Great Pyramids

 The Great Pyramid


The Great Pyramid was built by the pharaoh Khufu (2551-2528 BC), known to the Greeks as Cheops.  He decided on a new site for his pyramid at Giza, some 20 miles to the north of Memphis and indeed the most northerly of the pyramids so far constructed.  Here there was an outcrop, a plateau of extremely solid rock, and it was perhaps because of this that he chose the site for what was to be the greatest pyramid of all.

In a way he was lucky, for whereas Djoser in building his Step Pyramid had to start essentially from scratch and build up the vast supply chain that was needed to build a pyramid, he inherited what was clearly an efficient supply chain and workforce from his predecessors.  All he had to do was to choose the site and set the work in motion.

There was however one additional art that was brought to perfection, that is the art of the architect, or perhaps the mathematician who laid it out and ensured that it was laid out exactly north/south and east/west, and that the length north/south was the same as the length east/west — to within about an inch and a half.  However he could not quite make up his mind as to the interior layout of the pyramid, as there are two chambers inside the pyramid, one above the other: the larger of which is inevitably labelled the King’s Chamber and the smaller one, the Queen’s Chamber.  They were approached by a number of passages, possibly deliberately laid out in a somewhat chaotic fashion in order to try and confuse the tomb robbers.

Surrounding the pyramid what became the standard arrangement of ancillary buildings was also established.  There was a mortuary temple at the eastern (that is Nile side) entrance to the pyramid enclosure, then a causeway leading down to a valley temple by the side of the Nile itself, so that the pharaoh could arrive by barge and make a grand procession up to the pyramid.  This is also presumably the way by which the stones were dragged up to the pyramid when it was being built.

His successor Khafre  (Khephren: 2520-2494 BC) built a second pyramid adjacent to it and almost as big.  His big innovation however was to build the Great Sphinx down in the valley at the end of the causeway, by the side of the valley temple, with its own temple known as the Sphinx Temple.

His successor Menkaure (Mycerinus: 2490-2472 BC) built the smallest of the three pyramids on a side position. the pyramid itself  was hastily finished in mud brick, but its valley temple produced a superb collection of mud statues.  But he had three smaller pyramids built alongside which are usually thought to be the  burial place of his queen).  After this, no pyramid of a similar size was ever again to be built.  The machine wound down and the inhabitants of the Nile Valley, after nearly two centuries of high activity were able to have some spare time at last.


On to Later Egypt


20th May 2012