The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza The largest pyramid ever built, and the oldest (and only surviving) Wonder of the World, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by Snefru's son Khufu. It rises to 481 ft (146.59 m) and its slopes have an angle of around 51 degrees. It contains around 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. The base of the pyramid is level to within just under an inch, and the sides are almost exactly as long as each other - the greatest difference is just under 2 inches.

The pyramid was surrounded by a limestone-paved pavement 33 ft (10.2 m) wide, and then a wall 26 ft (8 m) high. As usual, you could only get into the pyramid complex via the causeway running between it and the valley temple. A small satellite pyramid was discovered recently during cleaning work.

The inside of the Great Pyramid Inside the pyramid, there are three chambers, the standard layout for an Old Kingdom pyramid. The entrance is high up on the north face, offset by 24 ft (7.29 m) east from the central axis of the pyramid, and the passageway it leads into descends 58.5 m through the pyramid into a subterranean chamber, carved out of solid bedrock (though never completed). There is a mysterious small passage leading out of the subterranean chamber, large enough for only 1 man at a time. However, it is a dead end.

Higher up in the pyramid we find the "Queen's Chamber" (misnamed by early explorers), lying exactly on the east-west central axis of the pyramid. When it was built, it was sealed off from the rest of the pyramid, making it a good candidate for the location of the king's ka (spirit) statue.

A little way down the descending passage is a small ascending passage. It's only 1m wide and about the same in height, meaning that you need to crawl through it. However, it leads into one of the wonders of the Great Pyramid, the Grand Gallery, which has a corbelled roof 26 ft (8.74 m) high. At the top of this is the King's Chamber, which contains Khufu's sarcophagus. The room is built entirely out of red granite, as is the king's sarcophagus (which is fractionally wider than the doorway, meaning that it would have been in place as the pyramid was built around it). Above it are five stress-relieving chambers.

There are also some "air-shafts" which go through the pyramid. These were probably intended to allow the dead king's spirit to leave the pyramid and ascend to join the gods. There are 4 in total - 2 are oriented towards Orion, and the other 2 towards the polar stars. At least one of these shafts is blocked by a set piece of stone, discovered when a small camera mounted on a robot was sent up there.

Next to the pyramid are 3 much smaller ones which were probably used for Khufu's queens.

See also Khufu's boats and the burial of Queen Hetep-Heres.

Next: Khafre's Pyramid