PreviousHome page: search, links, corrected course elevationsContentsNext

Chap. 14. The Granite Temple, and Other Remains

Pages 128 - 137

95. [p. 128] The Granite Temple stands near the Sphinx, at the foot of the hill of Gizeh; and is directly connected with the Second Pyramid, by means of a causeway which leads from its entrance, straight up to the entrance of the temple of that Pyramid.

This causeway was a grand work, about 15 feet wide and over quarter of a mile long. The rock has been uniformly cut down to a sloping bed, on which has been laid apparently two layers of fine white limestone. The rock looks at first as if it were all masonry, owing to every stone that was placed on it having been more or less let into its surface, just like the building of the Pyramid courses one on the other. All the paving has been torn up, and only a few blocks are left lying about: these have a shallow drain cut in them, apparently on the upper side of the lower layer of paving. This causeway was only discovered two or three years ago; though Professor Smyth, as far back as 1865, had mentioned that the entrance of the Granite Temple pointed to the Second Pyramid, and had thence argued for a connection between them.

The direction selected for this causeway is not due E. from the temple of the Second Pyramid; and it is therefore not square with the Pyramids, nor with the Granite Temple, which is similarly oriented. For this divergence from the nearly universal orientation of other constructions here, there seems good reason in the fact of a very suitable ridge of rock running in this direction, with a sharp fall away on each side of it. Hence, unless an enormous mass of masonry had been built up, to fill a valley that runs due E. of the Second Pyramid, there was no means of making the causeway square with the other constructions. This causeway may have been regarded as a Via Sacra; for on both sides of it the rock is closely perforated with the large shafts of rock tombs, over which chapels were probably built, bordering the causeway.

The two temples which this causeway connects — the upper one, in front of the Second Pyramid, and the lower one, or Granite Temple — are closely alike in their character; and the temple of the Third Pyramid seems to have been similar to them. Both of them were built with a core of megalithic blocks of limestone, ranging in their weight to over a hundred tons each; and these [p. 129] were cased over by massive blocks of granite or of alabaster. The upper temple has been far more destroyed than the lower; only a few blocks of its polished granite remain, and its ruins are half buried in heaps of chips of alabaster,1  limestone, and granite. It had a sloping ascent, like the lower temple, probably to a court over the roof of its chambers; and innumerable fragments of polished diorite statues, beside alabaster vases and inscribed ornaments, are mixed together in the rubbish, evidently derived from the destruction of statues like those of Khafra, which were found dashed into the well in the lower temple.

Top of page

96. The lower temple, or Granite Temple, which has also been called the Temple of the Sphinx, was apparently a free-standing building, like the upper temple. This is not the view of some who have seen it, and who suppose that it is a rock-excavated work, lined with granite, at least in the lower parts, for the upper half is manifestly built. But Mariette (Rev. Pol. et Lit. 6 Dec., 1879) expressly says that it is all built; and he describes the outer surfaces as being smooth, and "ornamented with long grooves, vertical and horizontal, skilfully crossed," which seems to imply a design like the lattice-work pattern of the early tombs. As far as the outside can be now seen, to about fifteen feet above the base, it is built of megalithic blocks; and in the inside a rough chamber, to which an entrance has been forced, shows the hidden construction; and here it is all built of immense blocks of limestone, resting on a bed of rock at the base level of the temple. Again, just outside it, on the N.E., is an enclosure of crude brick and rough stone, lately cleared, and there the rock is at about the level of the base of the temple. It seems most probable, therefore, that it is entirely built; though possibly heaped round with stones and sand on the outside, like the tombs on the S. of the Great Pyramid, and at Medum. Until the outside shall be cleared, and the construction put beyond doubt, the evidence points to this resembling the upper temple in every respect.

The arrangement of the Granite Temple will be seen from the plan, Pl. vi. The causeway from the upper temple runs down the hill, in a straight line, into the passage which slopes down into the great hall, The pillars in this hall are all monoliths of dark red granite, like that of the walls; they are 41 inches (2 cubits) square, and 174.2 high, weighing, therefore, about 13 tons each. The two larger pillars, placed at the junction of the two parts of the hall, to support three beams each, are 58 inches wide, and weigh over 18 tons each. All these pillars support beams of granite, which are likewise 41 inches square in the double colonnade, and 47.8 to 48.4 deep in the single colonnade, where their span is greater. The shorter spans are 128, and the longer 145 inches; so that the beams are not as heavy as the columns, the two sizes being 9½ and 12½ tons.

[p. 130] Six of these beams, or a third of the whole, are now missing. The Arabs say that they were found lying dislodged in the temple; and that Mariette, when clearing up the place to exhibit (at the festivities of the opening of the Suez Canal) had them blasted to pieces by soldiers. This seemed scarcely credible, although very similar stories are reported of that Conservator of Antiquities; but among the quantities of broken granite, which is built into a rude wall to keep back the sand, I found many pieces with polished surfaces like the beams in question, and with distinct blast-holes cut in them, quite different in character to the holes drilled anciently. This ugly story, therefore, seems confirmed.

Besides this great hall, with the colonnades 222.4 inches high, there is another hall to the east of it, which has been much higher; and from each end of the eastern hall is a doorway, one now blocked up, the other leading to a chamber. Out of the great hall a doorway, in the N.W. corner, leads to a set of six loculi; these are formed in three deep recesses, each separated in two by a shelf of granite. These recesses still have their roofs on, and are dark except for the light from the doorway, and from a ventilator. The lower part of the walls of each recess is formed of granite, resting on the rock floor; this is 61.6 to 61.7 high. Above this is the granite shelf, 28 thick, which extends the whole length of the recess. In the southern recess this shelf is nearly all of one block 176 x over 72 x 28. Upon this shelf, over the lower recesses, are placed two walls of alabaster, dividing the upper three loculi; both walls are irregularly a few inches southward of the lower walls. The extraordinary length of these loculi — over 19 feet — seems strange; especially as the turn to the side loculi would prevent any coffin larger than 30 x 76 inches being taken in unless it were tipped about to get the benefit of the cubic diagonal. The doorway is only 80.45 high, so that nothing over 80 inches long could be taken in on end.

On the S. side of the short passage leading to these loculi, a stone has been removed from the wall, and by climbing in, a curious irregular chamber is reached, evidently never intended to be seen. It is entirely in the rough, the N. and part of the W. side being merely the backs of the granite blocks of the hall and passage; these are irregular, in and out, but nevertheless very well dressed, flat and true in most parts. The rest of this chamber is of rough core masonry, just like the core of the upper temple, and the floor is of rock, with a step down across it (broken line in plan) about the middle of the chamber. The base of the S.W. corner of the chamber is entirely in one block, the lower or sunken part of the rock floor being levelled up by a base plane cut in the block, and the S. and W. sides being two vertical planes in the same block, so that it forms a hollow corner all in one piece. On the S.E. the chamber is bounded by a rough wall of stone scraps built in when it was recently opened. In the chamber were found, it is said, several common mummies; perhaps of late date, like those I found in the E.N.E. rock trench.

[p. 131] The history of the opening of this secret chamber seems to have been that in destroying the temple, for the sake of building stones, the pillagers began at the S.E. and S.W. corners; here they pulled stones away until they opened into this chamber, and then, finding a granite wall on one side of it, they dragged out the smallest block, and so broke through into the passage. A clearance of the outside of the temple is needed, however, to settle this as well as other questions.

Another covered chamber also exists, branching from the entrance passage; this is built of alabaster and granite. Opposite the entrance to it is a doorway, leading to an inclined passage, which was the ascent up to the former roof of the great hall. This passage is of alabaster, and the upper doorway of granite.

The whole of the area above the great hall appears to have been at one level, and to have formed a large uncovered court, surrounded by high walls. That it was not subdivided into chambers would appear from the character of the facing of the wall, which remains in one corner over the six loculi. This wall is of fine limestone, and not of granite or alabaster, which were used in covered parts of the building; and it has a considerable batter, unlike the walls of the halls or chambers below, and only resembling the external walls of tombs. Each feature shows, therefore, that it was open to the sky. As no temples more complete than this are known, except those built one to three thousand years later, it is unsafe to argue by analogy; but still there is no case, I believe, of a second story to a temple; and smaller temples over the large one (as at Dendera) are of the character of additions built in a court on the roof, and not upper stories as parts of a whole design.

The ventilators are a peculiar feature of the building, though somewhat like those to be seen in the tombs. They were formed by sloping slits along the top edge of the walls, a few inches wide, and usually 41 inches long. Only one remains perfect, that opening out of the chamber of loculi; this slit opens into a rectangular shaft, which rises to some way above the roof, and there opens with a square mouth of alabaster on the face of the upper court wall. The mouth is on the same side of the shaft as the slit; and hence the only light entering is reflected from the side of the shaft. The slits cut for these ventilators exist all along the Western part of the great hall, and are marked on the walls in the plan.

The Eastern hall appears to have been formerly much higher, probably as high as the smaller chamber on the N. of it, which rises several feet above it. The signs of this are the absence of ventilating slits along the present tops of its walls, and the two large recesses at each end of it, which are now less than half their original height. What these recesses originally were like may be seen by a similar recess in the small chamber at the N. end. Here is a large recess in the W. wall, quite rectangular, and free from any ornament, like all the other parts; [p. 132] it is roofed across by a deep lintel, the whole being of the same red granite as the rest of the walls.

What may have been the use of these recesses, is an inquiry which seems to be solved by the other question, as to where were the original sites of the diorite statues, so many of which were found thrown into the well in the Eastern hall. These statues must have had some appropriate place in this hall, and no sign appears of any pedestals upon which they could have stood. We might look, then, on such niches or recesses in the walls as the original sites of the great diorite figure of Khafra, of his lesser statues, and of the equally valuable (though sadly neglected) cynocephalus apes of Tahuti, carved in gray granite and green basalt, which now lie scattered about the building. These recesses at the end of the Eastern hall are 80.9 (S.) and 85.5; (N.) in width; that in the north chamber is not accessible.

Top of page

97. The workmanship of the building in general, though fine looking, is not at all equal to that of the Great Pyramid. The granite blocks are fitted together anyhow, so long as their joints are horizontal, and somewhat upright; and in some cases even a re-entering angle is cut in one stone to receive the corner of another. The walls are also far from vertical, or square with each other in plan. The Eastern hall is longer on the present top than at the bottom by 7.2 on E. and 9.7 on W. side, the difference being nearly all due to a very perceptible batter of the S. end. It is also wider at the top than the bottom, by 4.1 on N. end and 2.9 on S. end. The orientation of it is fairly close; for, judging by the noonday gun of Cairo, it is + 16' or – 12' from true N. by two different days' observations. The irregularity of the walls discouraged me from using polestar observations for it, the difference of width of the ends being equal to 10' on the length. All the dimensions marked on the plan are as measured at the base, except the Western part of the great hall, which is much buried in the sand.

The building is peculiar in the fitting of the corners; not only are the courses bedded alternately one over the other up a corner, as in the Great Pyramid, but each course goes an inch or two round the corner; the angle being actually cut out in each stone. This may be very probably explained by what we see in the granite casing of the Third Pyramid; there the face was left rough, to be dressed down after building. If; then, the faces of these blocks were left with a small excess on them, and dressed down afterwards, that would make each block turn the corner in the way described.

All the doorways seem to have been fitted with double valve doors: the doorway to the loculi is the best to examine. There the pivot-holes cut in the granite lintel by a jewelled tube drill are plainly to be seen; with the stump of the core left by the drill, still sticking in the southern hole. On the floor beneath these there is, not another hole, but a highly polished piece of black basalt, quite [p. 133] flat, and free from scratches. It is difficult to see what was the use of such a stone, or how the doors were worked.

Top of page

98. This Granite Temple, then, appears to have been a mass of masonry, probably cased externally with fine limestone; and measuring about 140 feet in each direction, and 40 feet high. This contained a hall about 60 feet long, 12 wide, and 30 feet or more in height, with a large recess at each end containing a statue. These recesses were high up above the doors which led into lesser chambers, also containing statues, and from which outer doorways may have led. Beside this hall there was the great hall, entered by a doorway over 8 feet wide and 14 feet high, and dimly lighted by its ventilators; one part of this was 81 feet long, 22 wide, and 19 feet high, the roof supported by six massive pillars; while the remainder was 55 feet long, 33 wide, and 18½ high, with its roof supported by ten of the same monolithic pillars. There were also six loculi, each 19 feet long, in one of the side chambers. Over all this was the open-air court on the top, reached by a sloping passage of alabaster, and cased with fine white limestone; its area about 80 feet by 100 feet, and the walls around it over 15 feet high. From the great ceiled halls of dark red granite — with their ranks of square monoliths, and vistas as much as 100 feet in length, all dimly seen by the light reflected through the openings along the roof — the main passage led out in one straight line, up the wide dazzling white causeway, for more than a quarter of a mile; thus entering the similar temple that stood before Khafra's Pyramid, richly furnished with statues, bowls, and vases engraved with his royal name and titles.

Top of page

99. The date of the Granite Temple has been so positively asserted to be earlier than the fourth dynasty, that it may seem rash to dispute the point. Recent discoveries, however, strongly show that it was really not built before the reign of Khafra, in the fourth dynasty.

The main argument for its earlier date is the mention of the "Temple of the Sphinx," in the celebrated tablet discovered at Gizeh. But I found that the building to which this tablet belonged was of the twenty-first dynasty; and, as will be seen in the "Historical Notes" (section 118), this tablet is either a refurbished and altered copy of an older inscription, or more probably an entire invention. In no case, however, would it be certain that the Granite Temple was the identical temple of the Sphinx, rather than the temple of Isis, or that of Osiris, which are also mentioned; and there may easily have been other temples in the neighbour hood, whose foundations are as unknown now as the whole Granite Temple was a generation ago. The whole reasoning turns on the supposition that a building which is near the Sphinx, though not known to be in any way connected with it, is yet necessarily identical with a temple of the Sphinx, mentioned on a tablet which has internal evidences of being untrustworthy, and which was written about a couple of thousand years after the time mentioned upon it.

[p. 134] The argument, on the other hand, for the Granite Temple being of the fourth dynasty, is drawn from its own construction, and is, therefore, contemporary evidence. The great causeway from the temple runs askew to the orientation of the temple and Pyramids; and the adequate reason for this is the presence of a ridge of rock running along in that direction. But the entrance passage, which is built all in one mass with the temple, and is certainly contemporary with it, is also skewed exactly as the causeway. This shows that the causeway cannot have been designed after the temple, since there must be a strong reason for building one part of an oriented structure askew to the rest of it. If the causeway, then, is as old as the temple, what could be the meaning of running a causeway up to a bare hill-top, if no temple or Pyramid existed there? more especially as all other causeways and approaches run east instead of west. The only adequate reason for this arrangement is the pre-existence of the Second Pyramid and its upper temple, before the causeway and lower temple. The same conclusion is arrived at when we consider the other Pyramid causeways, and see that the causeway of the temple was (in the cases of the Great and Third Pyramids) doubtless the causeway by which the materials were brought during the building. If the Granite Temple existed before the causeway, and so blocked the end of it, there would be no way of taking the stones up for building the Second Pyramid. The lower end of the causeway must have opened freely on to the plain, until the completion of the Pyramid and upper temple.

Thus the arrangements of the buildings themselves point clearly to the following order of design. First, the Pyramid of Khafra; second, the temple built symmetrically in front of that Pyramid; third, the causeway, leading askew from that temple down a ridge of rock; and fourth, the Granite Temple at the foot of the causeway, with its entrance passage skewed into line with the causeway, though the rest of the temple was oriented, like everything else in the neighbourhood.

The fact that the only dateable remains found in the Granite Temple were statues of Khafra also shows that it is of his period; since the idea of his appropriating an earlier building is very unlikely.

Such, then, is the contemporary evidence on the age of this building, given by the causeway and passage.

Top of page

100. There are, at Gizeh, remains of various other great buildings of the Pyramid period, as well as the Granite Temple (or rather the lower Granite temple of Khafra) and the upper temple by the Second Pyramid.

On the east side of the Great Pyramid a large building existed, of which but little can be found to show its nature. The great basalt paving, about 90 feet by 180 feet, has been described already (section 28), and a great platform of this sort must have been part of some large work. The superstructure, now [p. 135] destroyed, appears to have been lined with granite, like the temples of Khafra; many large pieces of polished granite are to be seen lying on the S. side of the basalt paving; and on the E. side, in the inner end of the E.N.E. trench, is a block with two adjacent faces, and a third worked surface on it is precisely like that of the holes for the pivot blocks of the doors in the Granite Temple. Again, when excavating on the basalt pavement, at the middle of it, I found several large hewn blocks of granite, mixed up with the blocks of basalt which lie all torn up there. By the basalt paving I also picked up several flat pieces of diorite; some polished, and others rough-dressed as for cementing in a building. To understand somewhat more of the nature of this part, the whole site of the basalt paving and around it should be cleared of sand and chips, and all pieces of granite and diorite carefully noted down.

The great rock-cut trenches on the E. of the Great Pyramid have every appearance of having been lined with fine stone; not only in each of them are blocks inserted with plaster, and other plaster remaining, but the surfaces are very irregular, and certainly not final; and in most parts the characteristic recessing is to be seen, cut out to hold the irregular backs of the lining blocks, as they were fitted one by one, exactly as in both of the granite-lined temples of Khafra. This recessing can never occur from any cause, except the actual fitting in of the irregularities of the individual blocks of lining; and it must always show, not only that a lining was intended, but that it was also fitted in. Again, the irregular, but flat, ledges on many parts (such as around the inner end of the S. trench, and along the sides of the E.N.E. trench) are exactly what would be made for fitting blocks of lining. Now the width of the inner end of the S. trench is only 134 inches, and that of the E.N.E. trench 170, and its outer end 150; and lining blocks can hardly be reckoned at less than 30 inches thick, considering the height was 20 feet; hence these trenches must have been narrowed to long vertical slits or crevasses about 5 or 6 feet wide, 20 feet deep, and 160 feet long, lined with costly polished stone.

Of the smaller trenches, the N.N.E. is partly built, and was almost certainly, by its form, position, and wear, a drain to carry off the washing of the basalt pavement, or possibly for some sacrificial arrangement; the other slight trench, at the N.E. corner of the Pyramid, has a uniform fall, as if for a drain.

Top of page

101. On the E. side of the Great Pyramid, among the rubbish near the smaller Pyramids, were found two pieces of the casing of a Pyramid, each unique. One is a piece of a basalt casing stone, with three worked faces, i.e., two outer faces of a Pyramid, and the horizontal joint below them; being, in fact, a bottom corner of a ridge casing stone. The fragment is about 7 inches high on the faces, and 5 inches wide along the base. The joint surface is beautifully worked, by pick-dressing slightly ground; being seldom over 1/50 inch from a true plane, and generally much less. The angle of slope must have been 51º 9' 5', [p. 136] as determined by the angle of meeting of the faces; but the joint dipped down 1º 18', so that the angle of the block is 52º 27'. From this it seems probable that one of the smaller Pyramids had arris lines of basalt down each corner, to prevent wear and weathering; the general casing of all of these Pyramids was certainly limestone; as I picked up pieces (with the angle of slope) by each of them.

The other remarkable piece of casing is a bottom corner, with an upright joint, of a diorite casing stone. The idea, even of arris lines being cased with a stone so valuable and difficult to work, is almost incredible; but this chip, some four inches long on the face, and one inch on the joint, cut to the regular angle (i.e., 52º 30' 10'), seems to admit of no other explanation.

It therefore appears as if the small Pyramids of the family of Khufu were adorned with the protection of edges of the hardest and toughest stones, which embraced the faces of polished white limestone; an architectural effect quite new to our ideas.

Top of page

102. The use of diorite at Gizeh is worthy of study; it is far from a common stone, and was generally reserved for statues, no building stones of it being known in situ. Hence, wherever it is found it is both unmistakable and important. Of wrought and finished diorite, I found opposite the N. face of the Great Pyramid two pieces; each with three faces meeting at right angles, two faces rough dressed and cemented, and the other face fine ground. These must have belonged to some building work in diorite; and probably belonging to the same were two angle pieces with both faces polished, and two plane chips, both faces polished. Beside these, in the same place, were many pieces of diorite with slight saw cuts in them, ½ to 2 inches deep, and hammer-dressed surfaces; and also innumerable chips of diorite lying about. All these pieces are solely found lying on the surface, and never within the sloping stratification of the ancient Pyramid masons' rubbish. They seem exactly as if some small construction, or object, in diorite, had been smashed up in one spot; but there are no foundations or traces of a building on the bare rock, for hundreds of feet on either side of it. The site of these fragments is exactly opposite the entrance to the Great Pyramid. Now, Greaves (in 1638) mentions a tradition that the niche in the Queen's Chamber was the place for an idol; and it would be a very suitable recess to hold a great diorite statue like that of Khafra, which probably stood in a recess in the Granite Temple. If, then, such a statue and its pedestal had been broken up, and carried out of the Pyramid, and finally chipped to pieces at the edge of the hill, — with the same intensity of hatred that is shown in the destruction of the other statues at the temple of the Second Pyramid, at Abu Roash, at Sakkara, and elsewhere, — this would account for the corners of built blocks found here, which might be parts of the pedestal; for the rough pieces, which might be the backs of the blocks; for the various pieces of polished diorite; for [p. 137] the quantity of diorite chips; and for some pieces of diorite statues, and other dressed fragments, found a couple of hundred feet to the westward. There is no place so likely for the diorite to be brought from, as from the Great Pyramid; since this site is the part of the hill edge nearest to the entrance, but not near to any other place. Unhappily, there has been such a large amount of quarrying and replacing in the Queen's Chamber, and so much rubbish from there has been distributed elsewhere, that it is vain to look for any diorite chips still remaining there.

Beside the diorite on the above site, I found many fragments of polished statues, and probably thrones, among the rubbish overlying the tombs on the E. of the Great Pyramid; and also specimens illustrating tube-drilling, ordinary sawing, and circular sawing in diorite. For an account of these, see the "Mechanical Methods."

Beyond the tombs south of the Great Pyramid, I found a piece of a statue but this most likely came from the great site for such pieces, the temple of the Second Pyramid. There, in the rubbish, any quantity of chips of statues, bowls, and other objects in diorite, may be found. Bits of statues large and small, fingers, toes, drapery, and hieroglyphs are readily to be picked up.

Behind this Pyramid, in excavating the workmen's barracks, I turned up several pieces of statues, both in diorite and alabaster; these had been less worn than is usual with such fragments, and all retained traces of their colouring; black for hair, and green for dress, on the alabaster; and uniform white plastering on the diorite. Beside these I found a small piece of diorite, hammer-dressed in curve, opposite the door of the Second Pyramid, on the rubbish.

The exact position of all wrought fragments of diorite, should be carefully noted when they are found; as by this means many suggestions may be obtained as to objects that are now entirely destroyed.

Top of page

NOTES:     (Use browser back button to return.)

1. This is carbonate of lime, in crystalline nodular sheets; and is called Oriental alabaster, by the wide use of that word for both sulphate and carbonate.

Valid XHTML 1.0!