The Pyramid of Cheops is a national treasure of Egypt, and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World that has survived to this day. It is located on the Giza plateau, 8 km from the city with the same name, 25 km from Cairo city center. The greatest pyramid in the world was built for Pharaoh Cheops of the IV dynasty. Its original name is Ahet-Khufu, which means “Relative to the sky”. At Giza there is an ensemble of large pyramids, of which the Cheops pyramid is considered the most monumental.
The majestic tomb of Pharaoh is shrouded in an alluring halo of mystery. For thousands of years she kept a lot of secrets about its origin and construction technology. The Pyramid of Cheops helps us to understand that human possibilities are limitless, and that power is in interaction. Perhaps this was one of the reasons why the monument has attracted travelers since ancient times. The philosopher and mathematician Thales of Miletus guessed to measure the height of the pyramid based on the length of its shadow. And Herodotus, “the father of history,” wrote a detailed description of the pyramid of Cheops in 450 BC, which can still be read today.
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Video: Unlocking the Mystery of the Pyramid of Cheops
History of the construction of the pyramid of Cheops
The beginning of the construction of the pyramid dates back to about 2560 BC. The architect was Chemion, nephew of the pharaoh Cheops, who controlled all construction of the Ancient Kingdom at that time. It took no less than 20 years to build the pyramid of Cheops, and, according to various calculations, more than a hundred thousand people were involved. The project required titanic efforts: workers extracted blocks for building in another place, in rocks, delivered them on the river and lifted them on an inclined plane to the top of the pyramid on wooden sledges. It took more than 2.5 million granite and limestone blocks to build the pyramid of Cheops, and a gilded stone was placed at the very top, which gave the entire facing the color of sunlight. But in the 2nd century, when the Arabs destroyed Cairo, the locals dismantled the entire facing of the pyramid to build their houses.
For nearly three millennia the Cheops pyramid occupied first place on Earth in height, giving the palm to the Lincoln Cathedral only in 1300. Now the pyramid is 138 m high, it has decreased in comparison with the original height by 8 m, and the area of the basis makes more than 5 hectares.
The Pyramid of Cheops is revered by the locals as a shrine, and every year on August 23, the Egyptians celebrate the day of the beginning of its construction. Nobody knows why August was chosen, because no historical facts confirming it were found.
The device of the pyramid of Cheops
Inside the pyramid of Cheops the most interesting are three burial chambers which settle down one above another on a strict vertical. The lowest remains unfinished, the second belongs to the pharaoh’s wife, and the third to Cheops himself.
To travel through the corridors, for the convenience of tourists laid paths with steps, made handrails and lighting.
Cross-section of the Cheops pyramid
1. The main entrance 2. The entrance which al-Ma’mun made 3. The intersection, the “traffic jam” and al-Ma’mun’s tunnel made a “detour” 4. The downward corridor 5. Incomplete underground chamber 6. Ascending corridor
7. “Queen’s chamber” with outgoing “ducts” 8. Horizontal tunnel 9. Large gallery 10. Pharaoh’s chamber with “air ducts” 11. Pre-chamber 12. Grotto
The entrance to the pyramid.
The entrance in the pyramid of Cheops represents the arch formed of stone plates, and is located on the northern side, at a height of 15 m 63 cm. It used to be filled with granite cork, but it has not survived to this day. In 820 caliph Abdullah al-Ma’mun has decided to find in a pyramid treasures and has made the seventeen meter break through below historical entrance on 10 meters. The Baghdad ruler found nothing, but nowadays tourists enter the pyramid through this tunnel.
When al-Ma’mun broke through his passage, a block of limestone fell out and closed the entrance to the other corridor – the ascending one – and three more granite plugs were left behind the limestone. As on a point of connection of two corridors, descending and ascending, the vertical tunnel has been found, it has been put forward the assumption that on it the granite plugs were brought down to seal a tomb after burial of the Egyptian king.
This descending corridor of 105 m. descends at an inclination of 26° 26’46 and gives way to another 8.9 m. corridor leading to Room 5, situated horizontally. Here is an unfinished chamber measuring 14×8.1 m, extending in shape from east to west. For a long time it was considered that in the pyramid there are no other rooms, except for this corridor and the chamber, but it has appeared otherwise. The height of the chamber reaches 3.5 m. At the southern wall of the chamber there is a well about 3 m deep, from which a narrow manhole (0.7 x 0.7 m in cross section) extends 16 m to the south, ending in a dead end.
Engineers John Perring (John Shae Perring) and Howard Vyse (Richard William Howard Vyse) in the early 19th century dismantled the floor of the chamber and dug a well depth of 11.6 m, in which they hoped to discover the hidden burial chamber. They relied on the testimony of Herodotus, who claimed that the body of Cheops was on an island surrounded by a channel in a hidden underground chamber. Their excavations came to nothing. Later investigations showed that the chamber was abandoned unfinished, and the burial chambers were decided to be arranged in the center of the pyramid itself.
Interior of the burial pit, 1910 photo
Ascending corridor and the Chambers of the Queen
From the first third of the descending corridor (18 m from the main entrance) upwards at an angle of 26.5° the ascent (6) goes southwards, about 40 m long, terminating at the bottom of the Great Gallery (9).
At its beginning the ascending passage contains 3 large cubic granite “plugs”, which from outside, from the descending passage, have been masked by the block of limestone which has fallen out during works al-Mamun. It turned out that for almost 3 thousand years, scientists were sure that the Great Pyramid had no other rooms except for the descending passageway and the underground chamber. Al-Ma’mun did not manage to break through these plugs, and he simply hollowed out a bypass in the softer limestone to their right.
The queen’s chamber and corridors
In the middle of the ascending passageway the wall construction has a peculiarity: in three places there are so-called “frame stones” – that is, the square along the entire length of the passage pierces through three monoliths. The purpose of these stones is unknown.
To the second burial chamber from the lower part of the Great Gallery leads in a southerly direction horizontal corridor 35 m long and 1.75 m high. It is traditionally called the “Queen’s chamber”, although according to the rites the wives of pharaohs were buried in separate small pyramids. “The queen’s chamber,” lined with limestone, is 5.74 meters from east to west and 5.23 meters from north to south; its maximum height is 6.22 meters. There is a high niche in the eastern wall of the chamber.
Schematic drawing of the Chamber of the Queen
The Grotto, Great Gallery and the Chamber of Pharaoh
Another branch of the lower part of the Grand Gallery is a narrow almost vertical shaft about 60m high which leads to the bottom of the descending passageway. It has been suggested that it was used to evacuate workers or priests completing the “sealing” of the main passageway to the “Chamber of the King”. Approximately in the middle of it there is a small, most likely natural expansion – “Grotto” of irregular shape, in which a few people could fit at most. The Grotto (12) is located at the “joint” of the stone masonry of the pyramid and a small, about 9 meters high, hill on the limestone plateau lying at the base of the Great Pyramid. The walls of the Grotto are partially reinforced by ancient stonework, and since some of its stones are too big, there is an assumption that the Grotto existed on the Giza plateau as an independent structure long before the pyramids were built, and the evacuation shaft itself was built taking into account the location of the Grotto. However, taking into account that the shaft was chiseled into the already laid masonry, instead of laid out, as evidenced by its irregular circular section, the question arises as to how the builders managed to precisely reach the Grotto.
The Great Gallery continues the ascending aisle. The Great Gallery continues the ascent passage; its height is 8.53 m. The walls are rectangular in cross-section, slightly tapered (false arch) and have a 46.6-meter long inclined tunnel. In the middle of the Grand Gallery almost the entire length of the tunnel is a square depression about 1 meter wide and 60 cm deep. 27 pairs of pits of unknown purpose are located on both side walls. The deepening ends with the “Big Step” – a high horizontal ledge, a platform of 1×2 meters, at the end of the Grand Gallery, just before the entrance to the “vestibule” – the Pre-Chamber. The platform has a pair of similar ramp recesses, recesses in the corners of the wall. Through the “antechamber” passage leads to a black granite veneered funerary “King’s chamber”, which housed an empty granite sarcophagus.
Above the “King’s Chamber” there are five unloading cavities discovered in the 19th century, 17 m high in total, between which there is a monolithic slab about 2 m thick, and above – a gable slab. Their purpose is to distribute weight of overlying layers of the pyramid (about one million tons) to protect “the Chamber of the King” from pressure. Graffiti was found in these voids, probably left by workers.
From the chambers to the north and to the south leads a network of ventilation ducts. Channels from the Chamber of the queen do not reach the surface of the pyramid on 12 meters, and channels from the Chamber of the pharaoh go to the surface. In any other pyramid such branches are not found. Scientists did not come to unanimous opinion, whether they were constructed for ventilation or have relation to representations of Egyptians about an afterlife. At the upper ends of the canals there are doors, most probably symbolizing the entrance to the other world. In addition, the channels point to the stars: Sirius, Tuban, Alnitak, which suggests that the pyramid of Cheops also had an astronomical purpose.
Environment of the pyramid of Cheops.
At the eastern edge of the pyramid of Cheops are 3 small pyramids of his wives and family members. They are located from north to south according to their size: the base side of each building is 0.5 meters less than the previous one. They are well preserved inside, time has partially destroyed only the outer facing. Nearby can be seen the foundations of the temple of Khufu for his burial, inside which were found the drawings depicting the ritual performed by the pharaoh, it was called the Unification of the Two Lands.
The Pyramid of Cheops is the central figure of a complex of structures whose location had ritual significance. The procession with the late pharaoh crossed the Nile to the west bank in numerous boats. In the lower temple, to which the rooks sailed, the first part of the funeral ceremony began. The procession then proceeded to the upper temple, where the prayer room and altar were located. To the west of the upper temple was the pyramid itself.
On each side of the pyramid in rock depressions were walled up rooks on which the pharaoh should travel on the afterworld.
In 1954, archaeologist Zaki Nour discovered the first boat, called the Solar Boat. It was made of Lebanese cedar, consisted of 1,224 parts, with no traces of attachment or connection. Its dimensions were: length 43 m and width 5.5 m. It took 16 years to restore the rook.
There is a museum of the boat on the south side of the pyramid of Cheops.
The second boat was found in a shaft to the east of where the first boat was found. A camera was lowered into the shaft, which showed traces of insects on the boat, so it was decided not to raise it and seal the shaft. This was the decision made by scientist Yeshimuro of Waseda University.
A total of seven pits with real ancient Egyptian boats taken apart were discovered.
Video: 5 unsolved mysteries of the pyramids of Egypt
How to get there
If you want to see the Great Pyramid of Cheops, you need to arrive in Cairo. But there are practically no direct flights from Russia and you have to change planes in Europe. Without a connection you can fly to Sharm el Sheikh, and from there overcome 500 kilometers to Cairo. You can get to your destination by comfortable bus, the travel time is about 6 hours, or you can continue by plane, they fly to Cairo every half an hour. Egypt is very loyal to Russian tourists, you can get a visa directly at the airport after landing. It will cost $25 and is issued for a month.
Where to stay
If your goal is the treasures of antiquity and you have come to the pyramids, then you can choose a hotel in Giza or in the center of Cairo. Comfortable hotels with all the amenities of civilization are presented in the number of almost two hundred. Furthermore, Cairo has a lot of attractions, it is a city of contrasts: modern skyscrapers and ancient minarets, bustling colorful markets and nightclubs, neon nights and quiet palm gardens.
Memo to tourists
Do not forget that Egypt – a Muslim country. Men should just ignore the Egyptian women, because even an innocent touch can be considered harassment. Women must follow the rules of dress. Modesty and modesty again, a minimum of exposed body parts.
For organized tours to the pyramids you can buy tickets at any hotel.
The pyramids area is open to the public in the summer from 8 am to 5 pm, in winter – works for half an hour less, the cost of admission ticket is about 8 euros.
Museums are paid separately: to see the Solar Boats you can for 5 euros.
To enter the pyramid of Cheops you will be charged 13 euros, the tour of the pyramid of Chephren will be cheaper – 2,6 euros. The entrance aisle is very low here and be prepared to walk 100 meters with a half-bent position.
Other pyramids, such as the wife and mother of Chephren can be seen for free by showing the entrance ticket to the area.
The best time to see them is in the morning, immediately after opening. It is categorically forbidden to climb the pyramids, chipping away a piece as a keepsake and writing “Here was…”. The fine for this you can pay such that it will exceed the cost of your trip.
If you want to make a memory picture of yourself in front of the pyramids or just the surroundings, prepare 1 euro for the right to take pictures, it is prohibited to take pictures inside the pyramids. If you are offered to take a photo don’t agree and don’t let anyone else take your camera, otherwise you will have to buy it back.
Tickets to visit the pyramids are limited: 150 are sold at 8 a.m. and an equal amount at 1 p.m. There are two ticket booths, one at the main entrance and one at the Sphinx.
Each of the pyramids is closed once a year for restoration work, so you are unlikely to see everything at once.
It is not recommended to visit the pyramids for people who have heart, lung and asthma problems: the air there is dusty, very hot and dry inside.
If you have no desire to walk the entire Giza area, you can rent a camel. Its cost will depend on your ability to haggle. But keep in mind that you will not be told all the prices at once, and when you’re full, you’ll find that you have to pay to get off the camel.
A delicate tip: the restroom is in the Sun Boat Museum.
There are cafeterias in the pyramids area where you can get a good meal.
There is an hour-long light and sound show every evening. It is performed in different languages: Arabic, English, Japanese, Spanish and French. On Sundays, the show is in Russian. It is recommended to split a visit to the pyramids and visit the show in two days, otherwise you will not be able to contain so many impressions.
The Pyramid of Cheops is a legacy of the ancient Egyptian civilization, all tourists who come to Egypt try to see it. It strikes the imagination of the grandiose size. Weighing about 4 million tons, its height is 139 meters, and its age is 4.5 thousand years. Until now it is a mystery, how people built the pyramids in those ancient times. It is not known reliably for what these majestic structures were erected.
Shrouded in mystery, ancient Egypt was once the most powerful country on earth. Perhaps its people were aware of secrets that are still inaccessible to modern mankind. Looking at the huge blocks of stone pyramids, which are stacked with perfect accuracy, you begin to believe in miracles.
According to one legend, the pyramid served as a storehouse for grain during the great famine. These events are described in the Bible (Book of Exodus). Pharaoh had a prophetic dream that warned of a series of bad harvest years. Joseph, son of Jacob, sold into slavery by his brothers, was able to unravel Pharaoh’s dream. The ruler of Egypt commissioned Joseph to organize the harvest of grain, appointing him as his first advisor. The storehouses must have been enormous, considering that many nations had been fed from them for seven years when there was a famine on earth. The small discrepancy in dates – about 1 thousand years, adherents of this theory explain the inaccuracy of the carbon analysis by which archeologists determine the age of ancient constructions.
According to another legend, the pyramid served for the transition of the material body of Pharaoh to the higher world of the Gods. The surprising fact is that inside the pyramid, where the sarcophagus for the body stands, no mummy of the pharaoh was found, which could not be taken by robbers. Why did the rulers of Egypt build such huge tombs for themselves? Was their goal to build a beautiful mausoleum that testified to their greatness and power? If the process of building took several tens of years and required enormous expenditures of labor, it means that the final goal of building the pyramid was of vital importance for the pharaoh. Some researchers believe that we know very little about the level of development of the ancient civilization, whose mysteries have yet to be discovered. The Egyptians knew the secret of eternal life. Pharaohs gained it after death, thanks to the technology that was hidden inside the pyramids.
Some researchers believe that the pyramid of Cheops was built by a great civilization even older than the Egyptian, of which we know nothing. And the Egyptians only restored already existing ancient buildings, and used them at their own discretion. They themselves did not know the design of the forerunners who built the pyramids. The forerunners could have been giants of the Pre-Flood civilization or inhabitants of other planets who came to Earth in search of a new homeland. The gigantic size of the blocks from which the pyramid is built is easier to imagine as a convenient building material for ten-meter giants than for ordinary people.
One more interesting legend about the pyramid of Cheops I would like to mention. It is said that inside the monolithic structure there is a secret room in which there is a portal that opens the way to other dimensions. Thanks to the portal you can instantly find yourself at a chosen point in time or on another, inhabited planet of the universe. It has been carefully hidden by the builders for the benefit of the people, but will soon be found. The question remains whether modern scientists will figure out the ancient technology to take advantage of the discovery. In the meantime, archaeologists’ research into the pyramid continues.
In the era of antiquity, when the flowering of the Greco-Roman civilization began, the ancient philosophers compiled a description of the most outstanding monuments of architecture on Earth. They were called the “Seven Wonders of the World. They included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes and other majestic buildings built before our era. The Pyramid of Cheops, as the oldest, is in first place in this list. It is the only wonder of the world that has survived to this day, all the others were destroyed many centuries ago.
According to the descriptions of ancient Greek historians, the great pyramid shone in the sunlight, casting a warm golden luster. It was lined with meter-thick slabs of limestone. The smooth white limestone, decorated with hieroglyphs and drawings, reflected the sands of the surrounding desert. Later the locals dismantled the cladding for their dwellings, which they had lost in devastating fires. Perhaps the top of the pyramid was decorated with a special triangular block made of precious material.
Around the Cheops pyramid in the valley there was a whole city of the dead. Half-ruined funerary temple buildings, two other large pyramids and several smaller tombs. A huge statue of a sphinx with a chopped-off nose, which was recently restored, is hewn from a monolithic block of gigantic proportions. It was taken from the same quarry as the stones used to build the tombs. Once ten meters from the pyramid there was a three-meter thick wall. Perhaps it was intended to guard the king’s treasures, but it could not stop looters.
The history of the construction
Scientists are still unable to come to a consensus on how the ancient people built the Cheops pyramid from huge boulders of stone. According to the found drawings on the walls of other Egyptian pyramids, it is assumed that workers cut down each block in the rocks and then dragged them to the place of construction on a ramp made of cedar. There is no consensus in history as to who was involved in the work – peasants for whom there was no other work at the time of the Nile flood, slaves of the pharaoh or hired laborers.
The difficulty is that the blocks had not only to be delivered to the place of construction, but also lifted to a huge height. The Pyramid of Cheops was the tallest structure on Earth before the Eiffel Tower was built. Modern architects see the solution to this problem in different ways. According to the official version primitive mechanical blocks were used for lifting. It is frightening to imagine how many people died during construction by this method. When the ropes and straps holding the block were torn, it could crush dozens of people with its weight. The upper block of the structure was particularly difficult to set at a height of 140 meters above the ground.
Some scientists suggest that ancient people possessed the technology to control the Earth’s gravity. Blocks weighing more than 2 tons, of which the pyramid of Cheops is built, could move with ease at such method. Construction was carried out by hired workers, who knew all the secrets of the craft, under the leadership of the nephew of the pharaoh Cheops. There were no human sacrifices, overwork of slaves, only the construction art which had reached the highest technologies which our civilization could not afford.
The pyramid has the same base on each side. Its length is 230 meters and 40 centimeters. Amazing accuracy for the ancient uneducated builders. The density of masonry stones is so great that it is impossible to slip a razor blade between them. The area in five hectares is occupied with one monolithic structure which blocks are connected by a special mortar. Inside the pyramid there are several passages and chambers. There are ventilation holes which go out on the different sides of the world. The purpose of many of the inner rooms remains a mystery. The robbers took out everything of value long before the first archaeologists entered the tomb.
The pyramid is now listed as a cultural heritage site by UNESCO. Its photo adorns many Egyptian tourist brochures. In the XIX century the Egyptian authorities wanted to dismantle the huge monolithic blocks of ancient structures to build dams on the Nile River. But the cost of labor far exceeded the benefits of the work, so the monuments of ancient architecture stand to this day, delighting pilgrims of the Giza Valley.