forth the headstone thereof, with shoutings,
Grace, grace unto it!" it is
significant that the monument which has been erected to his memory should
have a pyramid as its head-stone. Such a tomb- stone is surely unique!'
(14 photo p205)
Extract from Vol I: -
(In reference to the Tomb of the Kings). 'All the larger apartments have
a stone bench running around the bases of their four walls. These reminded
us of the ramps in the Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid of Gizeh. In one
of the rooms this resemblance is most remarkable, for at its north-west
corner a portion of the ramp is broken away, disclosing an open shaft
leading downward to a small subterranean chamber, on three sides of which
are the usual suppositories for the dead. It put us at once in mind of the
north-west corner of the Grand Gallery with its broken Ramp and it's
Well-shaft.' (14 photo p211)
1992 AD - Rudolf Gantenbrink.
Cleaned the 'Kings' chamber 'star-shafts' and installed ventilation fans in
May 1992. His team returned the next year with their 'robot' to explore the
shafts in the Queen's Chamber. It was unable to go all the way up the
Northern shaft because it was unprepared for the bend formed to bypass the
Grand Gallery; however, in the southern shaft it was able to reach the known
end of it. On March 22nd 1993, it confirmed that this shaft does
not reach outside but that it ends at a stone 'door' with two copper
Gantenbrink was unable
to complete his work in the pyramid as vital equipment disappeared before
the next attempt at the Northern shaft. His expedition was called off. He
was not allowed to return to complete the study. It was later reported
that the Egyptians completed this work themselves in 2002 and discovered a
'door' similar to that first discovered by Gantenbrink.
Queens southern shaft (left), and
northern shaft (right).
(Click her for more about the 'Star-shaft's')
said that the 4th dynasty was composed of eight Memphite kings of a 'different
said that 'Suphis' both 'built the pyramid' and 'wrote the
specifically states that 'Cheops' was not buried IN the pyramid.
written evidence that suggests that the pyramids may have been 'opened' soon
after their completion.
'restoration' was carried out on the two great pyramids on behalf of
Ramasses II. (Plaster in
mentions the missing capstone, but otherwise the great pyramid is 'complete
and without the least decay' in his time. (It was
presumably still faced).
time of the Greeks (Strabo, Pliny), there is evidence that someone knew the
layout of the Interior of the pyramid. We can read descriptions of an
entrance/door, the descending passage and well-shaft. (Latin inscriptions
were later found by Caviglia in subterranean chamber).
The 'Consumption of the shadow' was pointed out when the casing-stones were
still in place.
None of the
accounts describe Al-Mamun as having had to 'force' his way after the
initial entry. (He may not have been the first person to enter).
notes torch-marks on the ceiling of the subterranean chamber.
The upper entry to the Well-shaft was exposed before Al-Mamun's entry.
entry to the Well-shaft was not mentioned by Al-Mamoun.
men are believed to have dug the tunnel in the 'niche' of the 'Queen's'
Edresi c.1245, mentions seeing the top of well-shaft.
have once been another coffer in the 'Queens' chamber (Edresi).
Hieroglyphs on the ceiling of the Queens chamber suggest a previous entry.
top opening of the well-shaft was next noted by Greaves in 1637, notches
were found in the passage for footholds. When the bottom was first reached
in 1735, it was found filled with rubble from what was probably an
excavation from the 'Grotto'.
descending passage, apparently accessible to Al-Mamun, and others, was half
filed (150 ft) with rubble when Davison found it, and inaccessible
(completely missed!) when Napoleon found it.
fragments of green and white Diorite were found in the pyramid (and in the
These various historical accounts of the pyramid
ideas of how and why it was built, and the next section examines the masonry
features closer to see if they conform to these ideas.
There are several features of the Great pyramid which are hard to explain in terms of a
(Next Section - Analysis of Architectural features)
to Contents Page)