The Great Pyramid
The great pyramid was built during the reign of Khufu, 2nd king of the fourth
dynasty (2,720-2,560 BC). It stands on the Giza plateau nearby Cairo and is
the biggest pyramid in the world. It measures 230 m (756 ft) on each side
of its base and originally measured 147 m (482 ft) high. Beginning in the
10th century AD the entire Giza complex served as a source of building
materials for the construction of Cairo; as a result, all three pyramids
were stripped of their original smooth outer facing of limestone.
The core masonry consists of large blocks of local limestone taken from
the nearby quarries and built around and over a rocky knoll. The size of
the knoll cannot be determined, since it is completely covered by the
pyramid. The entrance to the pyramid is in the center of the northern face.
It is located in the thirteenth course of masonry from the base. This
entrance has a pointed roof formed of massive slabs of local limestone and
opens into a long steeply descending passage. From there a 36 meters long
passage leads to a 35 meters long horizontal passage that leads to the so
called 'Queen's chamber'. This chamber measures 5.2 by 5.7 meters and the
maximum height of its pointed roof is about 15 meters. The north and south
walls each have a small hole a few centimeters square about 1 meter from
the floor. These lead into narrow channels that originally opened on the
exterior of the pyramid. At the juncture of the ascending and horizontal
passage is an opening of a shaft which descends to a depth of 60 meters. It
opens into the lower part of the descending passage, close to the
unfinished, underground chamber, and is believed to have been an escape
shaft for the workmen who filed the
ascending passage with huge stones after the king's funeral.
From the horizontal passage the Grand Gallery, which leads to the king's
chamber, starts. It is 47 meters long and 8.5 meters high, and has a
corbelled roof. In the center of the floor is a sunken ramp about 60
centimeters deep. The Grand Gallery ends in a horizontal granite passage
which serves as an antechamber. It measures 8.4 meters long and 3.1 meters
high, and has slots for three portcullises. Beyond the antechamber is the
so-called 'King's Chamber' which is lined, roofed and paved with red
granite. It measures 5.2 by 10.8 meters and is 5.8 meters high. Its flat
roof is formed of nine monolithic slabs of granite. The northern and
southern walls each have an 'air channel', one of which is open to the
outside. The Pyramid can be seen to have about two hundred level courses
of squared stones. The layers all have a different thickness ranging
between approximately 50 and 145 centimeters. The average block size is
about 1 cubic meter.
On the Khufu pyramid, all the casing elements were removed in the 14th
century. The few casing stones which do remain in the Great Pyramid all lie
in the 1.5 meter thick bottom course and cannot be representative of the
stones which would have been used in the higher parts of the construction.
The only examples of face work such as this which remain are those on the
pyramids at Meidum, Dashur andGiza.