Great Pyramid Of Khufu


Great Pyramid Of Khufu Essay, Research Paper

Imagine yourself back in time, 4500 years ago to a time of

discovery and a time of development. Imagine being so loyal to the

ruler of your land that you struggle build great monuments, and later

burial sites. Monuments and burial sites of such great design and size

that to attempt to replicate them today would never equal the great

meaning behind them. Back in the area of around 2575 B.C.-2134

BC, in what is known as the old kingdom, the Egyptians built one of

the greatest monuments and burial sites ever constructed, The Great

Pyramid of Khufu (Harris 6). The Great Pyramid is one of the greatest

accomplishments of ancient Egypt. In this paper we will research: the

construction of the Great Pyramid, the surroundings of the Great

Pyramid, and the effect of time on the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

In the Old Kingdom sometime between the years of 2575 BC

and 2134 BC the Egyptians constructed The Great Pyramid. The

Pharaoh Khufu ordered the building of a pyramid of greater

dimensions than any other pyramid ever constructed. Allegedly

Khufu’s pyramid was built to outdo the massive tombs built under

Snefru’s, his father, reign over the Egyptian Empire. In hope to

increase interest in the building of his pyramid Khufu shut down other

temples to divert the interest to his site (Egypt 52). Khufu chose to

build on the Giza plateau on the East side of the Nile river (Casson


Many sources say that the Egyptians used slave labor to

construct the huge pyramid for the pharaoh Khufu, or Cheops as he

was also called, this was not so. The pyramid was built by about

4,000 free citizens of Egypt drafted for public work. The men were

divided up into gangs of laborers and masons. The laborers “gangs”

consisted of approximately 18 to 20 individuals (Casson 134). The

laborers would personalize the blocks of stone in which they moved

with their groups name, such as: “Vigorous Gang”, or “Enduring

Gang”. The laborers also included important instructions like, “This

side up”, or even got a little risque’ by inscribing things like, “How

drunk is the King?” (ibid. 130)

Using stone cut mostly form a quarry right on the Giza plateau

the laborers quarried and hauled the massive blocks of stone to and

later even up the pyramid (Egypt 55). More on the upward

progression later, for now let us concentrate on the materials. Fine

white limestone was taken from Tura across the Nile river. The

granite used for the kings burial chamber was quarried from Aswan,

400 miles upriver form Giza (Egypt 58). The blocks of stone weighed

as much as 15 tons as the granite stones were the heaviest (Casson

131). The total weight of the pyramid 6.25 million long tons of stone

(Harris 86). The Great Pyramid has a total of about 2,250,000 blocks

of stone (Woods 16) This feat is almost unheard of today with the use

of new machines and techniques for hauling and moving incredibly

heavy objects.

The construction of the pyramid was flowing smoothly until

either Khufu or one of his architects changed his mind and moved the

burial chamber from the under ground to the center of the pyramid.

Archaeologists suggest that the shifting of the burial chambers took

place after Khufu started to be revered as Re, the sun god. Since Re’s

symbol was the “ben-ben” which was the shape of a pyramid it would

only seem appropriate for Khufu-Re to be placed for eternity in the

pyramid itself instead of under it as originally planned (Egypt 52-53).

The Egyptians used some rather ingenious ways to keep their

building project on the perfect side. The crews would dig connected

trenches around the building site and fill the trenches with water.

After filling the trenches with water they would tie a length of rope at

equal height onto two sticks. Thus stretching the rope taunt they could

see any unleveled points to fill or level off to keep their base even

all-around (Casson 133). The laborers used log rollers to aid in the

moving of the massive blocks of stone. Before tipping the stone onto

the rollers the side that is to be faced down on the logs is finished early

to ensure a “smooth” ride (ibid. 131). Seeing how organized the

ancient civilization was proving itself to be we are not shocked to find

that they used a four-way ramp system to haul the blocks of rock to the

upper most places of Khufu’s pyramid. The system used three ramps

that formed

three squared off spirals to the top, and one ramp that followed the

same form down and off the formation (ibid. 134). This gives us four

tiers of ramps, a sort of Egyptian highway system of on and off ramps.

French architect Henri Chevrier tested the ramp theory with 50 men

and a one ton block of limestone set on a track of wet mud from the

Nile river. The results showed that one man harnessed to a rope could

move the block on a level surface, 1 not all 50 (Egypt 58).

After possibly what might have taken the entire twenty-three

year reign of Khufu the structure was complete. The entrance lead

down around 60 feet. The next obstacle to be faced is three stone

sealing plugs that slid in front of the entrance to prevent grave robbers

from entering. The sealing blocks kept robbers out for about 400 years

till finally they got through and stole the contents of the pyramid

(Casson 136). Then advancing upward to a second burial chamber

that was left incomplete, this chamber is commonly misnamed the

Queen’s Chamber. Then we fall upon a 153 foot long 28 foot high

tunnel called The Grand Gallery. The Grand Gallery is noted for its

ceiling made with tiers and braces (ibid. 136). After traveling through

The Grand Gallery we find ourselves in the actual burial chamber of

Khufu. The sarcophagus still stands at the west end of the chamber, of

course it has been empty for some time now. This chamber was

actually the third placement designated by Khufu. Each time his

aspirations grew he

wanted the pyramid bigger, and his tomb higher. The burial chamber

was designed with six stress relieving roofs made of granite to support

the tons of block over head (ibid. 136). This monument of Egyptian

architecture and technique covers a land mass of 13.1 acres. At the

top of the once gold capstone the pyramid stands 482 feet high, now it

is 31 feet shorter due to other projects taking stone from the handy

source. The sides at the base are an astounding 756 feet long. (Egypt


There is even strange tales and theories about the Egyptians

being able to see the future. One theory is from the Scottish

astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth. Smyth believed that the pyramid

reflected measures of time and distance that could have then been only

from a divine source. The pyramid showed the distance of the sun to

the earth when its height in inches is multiplied by 10 to the 9th

power. Ten to nine being the proportion of height to width of the

pyramid. Smyth also said that the perimeter of the pyramid equaled

1000 times 365.2, the number of days in a solar year. Unfortunately

Smyth’s measurements were proven wrong by British archaeologist

Flinders Petrie (Egypt 55).

Even thought the construction of the pyramid still has its doubts

and theories, we find that the Egyptians used such great accuracy in

their techniques that some spots in the pyramid have gaps only about

.0001 inch (.0003 cm) wide (woods 23). This is about large enough to

squeeze a postcard through. This Brings us to the outside

surroundings of the Great Pyramid.

There are two other major pyramids at the Giza site. The second

biggest is the pyramid of Khafre, and the smaller of the three is the

pyramid of Menkaure (Egypt 56). These other pyramids were built

after Khufu’s death. The second largest was built by his son, (Khafre),

and his grandson, (Menkaure). In he surroundings of the Great

Pyramid the Great Sphinx is found. This 240 foot long and 66 foot

high Guardian ordered by King Khafre was carved out of an

outcropping left behind at the limestone quarry that supplied the stone

for the Great Pyramid (ibid. 60).

Perhaps one of the greatest discoveries found around the

perimeter of the Great Pyramid is the twin pits that contain funeral

boats for Khufu. During a routine clearing of the base of the pyramid

in 1954 Egyptian archeologist Kamal el Mallakh uncovered what he at

first thought to be a part of the enclosure wall. Then Mallakh noticed

that this section was closer than on the other sides. Thinking of a

possible find he instructed to dig deeper until a row of 81 huge

limestone blocks in separate sets were apparently covering the twin

pits. After careful work Mallakh opened a hole in one of the

six-foot-thick slabs. Under that slab he saw an oar and realized he had

come upon a historical relic, a cedar funeral boat of Khufu. It took

about sixteen years to remove the boat from the pit. Not wanting to

risk the loss they left the second pit untouched (ibid. 61). Today the

boat is on display in a special museum along side of the Great Pyramid

of Khufu (ibid. 59).

Another great discovery was found around the Great Pyramid by

accident. In 1925 a photographer while setting up his tripod to take

photos of The Great Pyramid nicked a piece of plaster from a hidden

opening cut into the rock. Archaeologists removed stones and

revealed a 100 foot shaft that lead down to a tomb. The tomb

belonged to Queen Hetepheres, Khufu’s mother. After a total of

three-hundred-twenty-one days of work it became apparent that 4500

years had taken its toll on the tomb. Most objects were already

decayed almost to nothing. Using 1701 pages of sketches and 1057

pictures of the site most items were able to be reconstructed (Egypt


In front of the pyramid was what is known as the Great

Causeway. The Great Causeway led to a rectangular mortuary temple.

From this point the coffin was taken to a spot below the tomb entrance

and then hauled up 56 feet to the opening of the pyramid (Casson

138). Also next to the pyramid are three satellite pyramids that

belonged to the ruler’s three queens. There were also several fields of

mastaba tombs and two temples, all connected by The Great Causeway

(Egypt 59). Until recently it was thought that we had little chance of

finding all of the missing sections of Khufu’s pyramid. In 1990

workmen installing sewer lines under the streets of hit upon a part of

the Great Causeway. After this finding the original path of the

Causeway was easily mapped. The government of Egypt wants to

move the residents of Nazlet el Simman and excavate the site (ibid.


The location of the Great Pyramid at Giza has been a popular

place throughout time. This leaves me not shocked to see the modern

town of Nazlet el Simman sitting on the ruins of the once powerful

empire’s “hot spot”. This city is just one of the effects of time on the

pyramid structure. Time has taken its toll on the Great Pyramid.

Unfortunately we have almost no tombs from the old kingdom left

with artifacts and treasures from the nobility that once inhabited them.

Khufu’s Great Pyramid is unfortunately one that made in the old

kingdom, hence it was not well preserved and artifacts are rare (Harris

88). Another fear is that as man progresses the pollution will cause


rocks on the pyramid to erode at a much more rapid pace. Possible

tourism someday will take a toll and start to make the wonderful site

deteriorate much more rapidly than it would if we were to just admire

from a distance. The pyramids at Giza remain the only of the seven

wonders of the ancient world that is still here (ibid. 85). The future

holds the truth of what time will do to the Great Pyramid. If it is

treated like the sphinx has been we may be in danger of some idiot

shooting a cannon at it. If history continues on the path it is set on

now there is nothing to stop the Egyptians from using the blocks as a

handy source for outer building projects. Time has been responsible

for the changes in the pyramid: the contents have disappeared,

outcroppings have been buried and possibly lost forever, and the

environment has taken it toll on the massive structure.

In conclusion. The Great Pyramid has open eyes on the

techniques and loyalty of the ancient Egyptian empire. The Egyptians

have constructed a piece of history that can only sit on a list of seven,

the other six are no longer in existence. This makes the pyramid the

last of the seven wonders of the ancient world. There will probably

never be anything constructed with such raw accuracy and detail

without computers and machines. This makes you stop to wonder,

“How did they do it?”. The answer to this question can only be

partially answered

with the information I have given you. Unfortunately there is not

much more known about the mysterious formations given to us by the

ancient Egyptians. Perhaps there will never be. The world can only

hope and pray for more information on this civilization’s wonderful

architecture to emerge and fill our appetites to learn about them.

Hopefully now your knowledge of the ancient wonder, The Great

Pyramid, is supplemented with the information I have given you on:

the construction of the Great Pyramid, the surroundings of the Great

Pyramid, and the effect of time on the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The

Great Pyramid is one of the greatest accomplishments of ancient

Egypt. The icon of Egyptian architecture and design might not be

with us forever, but it will always be an important part of the worlds

history. The Great Pyramid will never be forgotten.

“May Set and Thoth guide my way.”


Harris, Geraldine. Anchient Egypt. New York, New York: Facts on

File inc., 1990

Casson, Lionel. Anchient Egypt. Canada: Time-Life Books, 1965

Egypt: Land of the Pharaohs. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books,


Woods, Geraldine. Science in Anchient Egypt. New York, New York:

Franklin Watts, 1988

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