Cheops Pyramid in Giza Plateau
Cheops is the Greek name given to King Khufu and it means 'He who Protects me". It was King Cheops who chose the Giza Plateau (to the north of Dahshur) to begin the construction works of his own pyramid complex.
Virtually, the Pyramid of Khufu –which stands over an area of nearly 13 acres– was an astonishing leap forward.
The Great Pyramid contains about 2,300,000 blocks of stones weighing on average between 2.5 to 15 tons, all of which are of white Tura limestone. On the other hand, the large granite beams (parts) roofing the King’s chamber and the stress-relieving chambers above it have been estimated to weigh from 50 to 80 tons.
Like the pyramids built by Sneferu, the Great Pyramid consists of casing and core stones laid in horizontal courses, with packing blocks in between. At the corners and towards the top, limestone of higher quality was used because of the need for greater control.
Built with an acute angle of nearly 51°55, the pyramid rests on a plan or a square ground. It has 4 sides, each measures about (230, 12 m = 440 cubits) and faces one of the cardinal points of the world.
In height, the pyramid was about 146m; but 9m were missed, and the present height is 137m.
It is mentioned that the pyramid was used as a quarry in later eras, exactly in the 13th century AD onwards.
Built of local limestone brought from the quarries nearby, the pyramid was covered by Tura limestone. According to Herodotus, the outer casing of the pyramid was covered by Hieroglyphic texts. Unfortunately, the pyramid's casing as well as its upper part had felt down.
The original entrance to the pyramid was 17 m above the ground and it is situated to the north. It was used until the Roman Period; however, it was later closed by sand, rubble and stones.
During the reign of Caliph El-Ma'mun, in the 9th century AD, attempts to find the original entrance failed. Driven by dreams to find abundant treasures inside the pyramid, people made a new entrance in the 6th course (under the original entrance). Nevertheless, it seemed that the pyramid had been robbed by its contents very long before, perhaps during the First Intermediate Period.
According to Herodotus, this pyramid complex was built within a period of 20 years. He mentioned that about 100,000 men worked in the building of the pyramid and that inside Khufu's pyramid one finds unique developments in the evolution of pyramid design. In fact, the pyramid complex remains a remarkable landmark in the entire history of architecture.
It is mentioned that all the stone blocks of the pyramid would build two-thirds of the way around the earth at the Equator.
In addition, the Great Pyramid and its neighbors contained a huge amount of stones sufficient to build a 3-m-high and 1-m-thick wall, which would surround France entirely.The Plan of Cheops Pyramid
Commonly accepted among many scholars is the suggestion of Bochardt that the pyramid’s three chambers represent two changes in plan, with the abandonment of the subterranean chamber believed to be the original intended burial chamber of the King and the Queen’s chamber. Later, several clues combined to indicate that the three chambers and the entire passage system were planned together from the outset. From the original entrance, the descending passage goes through the pyramid with an angle of 26°31 and a length of about 7.3m (24feet). This passage ends in the subterranean chamber.
In the classic pyramid structure (as seen in Meidum and other pyramids), there was a descending corridor leading to a chamber at or below ground level. But here, for the first time, the chamber was carved out of solid bedrock, but it was not completed. So the descending corridor becomes horizontal then leads to an unfinished burial chamber, the walls of which are in a rough condition. It measures about 46 feet (14m) in length, 27 feet (7.2m) in width and 11.6 feet (5.3m) in height.
In other words, the design of the pyramid was most probably changed or enlarged; and this change implies the use of another plan known as the second plan.
The Second Plan:
This change in plan was made by cutting a hole in the roof of the descending corridor. This hole leads to an ascending corridor which was cut upwards through the core of the pyramid, it measures about 36m long, this ascending passage leads to another horizontal passage about 35m long and 1.75m high that leads in return to the misnamed room known as the Queen’s chamber. The junction of the ascending corridor with the horizontal passage was originally roofed. The Queen’s chamber, built entirely of limestone, was therefore totally closed off. It measures 5.2 X 5.7 m and the maximum height of its pointed roof is about 6 m. In the eastern wall of this room, a large niche with a corbelled roof is located. The existence of this niche together with its being closed off made Mark Lehner (an American Egyptologist) describe this room as a Serdab, a room for the Ka statue (the King’s spiritual double).
Small holes in the north and south walls lead into narrow channels that originally opened on shafts usually referred to as "air channels", although some Egyptologists believed that they had a religious significance related to the King's soul.
After the construction of the Great Pyramid, a third plan was applied:
In the third plan, the structure was enlarged and a higher burial chamber was built. In the roof of the ascending corridor, a hole was cut, which leads to the Grand Gallery. The Gallery measures about 47 x 2.1m wide and 8.7m long and its roof is corbelled in the same way like those of Meidum and Dahshur. Along the sides are holes cut at regular intervals and intended to receive the ends of the wooden platform on which the coffin of the King was dragged. The passage served as a store place of stone plugs used for blocking the mouth of the ascending corridor after the burial. The Grand Gallery leads to a horizontal granite passage of about 8.4 m long and 3.1 m high which serves as an antechamber.
Beyond the antechamber is the so-called the King’s Chamber, which is lined, roofed and paved with finely dressed and polished granite. It measures about 10.5 x 5.2 m and its height is about 5.8m. Its flat roof is formed of nine granite slabs, each weighs nearly 50 tons.
In the western side of this room is a red lidless granite sarcophagus finely policed, on which no inscriptions were found. The northern and southern walls each have an “air shaft” or "ventilation shaft", one of them still functions and serves to keep the air of the chamber fresh. Leading to the outer face of the pyramid, these shafts are oriented to the northern polar star, many scholars referred them mainly to religious purpose.
Over the King’s room are "five relieving chambers" designed to lessen the pressure of the pyramid’s upper portions on the roof of the burial chamber.
Each of these chambers is built of limestone and roofed with granite of about 1 meter high. The first four chambers have flat ceilings and the uppermost one has a corbelled roof.
It is here in those chambers that the name of King Khufu (Cheops) was found. Among the engravings is the one which reads: "in the seventeenth year of Khufu's reign, …", a record implying that the building had reached this stage at that time. Although these five rooms are made of limestone, their roofs were made of red granite.
Noticeably, these rooms are not connected to each other. The first room could be reached through a hole cut into the upper south wall of the Grand Gallery.
An access into these rooms is via a tunnel through the first room. At the lower end of the Grand Gallery, on the west wall, is the mouth of an escaping tunnel, which was cut between the descending and the ascending corridors. This tunnel was intended to enable the workmen who pushed down the stone plugs to block the mouth of the ascending corridor to escape from the pyramid without being trapped inside it after the burial of the King.
The granite sarcophagus which was placed inside the burial chamber is a lidless sarcophagus. The width of the sarcophagus is one inch wider than the entrance of the passage. Some scholars suggest that it may have been placed inside the chamber before it was built. Temples of Cheops Pyramid Complex
The funerary complex of King Cheops contains two temples (the valley temple and the funerary or mortuary temple), connected to each other with a causeway. Both temples and the causeway are situated to the east of the Great Pyramid.The Valley Temple of Cheops Pyramid
The Valley Temple of the Great Pyramid of Keops (Khufu) was a place where a number of religious activities took place, such as the mummification, purification, and the opening of the mouth rite. Today, the temple is buried under the village of Nazlet el-Seman.
It is worth noting that the opening of the mouth ceremony was made for the statues in the Old and Middle Kingdoms, while in the New Kingdom, this ritual was made for the mummy.
The Causeway of Cheops Temple
The Causeway connects the Valley Temple with the Mortuary Temple of Cheops. Built of limestone, it measures nearly 720 yards in length and 60 feet in width; it was roofed and its side walls were decorated with multiple scenes. In the last century, the causeway remained intact, except for some parts of its foundation. Today, though unfortunately destroyed, part of its floor has survived intact. Cutting a tunnel near its middle enabled people to move from one side to the other instead of walking around the whole complex. In other words, a tunnel was made from the right side to the left side to lessen the distance and shorten the tour around the causeway.
Additionally, there is a mud-brick bridge built at the point where it crossed the edge of the Plateau to the cultivation land (or the valley) in order to be connected with the Valley Temple. The bridge was built to lessen the slope of the causeway. Most probably the causeway was decorated with some scenes as the Mortuary Temple.The Mortuary Temple of Cheops Pyramid
The Mortuary Temple is a rectangular building, built of limestone with its longer axis running from east to west. It measures 171 feet in length and 132 feet in width. Unfortunately, the temple is now completely destroyed except for its floor (in the eastern side). Remains of its black basalt as well as its limestone rock-foundation enabled archaeologists to reconstruct its original plan as well as its general appearance.
The pyramid was once surrounded by a Tura-limestone wall of over 8m (26ft) high, enclosing a court of 10.2m (33ft) wide, paved in limestone.
The Mastabas around Cheops Pyramid
The Pyramid of Cheops is surrounded from three sides by mastabas, only the northern side is empty. These mastabas are outside its enclosure. Built of mud-brick, local stone and limestone, the mastabas were erected for high officials and the King's relatives. All the mastabas around the pyramid were erected during the life time of King Cheops. They were arranged in parallel rows, several feet apart on the east and the west sides of the pyramid; and only one row of mastabas to the south of the pyramid.
In the eastern side, there are about 80 mastabas arranged in rows, between every two of which, there are some equal distances. Belonging to close relatives of the King, these mastabas are smaller in size than those in the west.
In the western side, there are 64 mastabas that belong to high officials, arranged in rows with equal distance in between. Here, mastabas are bigger in size. They were built of local stone and covered by Tura limestone. Unfortunately, the outer faces of these mastabas have suffered a great deal of damage and lost their own casing.
As for the southern mastabas, they belong to both the relatives and the high officials.
The existence of all this number of mastabas reflects the deifying of the King at that time: people desired to be close to their king after his death as they were before his death.
In the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties, smaller mastabas were built in the areas between the rows of the original ones.
In the Twenty-sixth Dynasty, people used the Giza Plateau as their burial ground erecting a large number of smaller mastabas all over the site. As a consequence, the area lost its architectural cohesion. Subsidiary Pyramids of Cheops Pyramid
To the east of the great pyramid and to the south of causeway, stand the Subsidiary Pyramids of Cheops Pyramid. Each of these pyramids has a funerary chapel situated on its eastern side.
The first Subsidiary Pyramid belongs to Cheops' sister, Merit-It-Es.
Built on a square plan of 45m square, it was constructed of local stone and covered by Tura limestone, all of which had vanished. On its eastern side, there was a funerary chapel, now completely damaged. On the southern side of the pyramid, there is a boat pit, which was converted in later periods into store rooms.
The second Subsidiary Pyramid belongs to Cheops' minor wives. The entrance of the pyramid is located in the northern face, little above the ground. It leads to a descending passage which eventually terminates with an antechamber. A descending corridor connects the antechamber with the burial chamber. The height of the pyramid is 9m; it inclines to an angle of 52. In the eastern side, there is a funerary chapel, now completely destroyed. In the southern face of the pyramid, there was a boat pit that was excavated in 1952 and is now filled with rubble and sand.
The third Subsidiary Pyramid belongs to Cheops' half sister and secondary wife. For unknown reason, in the Twenty-one Dynasty, she was highly deified. Identified with goddess Isis, she was called 'Isis Hentutsen', the mistress of the pyramid.