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Burial mask of Tuthankhamun -------------------------------------Echnaton, pharaoh of Monotheism.

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Mode of building of the Cheops pyramid.

The author is an amateur orientalist and technical expert, who outlines a (possible) building organisation system allowing the erection of a pyramid step by step, using a relatively small human input. This description explains the mode of placement of big blocks, blind blowholes and different paths.

At first the Great Pyramid must have been a sacrifice place, later a multifloor burial place, oriented the same way as the other pyramids. Builders applied all types of architectural methods known at the time. No written materials were placed inside the pyramids, and later writings also ignored the construction of the pyramids. It is possible that  the Cheops and Mycerinus pyramids were not built up at the same time, but the Cheops pyramid was built in at least three, and the Mycerinus pyramid was built in two stages. The time gap between the stages could have been 30 years.

Simple poor people took part in the construction of the pyramids due to their religious commitment, thus hoping to attain afterlife riches, while slaves and paid laborers worked on them, too.

The Pyramid Village behind the present three big pyramids (Cheops, Mycerinus and Chefren) on the Gizeh Plateau could house 25 thousand workers. There were grain silos, bakeries, etc. for supplying the same amount of people. Out of these 25 thousand workers, approx. 10 thousand must have been physical workers, while the others were local directors, group leaders, other skilled workers, bakers, carpenters, toolmakers, physicians, architects, etc. Family members of builders - wives, children, etc. - also lived there. At the end there were approx. 20 thousand physical workers participating simultaneously in the three sites (around the pyramid, riverside, stone quarry). They had a 12 hour working day and worked 6 days a week.

According to my current knowledge, the Great Pyramid could have been constructed in the following way:

Building sites:

- At the other side of the River Nile, opposite the Gizeh Plateau there was the limestone quarry,

- The blocks were loaded one by one onto ships in the east-side loading port,

- Ships laid anchor on the western side under the plateau at the unloading port, here the blocks were loaded on skids by means of single-arm levers, and dragged up a moistened ramp made of adobe to the building site in front of pyramid.

- In the building site the blocks were cut to their final size and shape,

- From here the blocks were dragged up another moistened adobe ramp, under the guidance of a work leader, to the actual building site of the pyramid. Tools used: wooden poles (single-arm levers), skids (transport facility), ropes.

Wheels or pulleys were unknown that time.

- When the one phase of pyramid building was completed, the adobe ramp was torn down.

Phases of construction:

1. Building up of a mastaba, with the cellar tomb beneath the mastaba. Date of this work is still unknown.

2. Cheops orders his burial chamber to be placed in the middle of the mastaba roof, ordering it to be covered by a flattened pyramid with a 26 degree slant, to be topped by a granite sacrifice stone. The place of sacrifice can be reached through a row of stairs.

3. The Cheops era was extended by at least another 30 years. Another burial chamber was placed on the roof, behind the sacrifice stone.

4. The pyramid was rebuilt to as a (modern) pyramid with a 52 degree slant. The row of stairs was covered, thus forming the Grand Gallery. An anti-collapse structure was placed on the upper granite burial chamber, and the building of the pyramid was completed.

5. The pyramid was covered from the outside by smooth white limestone slabs using a binding material. The crown was graced with a gold plated ornament.

  Have you seen a mastaba?
A lot of mastabas can be found in the cemetery in the Gizeh pyramid area. The first one could have stood here for a long time, this was expanded by Cheops and later this became the base of the pyramid, as had been done earlier in the case of his grandfather’s staggered pyramid. Below the mastaba stood the "incomplete (old) burial chamber", which was not needed. The steeply descending shaft might have been the entrance of the original mastaba, being difficult to walk as it was usual that time.
The new descent is the new oblique shaft, possibly built by Cheops, with a 30 degree slant and pointing to the North Star. The original burial chamber has never been completed, possibly due to the north-south wars of the period. (It must have looked like this, as the burial chamber of the Mycerinus pyramid.)

  Cheops ordered his shrine to be placed upon the existing base. According to the custom of the period, pyramidal sides with a 26 degree slant were prepared, with stairs on one side.

  defend the shrine, Cheops ordered a staggered pyramid to be made by building around the upper chamber. The obliquely rising "vent holes" served the free circulation of the spirit of Isis (or Cheops).

  Then the whole structure was completed as a pyramid with a 26 degree slant. According to the then religion, this pyramid might have served the Cult of the Sun. In the middle of the top there was the Sacrifice Stone for holding burning animal offerings. An oblique path led to the roof of the pyramid with the 26 degree slant, which was later covered and became the "Grand Gallery". In those days, the Sacrifice Stone was the holiest place of all. Below this stood the Shrine of Cheops, called the "Queen’s Burial Chamber" today.

  In his frenzy of grandeur, Cheops ordered the "Holy of Holies", his own granite shrine to be placed behind the sacrifice stone, wanting to symbolise his own divine origin.

- -- -   The 2nd and 6th picture are almost the same, aren't they? The 6th picture shows the chamber of the Northern (Red) Pyramid of Snefru, Cheops’ grandfather, at Dahsur. At this stage, the Cheops pyramid was smaller than his father's pyramid, and it was not very well protected against grave robbers. Therefore it needed to be closed. Cheops widened the base. An ascending shaft was prepared in the base, and he formed the “Grand Gallery” in the original side. In addition, he raised a falling-stone trap to this entrance. He used the experience of his grandfather (Snefru) to protect the Grand Gallery and the Granite Burial Chamber against collapse. Multichamber royal tombs on a single level are not rare in Egypt. The UPUAUT Project searched the oblique ventilation shafts using a miniature tank equipped with a video camera, which wandered up to the “ventilation shafts” of the middle and upper chambers. Click here to see a technical drawing made on the basis of the pictures taken by the mini camera. It seems as if the northern ventilation shaft of the upper tomb took a curve around something.

 When When Cheops was 50 years old, he was re-elected as pharaoh. Celebrating this event, a costly and risky architectural virtuosity was offered to him in the form of a modernised pyramid (with a 52 degree slant). Its final form was reached after covering it with limestone slabs. The roof became protected by gold plate covering. It can be assumed that the limestone slabs covered all the vent holes. Cheops was 70 or 80 years old when he died. His successor, Chefren, never liked him. Cheops never was buried in his pyramid, nor was a statue erected to him in contrast to the accepted custom.

It's worth to look at the building method of the staggered pyramid in Sakkara, the expansion of the Cheops pyramid could have been similar.

The common of the tree Gizeh pyramid is the descending angle of the cellar shaft. That is true 30° pointing to the Pole Star.

The building theory mentioned above shows many similarities with the steps applied (known) by Imhotep when building the pyramid of pharaoh Djoser.

Let us look at the Mycerinus pyramid, guessing in how many steps and during the period of how many pharaohs they were built? It has two descents built in different styles. The Chefren pyramid has also two descents: could one of them have been started as an underground descent of the then Cemetery of Isis?


General plan of Gizeh and Sakkara burial area:

1. Gizeh. The chopped line marks the edge of the flood of river Nile. Nowadays there is the city of Gizeh in the previous flooded area. The holy road led from the three pyramids up to the Valley Temples. Only one valley temple survived, in the middle, the one belonging to the pyramid of Chefren pharaoh. Behind this valley temple stands the Sphinx, its face being that of Chefren. The embalming ritual was made in the valley temples and the seasonal processions were started from here. Behind the pyramids there is a continuous stone wall (ditch). The three pyramids are located in a limestone plateau 50 m above the Nile level. The Cheops pyramid is surrounded by a great number of minor mastabas and three satellite (wife) pyramids. The descent from the Cheops pyramid is steep. The five "Pharaoh’s ships" were found around this pyramid.

2. Saccara. It is worth to see the orientation of the three pyramids in the middle is the same as the three of Gizeh pyramid. There are mystic engraves about afterlife being inside the pyramid of Unis. Here originated The Book of Dead. Step pyramid of Djoser was planned by Imhotep (Asclepiad?), embarked by waveform fence was made of alabaster. The valley temple and cultic buildings are made of alabaster, too. (In the other hand statues in Memphis made of alabaster, too.) Existing part of them are as well condition as they were made nowadays.

Stages of building of pyramids about Bochardt and Hommel:

The lower (incomplete) burial chamber was not finished during the reign of Cheops due to some important reason (floods?). Very much water was used up during the building of the pyramids due to the moistening of the ramps. The shaft in the middle of the lower chamber could have been a catchwater.

Finally the huge amount of adobe bricks used for the tracks and ramps were removed by means of water. Water was needed for the moistening of the adobe tracks so that the sleds could glide smoothly on them. The great volume of water was retained by stone ditches around the pyramids. That time the lower chamber must also have been full with water.

It seems that the pyramid of Mycerinus was built in two stages. The most mysterious of the three is that of Chefren, which might be the newest and could have been built in a single stage. As the only reminder of the adobe ramp technique, although 1000 years younger than the pyramids, a ramp made of adobe remained in Karnak behind the main pylon (it is such a huge block that 3000 years of erosion was unable to destroy it).


Two interesting things at the end. The upper tomb and its falling stone trap of the Cheops Pyramid, (pre-chamber).


The upper tomb will not collapse if above is there a high-peaked cutting because that is self-holding. That was over insured by arches and their stone spacers.


At the left middle the cellar tomb of the pyramid of Mycerinus in Gizeh. The cellar of Cheops pyramid could became this if it have been completed. At the right there is a mastaba from the Old-Empire. View and sectional drawing. At the bottom-left the Sacrifice Stone in the beginning of pyramid building. Now this is the upper end of the Grand Gallery.

(to continue, click here to see the next pyramid page!)

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