Chap. 22. History of the Great Pyramid, and its Design.
Pages 208 - 222
164. [p. 208] At the close of the period of the third dynasty, the hill of Gizeh was a bare stretch of desert ground, overlooking the Nile valley. In ages long before this dawn of living history,1 that valley had been deeply scored out in the great tract of limestone rocks through which it passes; scored by the deep and rushing stream2 which filled the whole width of it from cliff to cliff. This stream was fed along its course by cataracts, dashing down through gorges on either side of it; and thus forming a series of cascades, which continually ate further back into the cliffs of the great river.3 The present stream, meandering slowly in a channel washed out amid its mud flats, and covering its ancient limits with a few inches or feet of water but once a year, would seem a mere ditch if compared with its former grandeur.
In the days when the fourth dynasty arose, these changes were long past; and the valley would probably seem as familiar now to Prince Merhet, Semnefer the architect, and the rest of the court of Khufu, as it did in the days of their power. Above the then growing city of Memphis rose the low hills and cliffs of the desert on the Libyan side; and one of the higher parts of the edge of the desert, a bare wind-blown rise of hill, attracted the attention of Khufu for the site of his great monument. It is certainly the finest site for miles on either side of it; and probably the happiness of the blessed West in contrast to the filthy East, and the nearness to the capital, Memphis, induced him to build here, even though the materials had to be brought from the higher and more commanding cliffs of the eastern bank.
It may seem strange that the site chosen was not rather further from the edge of the cliff, and thus on a higher part of the rock. But the principle in the early days seems to have been to place the tomb as near to the home as possible; the tomb was looked on with pride and satisfaction; it was the place where a man would be periodically remembered and honoured by his descendants; it [p. 209] was — as Aseskaf called his Pyramid — the "cool place," or "place of refreshing," where the body would rest in peace until revivified; a character of the deep rock-hewn chambers most pleasing in such a climate. Hence we find the tombs clustered as thickly as possible, where they actually look on the valley at Gizeh; and scattered less closely where but little of the sacred stream could be seen; and similarly Khufu placed his Pyramid on a slight rise of rock, as close to the edge of the cliff as possible.
To understand the purpose of the erection of the Pyramids, it should be observed that each has a temple on the eastern side of it. Of the temples of the Second and Third Pyramids the ruins still remain; and of the temple of the Great Pyramid, the basalt pavement and numerous blocks of granite show its site. That Khufu's temple is more destroyed than the others is easily accounted for by the causeway of it being larger and more accessible from the plain than are the causeways of the temples of Khafra and Menkaura; hence it would naturally be the first attacked by the spoilers. When in all the tombs of the Pyramid age, we see that the kings are called the Great Gods ("nuter aa"), and had more priests than any of the original deities, it is easy to understand the relationship of a sumptuous temple to each of the royal Pyramids. The worship of the deified king was carried on in the temple, looking toward the Pyramid which stood on the west of it (the "blessed West", the land of souls); just as private individuals worshipped their ancestors in the family tombs, looking toward the "false doors," which are placed on the west side of the tomb, and which represent the entrances to the hidden sepulchres.
165. It has always been assumed that only the finer stone, used for the casing and passages, was brought from the eastern cliffs, and that the bulk of the masonry was quarried in the neighbourhood. But no quarryings exist on the western side in the least adequate to yield the bulk of either of the greater Pyramids;4 and the limestone of the western hills is different in its character to that of the Pyramid masonry, which resembles the qualities usually quarried on the eastern shore. It seems, therefore, that the whole of the stones were quarried in the cliffs of Turra and Masara, and brought across to the selected site.
166. The great amount of labour involved in quarrying and transporting such a mass of masonry as even the casing, has always been a cause of astonishment. But an expression in the traditions reported by Herodotus,5 and a consideration of the internal economy of the country in the present day, seem to explain it. In describing the transport of the stones, Herodotus expressly [p. 210] states that 100,000 men worked at one time, "each party during three months;" now the inundation lasts rather more than three months in the present day, and during that time the inhabitants are almost idle, the land is covered with water, the cattle are fed on dry fodder, and wander on the barren desert; but few hands are needed to regulate the flow of water into the dammed-up basins of the country, and the greater part of the population turn willingly to any employment they can get, or dream away their time in some cool shade. Here, then, is the explanation of the vast amount of labour extracted from a country of limited area. It was during the three months of the inundation that the idle hands were set to all the mere routine of unskilled labour; and while the Nile was at its full height, rafts were busily employed in floating over the masses of hewn stone, from the causeways at the quarries, across the five miles width of waters, to the Pyramid causeway, about seven miles further down the stream. It is noticeable that the period of three months is only mentioned in connection with the removal of the stones, and not with the actual quarrying or building; on these labours probably a large staff of skilled masons were always employed, though they were helped on by an abundance of unskilled labour, for the heavy work of lifting and transport, during the three months when the general population was out of work.
The actual course of work, then, during the building of the Pyramid, would have been somewhat as follows:— At the end of July, when the Nile bad fairly risen, the levy of 100,000 men would assemble to the work. Not more than eight men could well work together on an average block of stone of 40 cubic feet or 2½ tons; and the levies would probably be divided into working parties of about that number. If, then, each of these parties brought over 10 average blocks of stone in their three months' labour-taking a fortnight to bring them down the causeways at the quarries, a day or two of good wind to take them across the stream, six weeks to carry them up the Pyramid causeway, and four weeks to raise them to the required place on the Pyramid — they would easily accomplish their task in the three months of high Nile. They would thus be at liberty to return to their own occupations in the beginning of November when the land was again accessible.
Of course the actual distribution of labour would be more specialized; but this outline will show that such a scale of work would suffice for the complete building of the Great Pyramid in twenty years as stated by Herodotus.6 We thus see that the whole of the material, and not merely the casing, could readily be obtained from the eastern shore; and that the levies need not have been [p. 211] employed during more than the three months when all ordinary labour was suspended.
Beside these hosts of unskilled hands, there must have been a smaller body of masons permanently employed in quarrying the stone, and in trimming it at the Pyramid. And it is likely that a year's supply of stone would be kept on hand at the Pyramid, on which the masons would work; and so the three months' supply of labourers would put up the stones which had been trimmed and arranged during the nine months' previously, while other labourers were engaged bringing over a supply for the masons' work of the ensuing nine months.
This system of employing all the unskilled labour of the country on public work, when the lands were inundated, private labour was impossible, and the Nile was in the fittest state for transport, is almost certain to have been followed in all the great works of the Egyptians; and the peculiarity of the country may go far toward explaining their capacity for executing vast public works.
What the number of skilled masons was we may well guess from the accommodation provided for them in the barracks behind the Second Pyramid (see section 72). These barracks were used by the workmen of Khafra; but those of Khufu must have been equally numerous, and have occupied a similar space, if not, indeed, these identical dwellings. These barracks would hold 3,600 or 4,000 men easily; and as about 120,000 average blocks were required to be prepared every year, this would be only one block of stone prepared in a month by a party of four men, which would probably be the number of masons working together. Hence this accommodation is really more than enough; and most likely a good deal of lifting and building work would be going on throughout the year, beside the great supply of labour during the inundation.
Thus we see that the. traditional accounts that we have of the means employed in building the Great Pyramid, require conditions of labour-supply which are quite practicable in such a land, which would not be ruinous to the prosperity of the country, or oppressive to the people, and which would amply and easily suffice for the execution of the whole work.
167. The site being chosen, it was carefully levelled, and the lengths of the sides were set out with great exactitude (see section 21). How the angles were made square within 12" average error is difficult to see; the rock rising up irregularly in steps inside the masonry, to some 25 feet high; would render accurate diagonal measurements very difficult; unless, indeed, narrow trenches or passages were cut from corner to corner to measure through.
The setting out of the orientation of the sides (see section 93) would not be so difficult. If a pile of masonry some 50 feet high was built up with a vertical side from North to South, a plumb-line could be hung from its top, and observations could be made, to find the places on the ground from which the pole-star [p. 212] was seen to transit behind the line at the elongations, twelve hours apart. The mean of these positions would be due South of the plumb-line, and about 100 feet distant from it; on this scale 15" of angle would be about 1/10 inch, and therefore quite perceptible.
168. From several indications it seems that the masons planned the casing, and some at least of the core masonry also, course by course on the ground. For on all the casing, and on the core on which the casing fitted, there are lines drawn on the horizontal surfaces, showing where each stone was to be placed on those below it. If the stones were merely trimmed to fit each other as the building went on, there would be no need to have so carefully marked the place of each block in this particular way; and it shows that they were probably planned and fitted together on the ground below. Another indication of very careful and elaborate planning on the ground is in the topmost space over the King's Chamber; there the roofing-beams were numbered, and marked for the north or south sides; and though it might be thought that it could be of no consequence in what order they were placed, yet all their details were evidently schemed before they were delivered to the builders' hands. This care in arranging all the work agrees strikingly with the great employment of unskilled labourers during two or three months at a time, as they would then raise all the stones which the masons had worked and stored ready for use since the preceding season.
169. The means employed for raising such masses of stone is not shown to us in any representations. For the ordinary blocks, of a few tons each, it would be very feasible to employ the method of resting them on two piles of wooden slabs, and rocking them up alternately to one side and the other by a spar under the block, thus heightening the piles alternately and so raising the stone. This would also agree with the mysterious description of a machine made of short pieces of wood — a description which is difficult otherwise to realise. This method would also be applicable to the largest masses that we know of in the Pyramid, the 56 roofing-beams of the King's Chamber and the spaces above it. These average 320 x 52 x 73 inches, or 700 cubic feet each; weighing, therefore, 54 tons, some larger, some less. No simple system but that of rocking would enable men to raise such a mass with only the help of crowbars; if such a block was put on two supports, say 30 inches apart, only 5 tons would have to be lifted at once, and this would be easily done by 10 men with crowbars. Six such parties might raise the whole of these blocks in one year.
170. That sheet iron was employed we know, from the fragment found by Howard Vyse in the masonry of the south air channel; and though some doubt has been thrown on the piece, merely from its rarity, yet the vouchers for it are very precise; and it has a cast of a nummulite on the rust of it, proving it to have been buried for ages beside a block of nummulitic limestone, and therefore to be [p. 213] certainly ancient. No reasonable doubt can therefore exist about its being really a genuine piece used by the Pyramid masons; and probably such pieces were required to prevent crowbars biting into the stones, and to ease the action of the rollers.
The tools employed have been described in the chapter on the mechanical methods; they comprised bronze saws over eight feet long, set with jewels, tubular drills similarly set with jewels, and circular saws. These were employed on the granite work, and perhaps saws of a less costly nature on the limestone The casing blocks were dressed by very fine picking or adzing. The system of using true planes smeared with ochre, for testing the work, shows with what nicety they examined their work, and what care was taken to ensure its accuracy and truth.
The masons' waste chips were thrown away over the cliffs, on both the north and south of the Pyramid; and they form banks extending about 100 yards outwards from the original edge of the rock, and reaching from top to bottom of the cliffs; taking them altogether they are probably equal in bulk to more than half of the Pyramid. This rubbish is all stratified at the angle of rest, about 400; and the different qualities of it thrown away on different days may be clearly seen. In one part there will be a layer of large chips, up to the size of a hand; a foot above that a lot of fine dust and sweepings; above that perhaps more large chips, and here and there a layer of desert flints and sand, showing when a piece of desert ground had been cleared to get more space for working. Among all this rubbish are pieces of the workmen's water-jars and food vessels, of which I collected a hundred or more fragments, mixed with chips of wood, bits of charcoal, and even a piece of string, which had probably been used in patching up a rubbish basket. All these were obtained from pits which had been lately made in the oldest part of the heap, close to the edge of the cliff, and beyond which a thickness of some dozens of yards of waste had been shot out; there is thus a certainty that these remains show us the true masons' waste and rubbish, as thrown away by the builders, and stretching out from the cliff in lines of "tip," like a modern half-finished embankment.
By means of this bank of waste, the space around the Pyramid was largely increased in appearance, though it was not solid ground for building; and the tops of the rubbish heaps were smoothly levelled down in the nearer parts, so that their junction to the rock can hardly be traced.
171. During the course of building there was evidently a great change in the style of the work; a change, however, belonging more to the builders than to the masons. The pavement, lower casing, and entrance passage are exquisitely wrought; in fact, the means employed for placing and cementing the blocks of soft limestone, weighing a dozen to twenty tons each, with such hairlike joints (section 26) are almost inconceivable at present; and the accuracy of [p. 214] the levelling is marvellous (section 26). But in the higher parts, the gallery, for instance, is far from such excellence; and the upper part of it is very skew and irregular, the ramp surface being tilted more than an inch in a width of 20 inches. In the Antechamber the granite has never been dressed down flat, and defective stones are employed; where the limestone was very bad, it was roughly plastered over, and many parts are strangely rough. In the King's Chamber the masonry is very fine, both in its accuracy of fitting and in the squareness and equal height of all the blocks; but the builders were altogether wrong in their levels, and tilted the whole chamber over to one corner, so that their courses are 2¼ inches higher at the N.E. than at the S.W., a difference much greater than that in the whole base of the Pyramid. An error like this in putting together such a magnificent piece of work, is astonishing, for the walls are composed of nearly 1/10 of a mile length of granite blocks about 4 feet high, and probably as thick, all of which are gauged to the same height with an average variation of only 1/20 of an inch. As it would be difficult to suppose any architect allowing such errors of building, after so closely restricting the variations of masons' work, it strongly suggests that the granite had been prepared for the chamber long before it was built, and that the supervision was less strict as the work went on, owing to more hurry and less care, or owing to the death of the man who had really directed the superfine accuracy of the earlier work.
172. Beside these signs of carelessness, there are several points in which work that has been intended has never been carried out. The stone was left in the rough where it was liable to damage, and was to be finished off after it was safe from injury. Over the N. doorway of the gallery the stone is left roughly in excess; and in the Queen's Chamber the vertical edge of the doorway is left with an excess of an inch or more, and as a guide a short bit was drafted to the true surface at the top and bottom of each stone (section 42). From these points we see that not only was the work hurried about the middle, but that some parts never received the finishing strokes.
The plan of the passages was certainly altered once, and perhaps oftener, during the course of building. The shaft, or "well", leading from the N. end of the gallery down to the subterranean parts, was either not contemplated at first, or else was forgotten in the course of building; the proof of this is that it has been cut through the masonry after the courses were completed. On examining the shaft, it is found to be irregularly tortuous through the masonry, and without any arrangement of the blocks to suit it; while in more than one place a corner of a block may be seen left in the irregular curved side of the shaft, all the rest of the block having disappeared in cutting the shaft. This is a conclusive point, since it would never have been so built at first. A similar feature is at the mouth of the passage, in the gallery. Here [p. 215] the sides of the mouth are very well cut, quite as good work as the dressing of the gallery walls; but on the S. side there is a vertical joint in the gallery side, only 5.3 inches from the mouth. Now, great care is always taken in the Pyramid to put large stones at a corner, and it is quite inconceivable that a Pyramid builder would put a mere slip 5.3 thick beside the opening to a passage. It evidently shows that the passage mouth was cut out after the building was finished in that part. It is clear, then, that the whole of this shaft is an additional feature to the first plan.
Another evidence of altered plans is in the Queen's Chamber floor. This is not merely left in the rough core, but it has actually had another course of the rough core masonry built, or at least fitted, on to it; and this upper course has been removed, or omitted, in order to build the chamber there. Of the Subterranean Chamber, all that can be said is that it is wholly unfinished, and hardly more than sketched out; so that a change of plan with regard to that also seems proved, since it was the part first begun.
173. Having now pointed out various mechanical considerations on the history of the building, we will consider the history of the closing of the Pyramid.
There can be doubt that the entrance passage was left clear and accessible (sections 125-6), the door closing it on the outside against mere chance curiosity, but being readily swung on its pivots when regularly opened. The upper passages, however, were well concealed, though they had probably been surreptitiously entered before the Arabic forcing (section 58).
It has often been said that the Queen's Chamber was intended to contain the blocks for plugging the ascending passage, until they were required to be let down. But there is an absolute impossibility in this theory; the blocks are 47.3 x 41.6 in section, while the Queen's Chamber passage is but 46.2 x 40.6, or too small in both dimensions to allow the blocks to pass. Hence the blocks must have stood in the gallery until they were wanted, since they could never be got upwards through the ascending passage, as that is but 38.2 at the lower end, and the existing plugs are 41.6 wide above that. Neither could the plugs be brought up the well shaft, as that is but 28 square; nor out of the King's Chamber, as the passage is but 43.6 high. Now, though it is most likely that there never were many plug-blocks (see section 125), yet the existing ones land us in a further conclusion. The broken end of the upper block, and a chip of granite still remaining cemented to the floor of the passage a little above that, show that it was probably 24 inches longer than it is now, judging by marks on the passage. Thus the total length of plug-blocks would be about 203 inches, or very probably 206 inches, or 10 cubits, like so many lengths marked out in that passage. Now, the flat part of the Queen's Chamber passage floor within the gallery, on which blocks might [p. 216] be placed, is but 176 long; and the whole distance, from the N, wall of the gallery to the vertical cut down, is but 1994: so in no way could 203 inches of blocks stand on the horizontal floor, and certainly any passage through the gallery door would be impossible, to say nothing of the difficulty of pushing such blocks along a rough floor, so as to tip them down the passage. Thus the plug-blocks cannot have stood in any place except on the sloping floor of the gallery,
For them, then, to be slid down the passage, it was necessary that the opening to the Queen's Chamber should be completely covered with a continuous floor. The traces of this floor may still be seen, in the holes for beams of stone, across the passage; and in fragments of stone and cement still sticking on the floor of the Queen's Chamber passage at that point. It is certain, then, that the Queen's Chamber was closed and concealed before the ascending passage was closed.
But we are met then by an extraordinary idea, that all access to the King's Chamber after its completion must have been by climbing over the plug-blocks, as they lay in the gallery, or by walking up the ramps on either side of them. Yet, as the blocks cannot physically have been lying in any other place before they were let down, we are shut up to this view.
The coffer cannot have been put into the Pyramid after the King's Chamber was finished, as it is nearly an inch wider than the beginning of the ascending passage.
The only conclusion, then, is that the coffer was placed in the King's Chamber before the roof was put on; that, if Khufu was finally buried in it (and not in some more secret place), then the inner coffin, and any procession accompanying it, must have gone up the gallery, on the narrow-side ramps or benches, past the plug-blocks four feet high standing between them; that before or after this the Queen's Chamber was blocked up; then the plug-blocks were slid down the ascending passage; and, finally, the workmen retired by the well shaft down to the entrance passage, closing the way by a plug of stone not cemented in place, and probably removable at will (see section 58). Finally, the lower mouth of the well shaft was closed, probably by a plugging-block not cemented in; and then visitors of later times crawled in under the outer flap-door in the casing, the stone that could be "lifted out", and so went down to the empty and unfinished Subterranean Chamber in the rock.
174. It may be an open question whether the Queen's Chamber7 was not the sepulchre of Khnumu-Khufu (section 113), the co-regent of Khufu. Edrisi, in [p. 217] his accurate and observant account of the Pyramid (1236 A.D.), mentions an empty vessel in the Queen's Chamber; and that this was not a confused notion of the coffer now known, is proved by his saying that in the King's Chamber "an empty vessel is seen here similar to the former", Whether any fragments of a coffer remained there, among the great quantity of stone excavated from the floor and niche, it is almost hopeless to inquire, since that rubbish is now all shot away into various holes and spaces. Caviglia, however, did not find a coffer when clearing the chamber, but fragments might have been easily overlooked.
175. When, then, was the Pyramid first violated? Probably by the same hands that so ruthlessly destroyed the statues and temples of Khafra, and the Pyramids of Abu Roash, Abusir, and Sakkara. That is to say, probably during the civil wars of the seventh to the tenth dynasties (see section 119). At that time the secret opening of the Pyramid, by which the workmen retired, would still be known; and while that was the case, and before any forced openings had been made (section 58), the coffer was lifted up to see if any hidden passage existed beneath it; then probably was its lid broken off; and the body of the great builder treated to the spite of his enemies. Then also may the Queen's Chamber — the serdab8 of the Pyramid — have been forced open, and the diorite statue torn from its grand niche, broken up, pedestal and all, and carried out to be smashed to chips, and scattered on the hill opposite the Pyramid door, so that no one should ever restore it. This is more of a guess than an inference; and yet a guess, so far harmonious with what we know of other monuments, that it perhaps deserves to be used as a working hypothesis.
In classical times we know from Strabo that the subterranean parts were readily accessible; though the supposed proof adduced by Caviglia, from I A" M E R (M E joined) which he found smoked on the roof of the Subterranean Chamber, has nothing to do with the question; if he had noted the graffiti around the entrance of the Pyramid, he would have found I Ac MERCATOR 1563 (M E joined), which completely explains the smoked letters.
176. With regard to the many records of inscriptions on the outside of the Pyramid, a few words are necessary. From the time of Herodotus down to the 15th century, inscriptions are continually mentioned, and their great abundance is described with astonishment by travellers. This has led to the supposition that the builders had left records inscribed on the outside, although not a letter is to be found on the inside. But against the possibility of this view, it must be remembered that no early inscriptions are found on the casing remaining at the Great Pyramid, nor on any of the innumerable fragments of those stones, nor on the remaining casing of the Second Pyramid, nor on that of the Third Pyramid, nor on the casing of the South Pyramid of Dahshur, nor on the casing of the [p. 218] Pyramid of Medum, nor on occasional blocks uncovered at the Sakkara Pyramids. In fact, not a single example of hieroglyphs has ever been seen on any casing, nor on any fragments of casing. The truth then about these numberless inscriptions appears to be that they were all travellers' graffiti. Strabo says that the characters were like old Greek, but were not readable; this points to Phoenician or Cypriote graffiti. The accounts of the inscriptions given by the Arabs also show that they were mere graffiti; Abu Masher Jafer (before 886 A.D.) mentions Mosannad (i.e., Himyaritic) letters; Ibn Khordadbeh (10th cent.) also mentions Musnad letters; Masudi (11th cent.) describes them as being in various different languages; Ibn Haukal (11th cent.) says they were in Greek. Abu Mothaffer (alias Sibt Al Jauzi, died 1250 A.D.) gives the fullest account, mentioning seven sorts of writing : (1) Greek, (2) Arabic, (3) Syriac, (4) Musnadic, (5) Himyaritic (or Hiritic or Hebrew in different MSS.), (6) Rumi, (7) Persian. William of Baldensel (1336 AD.) mentions Latin; and Cyriacus (1440 A.D.) mentions Phoenician. Whether these travellers all understood exactly what they were talking about may be doubted; but at least none of them describe hieroglyphs, such as they must have been familiar with on all the tombs and other monuments; and they agree in the great diversity of the languages inscribed. The earlier travellers also do not describe such a great number of inscriptions as do the Arabic writers; suggesting that the greater part recorded in later times were due to Roman and Coptic graffiti.
Now among the hundreds of pieces of casing stones that I have looked over, very few traces of inscription were to be seen; this was, however, to be expected, considering that the pieces nearly all belonged to the upper casing stones, out of the reach of mere travellers. Three examples of single letters were found, two Greek and one unknown; and on the W. side, in one of the excavations, a piece was discovered bearing three graffiti, one large one attracting lesser scribblers, as in modern times. The earliest inscription was probably of Ptolemy X., showing portions of the letters Π T O ........... C ω T .......; the next was a Romano-Greek of a certain M A P K I O C K ......; and over that an Arab had roughly hammered in ..... m a j ...... This is the only example of continuous inscriptions yet found, and it belonged to one of the lowest courses; it is now in the Bulak Museum. Thus, all the fragments and the descriptions point to the existence of a large body of graffiti, but do not give any evidence of original hieroglyphic inscriptions.
When one considers the large number of graffiti which are to be seen on every ancient building of importance, it seems almost impossible but that the Great Pyramid — one of the most renowned and visited of all — should not have been similarly covered with ancient scribbles, like the host of modern names which have been put upon it since the casing was removed.9 The statues of [p. 219] Ramessu II., at Abu Simbel, bear quantities of Greek graffiti, in fact, some of the earliest Greek inscriptions known, besides Phoenician and Roman; the top of the temple of Khonsu at Karnak is crowded with the outlines of visitors' feet, with their names and particulars appended, in hieroglyphic, demotic, and Greek the inscriptions on the colossi of Amenhotep III. ("the Memnons") at Thebes, and on the Sphinx at Gizeh are well known; the long scribbles in demotic on the temple walls at Thebes have lately been examined; the corridors of Abydos bear early Greek graffiti; the passage of the S. Pyramid of Dahshur has two hieroglyphic graffiti, besides Greek; and there is scarcely any monument of importance in Egypt but what shows the scribbling propensities of mankind; be they Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, or the worst sinners of modern times, Hellenes and Americans.
177. The history of the destruction of the Pyramids really begins with the Arabs. They first, under Khalif Mamun, forced the great hole through the masonry, from the outside to the part commonly called Mamun's Hole, at the beginning of the ascending passage. Had it not been for their shaking of the masonry, which let fall the stone that concealed the plug-blocks, perhaps the upper chambers would have remained yet unknown. Hearing the stone drop, they turned aside their southward progress, and burrowing some twenty feet eastwards they broke into the entrance passage, and found the fallen stone; here they saw that it had covered the beginning of another passage, and so they forced out of their hole a continuation southward and upward to get behind the granite plug; finding they only hit the side of the plug-blocks, they tracked along them in the softer limestone, until they reached the upper end, and then they rushed freely up the hitherto unused passage. Probably they found the plug at the top of the well not replaced, after the earlier destroyers; and so got down the well and forced out its lower closing, which must have been in position for the Greeks and Romans not to have been aware of the passage. Such, from the statements of historians, and the details of the place, seems to have been the history of the attack on the interior of the Great Pyramid.
After the time of Mamun the exterior was used as a quarry; the casing was apparently stripped off by Sultan Hasan for his mosque in 1356, since he is said to have brought the stone hence, and William of Baldensel10 in 1336 mentions both the large Pyramids as being "de maximis lapidibus et politis." It was also Hasan, or a near successor of his, who stripped the Second Pyramid; as I found a coin of his deep down in the S.E. foundation. The top was not much denuded in the 17th century; Lambert (Trois Relations de l'Ægypte) in 1630 mentions 12 stones as forming the top of the core, and says that the platform was 20 spans wide; by his span measures of the coffer, this would be 230 inches; among these 12 stones was "une qui surpasse en largueur et longeur Ia [p. 220] croyance des hommes." Greaves in 1638 found 9 stones, and reports two as missing. Thevenot in 1667 reports 12 stones; but as he understood Arabic well he probably accepted a statement of what had been there thirty years before. Other stones of the top and edges of the core were thrown down at intervals, until the beginning of the present century, as is evident from the weathering marks, and the dates of the grafliti.
178. Having now sketched out its history, it is desirable not to close this account of the Great Pyramid, without summing up those theories of its design which seem most likely, and which are consistent one with the other. In the following sketch, then, no theory will be mentioned which is not well within the facts of the case, and no dimensions will be required to do double duty for two theories which do not coincide. It is possible that some parts may have been made intentionally varying in size, in order to include two different relations to other parts; but such is scarcely provable; and in a general statement like the following, it is better to omit some things that may be true, than it is to include a number of dubious theories which are not supported by a system of coincidences in different parts of the structure. And if some judge that this summary includes too much, and others think that it states too little, it must be remembered that the whole of the materials for forming an opinion are impartially provided in the previous chapters of this work.
For the whole form the π proportion (height is the radius of a circle = circumference of Pyramid) has been very generally accepted of late years, and is a relation strongly confirmed by the presence of the numbers 7 and 22 in the number of cubits in height and base respectively; 7 : 22 being one of the best known approximations to π. With these numbers (or some slight fractional correction on the 22) the designer adopted 7 of a length of 20 double cubits for the height; and 22 of this length for the half-circuit. The profile used for the work being thus 14 rise on 11 base.
The form and size being thus fixed, the floor of the main chamber of the building — the King's Chamber — was placed at the level where the vertical section of the Pyramid was halved, where the area of the horizontal section was half that of the base, where the diagonal from corner to corner was equal to the length of the base, and where the width of the face was equal to half the diagonal of the base.11
The Queen's Chamber was placed at half this height above the base; and exactly in the middle of the Pyramid from N. to S.
[p. 221] Beside the level of the King's Chamber signalizing where the area was a simple fraction of ½ of the base area, thicker courses were perhaps intentionally introduced where the area of the course was a multiple of 1/20 the base area: this system accounts for nearly all the curious examples of a thick course being suddenly brought in, with a series above it gradually diminishing until another thick course occurs.
The angle of slope of the entrance passage is 1 rise on 2 base; and the other passages are near the same angle, probably modified in order to bring the chambers to the required levels.
The length of the entrance passage, the ascending passage, the antechamber passages, and perhaps the Queen's Chamber passage, are all in round numbers of cubits; while the gallery length (horizontal) is equal to the vertical height of its end above the base, which is determined by the King's Chamber being at the level of half the Pyramid area.
The height and width of the passages, gallery, and ramps are all determined by the form of the end of the King's Chamber, of which the passages are 1/5, the gallery 2/5 and the ramps 1/10 the size in each direction.
The King's Chamber walls are determined by the same π proportion which rules the exterior of the Pyramid; the circuit of the side of the chamber being equal to a circle described by its width as a radius; and further, the length of the side of the chamber is equal to diameter of its circuit. Thus the circuit of the side has its radius at right angles across the chamber, and its diameter the length of the side along the chamber.
But the floor of the chamber is raised above the base of the walls; a peculiar arrangement for which some reason must have existed. It gives in fact two heights; the wall height we have just seen is required for the π proportion; and the actual height from the floor agrees to another system, which is found to run throughout all the chambers. After the attention shown to square measure in the various levels of the Pyramid, it is not surprising to find something of the same kind in the chambers. Though the idea of making the squares of the lineal dimensions of a chamber to be integral areas, may seem peculiar, yet the beauty of thus making all the diagonals of a chamber to be on one uniform system with its direct dimensions, would be perhaps a sufficient inducement to lead the builders to its adoption. Practically it is the only consistent and uniform theory which is applicable to all the chambers and coffer, and even to the Second Pyramid chamber. By this theory, then, the squares of the dimensions of the King's Chamber, the Queen's Chamber, the Antechamber, and the Subterranean Chamber, are all even numbers of square cubits, and nearly all multiples of 10. From this it necessarily follows that the squares of all the diagonals of the sides of these chambers, and their cubic diagonals, are likewise multiples of 10 square cubits; and the King's and Queen's Chambers are so [p. 222] arranged that the cubic diagonals are in even hundreds of square cubits, or multiples of 10 cubits squared.
For the coffer it it hard to say what theory is most likely; its irregularities of form and faults of cutting, are such that many theories are included in its variations; and certainly no theory of very great complexity or refinement, can be expected. Taking most of its dimensions at their maximum, they agree closely with the same theory as that which is applicable to the chambers; for when squared they are all even multiples of a square fifth of a cubit. That the cubit was divided decimally in the fourth dynasty we know (see section 139); and as this theory is also the only one applicable to all the chambers, there is very strong ground for adopting it here. There is no other theory applicable to every lineal dimension of the coffer; but having found the π proportion in the form of the Pyramid, and in the King's Chamber, there is some ground for supposing that it was intended also in the coffer, on just 1/5th the scale of the chamber; the difference between the requirements of this theory and that of the squares is only 1/1500. Consistently also with the above theories, the outer length at an extreme maximum, may have been 1/100 of the length of the Pyramid base; and as the inner length of the Second Pyramid. coffer has the same relation to its Pyramid, this is rendered the more likely. Finally, it is not impossible that some rough relation of the cubic bulk and contents may have been aimed at, along with the foregoing designs; and the lineal dimensions required above, being nearly all maximum dimensions of the actual coffer, renders it more likely that some other object was in view. In any case the cubic relations were not very exactly attained, and it would have been impossible to run them closer by merely sawing the granite, somewhat skew, somewhat curved, and somewhat too deeply, without any adjustment afterwards by polishing. The design of a coffer which should include more than one idea, would not be unlikely in the Great Pyramid; that structure being so remarkable for the care and precision shown in the arrangement of its chambers, and particularly for the accuracy of the chamber in which the coffer is enshrined.
Such is the outline of what may be considered the tolerably safe theories of the origination of the Great Pyramid; others may by some further discovery be shown to have been intended, but most of these will probably bear the test of time, and certainly bear the test of exact measurement.
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