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Chap. 8. Outside of Second Pyramid

Pages 96 - 103

[p. 96] The casing of the Second Pyramid is different in its arrangement from that of the Great Pyramid, as already mentioned (section 15). The lowest two courses1  of the casing are of granite, very well preserved where it is not altogether removed. In order to avoid the risk of working an acute angle for the lower edge of the bottom course, the builders made the face drop down for some depth vertically from the edge of the slope, building the pavement against the vertical face (see Pl. xii.). Thus no edge of the block was sharper than a right angle, and the two outer edges top and bottom were considerably over a right angle, and therefore not liable to injury. But by so arranging it they required the vertical foot of the casing to be as high as the pavement thickness, or else to be raised; and as the pavement must not be too thin, for fear of cracking, and also as they did not wish to be limited to the exact amount of surplus that formed the vertical foot; they therefore cut the rock to support the casing-blocks at a higher level than that for the pavement bed. The result is that though both casing and pavement may be destroyed, there still remains a raised square of rock, standing some inches above the surrounding surface, and marking out the original extent of the Pyramid. An arrangement which was thus far more permanent than that of the Great Pyramid, where the casing and pavement, if once removed, leave behind no evidence of their site The nature of this arrangement can be easily examined at the W. end of the S. side, where a block of casing remains, slightly shifted at one side, but otherwise in situ;  it rests on the raised square of rock, and has the S.W. corner of the raised square within a few yards of it, showing the relationship very plainly.

Accordingly I did not waste labour by needing to search for actual casing stones under the high rubbish heaps, in the midst of the sides; at which points, moreover, the casing would not define the direction of each side. I merely required to uncover this raised square of rock, at places near the ends of each side, and I also obtained the corners at the N.E., S.E., S.W. At the N.W. the whole rock is dressed flat, the pavement having been the same thickness as the [p. 97] casing foot, but the raised square is found a short way from this corner along each side.

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66. Having, then, found and fixed twelve points of the sides, the actual corners of the square were adopted as being probably the most accurately executed points, to define the intended size; and they (with the points near the N.W. corner) yield a square of the following size:—

  Length Diff from mean Azimuth Diff from mean
N. side
E. side
S. side
W. side
– 3.0 inches
+ 0.3 inches
+ 2.0 inches
+ 0.6 inches
– 5' 31"
– 6' 13"
– 5' 40"
– 4' 21"
– 5"
– 47"
– 14"
+ 65"
Mean 8474.9 1.5 – 5' 26" 33"

The various other points of the square of rock that were fixed, differ from the above square but little.

At 425 N. of S.E. corner, the edge is  2.6 inside the square.
At 720 W. of S.E. corner, the edge is .20 inside the square.
At 367 E. of S.W. corner, the edge is .70 inside the square.
At 330 E. of S.W. corner, the edge is .20 inside the square.

Thus there is a mean variation of .9 inch from the adopted square.

But beside this there is the casing still remaining on the upper part of the Pyramid and the lowest corner of this casing at each edge of the Pyramid was observed on in the main triangulation by the 10 inch theodolite. Hence there is another check on the raised square. Taking, then, the differences between the corners observed on, and the diagonals of the raised square, these differences of the casing are thus:—

N.E. + 1.7; S.E. +.6; SW. + .6; NW. + .3; mean + .7 inch.

From this it is seen that the builders skewed round the planes of the casing as they went upward the twist being + 1' 40" on the mean of the sides; so that it is absolutely – 3' 50" from true orientation at the upper part. But it must be remembered that these differences include the errors of recognising the same point of a stone, by natural markings without any definite signal or station, and viewed from different directions at about 1/4 mile distance.

The collateral evidence, then, confirms the position of the square, as first stated.

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67. For the angle of slope of the faces, the direct rneasures by goniometer and level on the granite in situ  gave 53º 12' ± 2', but by measurement from plumb line 53º 2'; the block has been slightly shifted, but the top surface only varies 1' from level, being high on the outer edge. By goniometer measures of [p. 98] 24 blocks, both of granite and limestone, lying around the Pyramid, the mean is 53º 14' ± 5'; and though this involves the assumption of horizontal courses, if this be taken as the angle of slope, yet it agrees so closely with the casing in that probably 53º 10' ± 4' will be the best statement.

Hence the height will be 5,664 ± 13 inches.

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68. The lowest course of casing was of granite, and is 41.52 ± .05 high, vertically, from the top to the base of its slope, and its vertical face below that 11 high, as measured at the S.W. The raised square of rock at the S.W. under this casing, is only 1.3 to 1.9 above the pavement bed; at the S.W. corner it is 9.8 high at the S.E. corner, 2.3 to 2.8 high; and at the N.E. 0 to 4½ high. All along the edge of it are holes, rudely rectangular, beginning in the pavement bed, and sloping deeper down into the raised square, where they end vertically Their average size is 10 inches along the rock edge, the sloping bottom beginning 10 inches outwards from the rock edge, and running 5 inches into it, with a depth there of about 4 inches distance between one hole and another 12 inches. These holes are evidently intended to allow space for the ends of crowbars or beams used in placing the casing in position.

The upper part of the Pyramid was cased with Mokattam limestone, of a rather different quality to that of the Great Pyramid; it is grayer, harder, more splintery, and of not such a regular and certain fracture.

Where some foundation stones had been removed, low down under the S.E. socket, a coin of Sultan Hasan, 1347-1361, was found in clearing the sand in 1881. As the mosque of this Sultan is said to have been built with stones from the Pyramids, this coin rather suggests that some stones were removed for that purpose from the base of the Second Pyramid. The casing in general, however, was said to be still in its place in the time of Palerma, 1581, and of Albinus, 1591, though in Sandy's view, 1611, only the present cap of casing is shown.

The lower part of the Pyramid core, all round, is of rock unmoved, but hewn into shape; higher on the W. and lower on the E side. Above this lie two or three courses of huge blocks of Gizeh rock, much larger than those brought from the Mokattam quarries on the E. bank.

The heights of the lower courses, and position of the rock, and rock blocks, are as follow:—

[p. 99]
159.0 rock blocks
136.0 rock blocks
74.5 rock top
0 pavement
– 14.5 raised square
–18 (?) paving bed
162.0 rock blocks
143.0 rock blocks
78.5 rock top
– 11.0 raised square
– 52.5 rock
242.5 rock blocks
207.5 rock blocks
179.5 rock blocks
142.5 rock top
– 10.5 raised square
– 20 paving bed
250.5 rock blocks
220.0 rock blocks
210.0 ledge
170.0 rock top
127.0 ledge
– 23.5 paving bed

These series of measurements were not levelled together, but are only adjusted, so that they represent the builder's intention, though not his errors of level. It is seen that though the courses are not very regular in thickness, yet the 10th course at 20 cubits level (416) runs all round: and the 5th course is at 10 cubits level (207.5) on S.W., and at the ledge (i.e.;  casing back) at N.W. The first course is 2 cubits high (41.5) where seen at S.W.

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69. The pavement around the Pyramid was sunk slightly in the rock, and the edges of its bed were found near the N.W. corner. They were 528.8 and 527.9 distant from Pyramid base on the N., and 530.9 on the W. side. This is just about the same as the most usual breadth of the Great Pyramid pavement bed. Vyse reports finding 432 inches breadth of paving still in existence.

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70. The whole site of the Pyramid is artificially levelled; it is cut into the sloping rock of the hill-side, deeply on the W., and less along the N.; it is built up at the N.E. to support the pavement, by a platform of immense blocks and at the S.E. the rock falls rapidly away and has probably also been built over, in order to level it up for the pavement.

The great shelf or area (see Pl. iv.), thus cut out on the hill-side to hold the Pyramid, has approximately vertical sides along W. and N. But these sides are not equidistant from the Pyramid the top edge of the W. side being 1,105 distant from the N.W., and 1,083 from the S.W. corners of the Pyramid while the N. side is 2,255 from the N.W. corner, and 2,312 from near the middle of the Pyramid side. The directions are not parallel to the Pyramid, the W. side lying – 8' from the Pyramid azimuth, and the N. side – 56'.

Within this lowered area are rows of grooves and cross grooves cut in the rock, which is thus divided up into squares. These are the remains of the trenches by which the workmen cut out the whole of this space; the reasons for their being so are (1) they are considerably askew to the finished work, and irregular in size, and have therefore not been made for any structural purpose (2) they are simply grooves and cross grooves, so that they could not be the beginning of any erection or rock charnber; and (3) the grooves are exactly [p. 100] like others, on the rock surface outside the lowered area, just N. of these, and in other places; which others are clearly remains of unfinished dressing down of the rock.

The sizes of these squares are rather variable the average distances of similar parts being 132.3, with a mean difference of 5.7; and this is divided into 20.2 for the groove, and 112.1 for the block between the grooves These are by measures from E. to W.; the average breadths from N. to S. are 20+109 = I29; evidently intended for the same, but only measureable on 4 or 5 squares, instead of 18 from E. to W.

Outside of the lowered area are other grooves on the rock N. of it, the most distinct and continuous of which varies from 350 at W. end to 390 (at 4,400 E. of that) from the edge of the area.

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71. Around the N., W., and S. sides of the Pyramid and its area is a large peribolus wall. This wall differs in its character on each side, and does not seem to have been planned with any uniformity. On the N. side it is a wide substructure of very large blocks, rather rudely hewn, and bearing cubit marks and numbers on the backs. The N. face (which was the only one left exposed) is 2,733 from the edge of the area, nearly opposite the middle of the Pyramid and 2,808 from the area at the N.W. corner. This substructure is 300 ± 3 inches wide near the E. end, and 344 at the W. end; but it is difficult to recognise its original alignment as so much of it has been removed or buried. On the top of this is a crest of wall, the N. face of which is + 15' different from the Pyramid azimuth; it is of less width than the substructure, being 108 near the E. and 206 near the W. end; but it is probable that this really refers to different lines of construction. A higher part of it at the W. end appears to recede 8 inches on the S. side, and a footing, formed by a lower course, projects 18 inches. On the whole, it appears that each course was set a little backward; and without largely uncovering it, it would be hard to make certain what its original width was before it was dilapidated. It is altogether about 13,300 long, or rather over 1/5 mile. Its original height cannot be easily settled; probably 20 feet would be below the mark. On the S. side this wall is much less finished, and has been banked up to the top of the broad part by a vast heap of chips, which have been kept in position by building retaining walls in them. Two of these retaining walls that I partly uncovered, were of rough broken stone, neatly put together, and mud plastered on the S. faces. They had a considerable batter, and the tops of their S. faces were at 137 and 299 from the S. face of the great wall. Among the stones I observed pieces of basalt and granite waste; these probably came from cutting the basalt pavement E. of the Great Pyramid, and from trimming the granite of the King's Chamber, or the lowest course of the Second Pyramid.

Exactly from the end of this great wall, there turns off a much narrower wall which runs parallel with the W. side of the Pyramid. This W. wall is 70 [p. 101] wide at the top, with a moderate batter of about 1 in 10. It is built of rough scraps and blocks of limestone neatly fitted together with a smooth face and was probably 6 or 8 feet high when complete. The intention seems to have been to place it as far from the edge of the area as is the N. wall; the outer face of the N. wall being 2,733 to 2,808 from the area, and the outside of the W. wall 2,795 from the N.W. corner of the area, to 2,923 from the area at the S.W. corner of the Pyramid. The azimuth of this W. wall is + 38' from the Pyramid azimuth, and it runs on till it joins the wall of the Third Pyramid.

The true peribolus wall of the Second Pyramid, on the S. side, is only a short piece, 500 feet long, which appears to have been incomplete when the Third Pyramid walls were begun; since it was merged into the latter by an elbow wall, instead of being uniformly finished. It is a fine piece of work as far as it goes, and was apparently intended to be at the same distance from the Pyramid as is the great North wall. It is 5,166 at its outer side, from the S.E corner of the Pyramid; and the outer face or the N. wall is 5,043 from near the N.E. corner of the Pyramid. Thus the N. and S walls were equidistant from the Pyramid but the N. and W. walls were equidistant from the edge of the area. The azimuth of the inner face of the S. wall is – 9' from Pyramid azimuth The wall is broad in the lower part; with a narrower crest upon the top of it, which is 131 wide at the E. end, narrowing upwards to 113 in breadth.

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72. Beyond the western peribolus wall there lie the large barracks of the workmen. Those have been hitherto considered merely as lines of stone rubbish, or masons' waste heaps and though Vyse cut through one part, he merely says that the ridges "were found to be composed of stones and sand, and their origin was not discovered" (vol. ii. p. 88). But on looking closely at them I observed the sharply defined edges of walls; and as soon as these were begun to be cleared, the ruined tops of the walls were seen, the spaces being filled with blown sand. The wall first cleared was traced continuously for some 80 feet; and at last the arrangement in all parts was found to consist solely of long galleries. In the plan of Lepsius there is a variation apparently at the eastemmost walls, where something like a chamber is shown : nothing of the kind is visible on the surface, and on cutting along the northern ends and middles of all these galleries, nothing but uniform walls were found. Also nearly the whole length of the first gallery from the peribolus was cleared, showing a continuous wall right along the site where the separate buildings are marked in the "Denkmäler."

These galleries are built of rough pieces of limestone (somewhat like the W. peribolus wall) beaded in mud, and faced with hard mud, or mud and lime; the floors of the galleries are also of hard mud. The walls are all united at one end into one head wall, which runs 14' skew of the Pyramid on the W.; and the [p. 102] open ends of the walls are finished with wider pilasters, or antae, of hewn stone. The length of the galleries headed by the W. wall were measured as 1,062 at the S. end of the row, and 1,058 at the N. end; and the gallery next the peribolus wall is 1,033 inches long. The enlarged ends of hewn stone are 62 to 75 inches long; so the total length of the galleries is 1,124, 1,127, and 1,108 in different parts. The walls average 51.5 thick at the top, with a batter of 1 in 10; and their centres are 164.6 apart, leaving a clear width of 113.1 for the gallery. The hewn stone ends of the walls are 80 wide, thus leaving an entrance of 85 inches wide. These measures are on the northern walls; those of the western range are farther apart their centres averaging 176 apart, and the ends 77 to 87 wide, leaving entrances 90 to 100 wide. There are in all 91 galleries; which make an aggregate of over a mile and a half of gallery length, 9½ feet wide, and 7 feet high.

For what purpose, then, can such a vast amount of accommodation have been provided? Not certainly for priests' dwellings, since it is too extensive, too rough in work, and in the very opposite direction to the temples. Hardly either for storehouses, since it is so much out of the way, and too large for any likely amount of stores. It seems, therefore, only attributable to the workmen's barracks. The work is just suitable for such a purpose; strong and useful and with about as much elaboration as an Egyptian would put into work that had to last in daily use for one or two generations. The extent of the galleries is also very reasonable. Supposing the men had a fair allowance of room (more than in some works at present) the whole barrack would hold about 4,000 men and such would not be an unlikely number for the permanent staff of masons and their attendants employed on a pyramid. There is no probability of the walls being later than the Second Pyramid, because (1) they are arranged square with it; (2) at a part of the hill which would be out of the way for any other work; and (3) they are built of exactly the same style as the adjoining western peribolus wall and the retaining walls.

Most of the excavating that I did here was only on the tops of the walls, to show their position but part of the westernmost of the N. series of galleries was cleared out to within a foot or two of the bottom; and then, while I watched them, two men turned over all the remaining sand, down to the floor, keeping a clear strip of floor between the shifted and unshifted sand. Several yards' length were thus cleared, and I closely looked at each shovelful of sand as it was thrown. Many scraps of pottery were found, much like the style of the pottery of the Great Pyramid masons; but nothing else artificial appeared. I had not time to make further clearances here; but the barrenness of a spot only 1/500 of the whole extent of the galleries, should not discourage further work in a place so likely to yield good results. During the general clearing of the walls, many fragments of statues were found, in diorite and alabaster, of the [p. 103] fourth dynasty style: and among a large quantity of quartzite scraps lying on the surface, I found part of a life-size head, of an unusual type. Unaccountable blocks of granite were often found, lying loose in the sand; they are smoothed all over, about 30 lbs. weight, and of pillowy forms with rounded faces and slight edges. They never showed any wear, and so could hardly be corn-rubbers; and yet they were too smooth and not flat enough to be intended for a building.

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NOTES:     (Use browser back button to return.)

1. I have seen but one course; Vyse reports finding two courses.

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