When the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 484 – between 430 and 420 BC) wrote about the Great Pyramid of Cheops from Giza in the fifth century BC, his report was incomplete, as the door leading to it inside the pyramid had been hidden. Since then, the door has been discovered, but the results of crossing it and exploring the pyramid have generated as many puzzles as they have been explained.
A long series of unanswered questions
Rising on a plateau called Giza, 15 km west of the current Egyptian city of Cairo, the Great Pyramid of Cheops , the other two pyramids that accompany it and the Sphinx are probably the world’s oldest and most famous mysteries.
Pyramid questions include the location of the sites from which the huge amount of rock (over 11 million cubic meters) was brought, from which they were built, but also how they were transported and then erected in a structure of amazing accuracy.
What kind of topographic methods did the ancient Egyptians use to make sure that the surface on which the pyramid was to be erected was perfectly flat and the measurements correct? How could the real armies of workers needed for such an enterprise be mobilized, hosted and nourished?
Mysteries abound: the pyramids are oriented according to the cardinal points and their many astronomical functions prove mathematical knowledge far superior to their other contemporary civilizations. In addition, the mummy of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) – 16th century BC. – for which the necropolis is supposed to have been built, but also the precious objects that usually surrounded the soulless bodies of the Egyptian sovereigns were never found.
In fact, all the three pyramids on the Giza plateau were built as tombs, though not a single mummy was found in them. A complicated series of rooms, tunnels and wells, color blocked, corridors leading to empty spaces and false runways upsets the explorers of the pyramids. The bodies of the pharaohs and their wives may still be buried somewhere in the pyramids. It is possible that their earthly remains have been plundered by thieves, a crime so old that it is mentioned in Egyptian texts and papyri dating back many centuries before Herodotus’ description.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops from Giza
The Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) is the largest of the 70 Egyptian pyramids. It has a height of 146 meters, the sides of the base approximately equal, 230 meters wide and covers almost 7 hectares. If the blocks of stone that form the pyramid were transformed into cubes with a side of one meter and placed next to each other, they would form a long continuous line of almost 27,000 km.
It is generally accepted that all three pyramids of Giza, including those of the Pharaohs Khafre (Kefren, in Greek) and Menaure (Mikerinos, in Greek) were erected during the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt (2613-2494). BC). There was a custom at that time as soon as a pharaoh ascended the throne to start building a pyramid, as a place of eternity. The Big Pyramid of Cheops is the largest of all, being the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world that has been preserved.
In fact, the list of the world’s greatest architectural achievements dates back at least to Herodotus’s time, which mentions such a list. Later, other Greek historians wrote about the great monuments of their time, and the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world was finalized in the Middle Ages. In addition to the Great Pyramid of Cheops , the list also includes the following buildings:
- The Hanging Gardens of Babylon – Being part of the palace of Nebuchadnezzar II and being built around 600 BC, they consist of a series of stone arches. The terraces were full of plants, an elaborate tunnel and pumping system brought water from the nearby Euphrates River.
- Temple of Artemis of Ephesus, in Asia Minor – Built in 365 BC in a marshy area where several previous temples had been located, it was destroyed by Goths in 262 AD.
- Statue of Zeus – Dated to the middle of the 5th century BC. and attributed to the Greek sculptor Fidias, was in the temple of Zeus, in Olympia, Greece.
- Halicarnas Mausoleum – Built in 353 BC, it housed the marble tomb of King Mausoleum of Caria in Asia Minor. It was damaged by an earthquake, and in the Middle Ages its marble was used to fortify a castle.
- Colossus in Rhodes – A bronze statue over 30 meters high, of the Greek sun god Helios. It was built about 280 BC. to guard the entrance to the main port of the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, but was destroyed 55 years later.
- Alexandria Lighthouse – A naval lighthouse built at 280 BC and ruined about 1350, due to a series of earthquakes. Situated on an island in the port of Alexandria, Egypt, it was almost 150 meters long, being the tallest building in the ancient world.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops was built less than 700 years after the advent of Egyptian civilization. The age of the structure inspired many theories. Egyptian records, in the form of hieroglyphs, provided some information about the pyramids (for whom they were built, for example), but much of the data was lost during the following periods of decline.
So much knowledge was lost that the Egyptians themselves were asking questions about the purpose of the pyramids, when Greek civilization began to flourish, about 1,500 years after the Cheops Pyramid was thought to have been made.
Speculations from then and now regarded the pyramid as a huge solar quadrant and astronomical observer, as a symbolic staircase to the sky, its shape simulating how the sun’s rays spread from a cloud. Other scholars consider the pyramid a secret temple in which rituals were practiced to transform new leaders into rulers.
Constructed with mathematical precision
An amazing use of mathematical relationships accentuates the mystery of Cheops Pyramid. It was speculated, for example, that the distance between the Earth and the Sun would correspond to the height of the pyramid in “pyramidal inches” (a unit of measure smaller than the usual inches), multiplied by 10 at power 9 (10 by 9 is the ratio between height and width pyramid).
The latitude and longitude lines that intersect the pyramid cross a section of land larger than all other lines, making some consider that Giza and the monuments here were regarded as a kind of center of the inhabited world.
The ancient Egyptians, however, would have had to determine that the Earth was round, to reach such a conclusion – a possibility accepted by some specialists. Imaginary lines drawn from the corners of the Great Pyramid to the northwest and northeast fit perfectly into the Nile Delta, the area naturally formed by the alluvium brought by the arms of the river to the Mediterranean. The deltas are formed by the watercourses and have a triangular shape, similar to that of the pyramids.
The perfect pyramid shape has been cited as a fundamental purpose of Cheops Great Pyramid, in that it embodies and represents a universal system of measurement in material form. Such a set of calculations suggests that the Egyptians knew the value of the constant Pi, used to determine the circumference of a circle, two thousand years before it was formulated by the Greek mathematician Pythagoras (c. 580 – c. 500 BC). .
The British John Taylor (1808-1887), a scholarly publisher who read numerous volumes on Egyptian civilization and pyramid measurements, discovered a formula whereby dividing the length of the pyramid’s perimeter by twice its height obtained 3.1419, its numerical equivalent Pi (the constant used to find the circumference of the circle: Pi multiplied by the diameter of the circle gives the numerical value of its circumference).
Taylor believed that the Egyptians not only knew Pi’s formula thousands of years before the Greeks, but also claimed that they knew the circumference of the Earth and derived their standard units of measurement from it.
The ratio of the height of the pyramid to its perimeter, Taylor suggested, is the same as that between the polar radius and the circumference of the planet – 2 Pi. He considered this formula, embodied in the pyramid, as an expression of the wisdom of the ancients. The biblical God, the British concluded, had been the one who had trained the builders of the pyramids, just as he had taught Noah to make the ark.
Astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth studied the pyramids and came to another amazing conclusion, expressed in his work, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid (1980). He claimed that the pyramid was also an expression of time. Through his studies, Smyth proposed a unit of measure called a pyramidal inch – half of an Anglo-Saxon inch. The perimeter of the structure, in pyramidal inches was 365,200 or 1000 x 365,2. The last figure represents the number of days in a year. Smyth concluded that the pyramids expressed a time interval of one thousand years.
In 1894, J. Norman Lockyer (1836-1920), director of the Observatory of Solar Physics in London and founder of the journal Nature, published The Dawn of Astrology. The book stated, based on his investigations, that the ancient temples and monuments of Egypt were oriented in such a way as to facilitate stellar observations and served as calendars – good for determining the summer solstice.
Many centuries ago, Roman historians and then Arabs noted the interest of the Egyptians in the study of the sky and the possible use of the pyramids as astronomical instruments. Egyptian hieroglyphs make numerous references to stars. A constellation called Sahu (corresponding to Orion) was called the House of the Dead and two pharaohs who built pyramids outside the Giza plateau have stellar associations in hieroglyphs (Nebka is “a star” and Djedefra is “a star from Sehetu” or a star from Sahu ).
The Great Pyramid of Cheops Proof of Advanced Astronomical Knowledge
In the ninth century, a Caliph Abdullah Al Mamun, was convinced that the Great Pyramid of Cheops is home to astronomical maps, mathematical tables and treasures. In 820 he managed to enter the pyramid by breaking several stone slabs. After heating the limestone bricks, the workers sprayed them with cold vinegar, causing cracks in the pyramid that allowed the people of the caliph to break down a wall and discover a tunnel that went up to the original entrance of the pyramid.
Returning, they descended until they found rooms identified as the king’s room and the queen’s room. In the first room they found an elaborate sarcophagus, but nobody was inside, as if it had never been used. The graves had been plundered or had been made specially to mislead, the mummies and treasures of the pharaohs being in another part of the pyramid. The mystery of missing bodies and treasures continues to perplex the scientific world today.
Subsequent discoveries and theories, especially in the twentieth century, tend to confirm the astronomical and calendar goals of the Great Pyramid at Giza. The tunnel discovered in the 9th century by Abdullah Al Mamun could have played an astronomical role, as a kind of stationary telescope. The tunnel has a downward angle to the exit. From this corridor, an ancient astronomer could have also watched the evolution of stars on the night sky.
Two narrow wells, which were initially thought to have provided ventilation in the pyramid, could in fact have an astronomical purpose similar to that of the tunnel. By calculations based on the angle of the wells and the position of the stars between 3000 and 2400 BC, astronomy expert Virginia Trimble determined that one of the wells indicated the Polar Star, which could have been used by the Egyptians to determine the true north. The other well would have been permanently opened to the Orion / Sehu constellation during the same period of time.
Such findings and references have contributed to the theory proposed by Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert in their book, The Orion Mystery (1994). Noting that the third and slightly smaller pyramid at Giza is somehow detached from the other two, they compared the alignment of the pyramids to that of the three stars in the Orion constellation and found a similarity.
Bauval and Gilbert suggested that the other two pyramids, also dating to the 4th Dynasty – the pyramid of Nebka (north of Giza) and of Jedefra (south of Giza) – together with the pyramids of Giza form a pattern. of five pyramids that follow the outline of five of the seven stars of the Orion constellation. But the alignment is not perfect and two pyramids are missing.
How was the Great Pyramid of Giza built?
According to Herodotus, 100,000 people were needed to build the Great Pyramid. They were organized into groups that worked on shifts for three months. For many centuries it was thought that workers were slaves, forced to do hard work. But this theory seems to be wrong. Modern scientific studies seem to suggest the idea of an ancient Egyptian civilization capable of possessing the knowledge and extended social system needed to build structures as massive and sophisticated as the pyramids.
Recent discoveries support the theory that in the construction of the pyramids were experienced engineers and huge crowds of peasants who were fed, housed and equipped during the time they were working for a leader they venerated as a king. Evidence that some of the workers were very proud of their work is reflected in ancient inscriptions. Such an inscription, from a slab in the pyramid, has been translated as a symbol of the “guild of craftsmen.”
The Egyptian civilization of the time had no burden animals and did not even know the wheel, as aids in transporting and lifting the 11 million cubic meters of stone used in the construction of the Cheops Pyramid. But the transport of the stone would not have been an overwhelming task. The limestone used for the pyramids fits perfectly with a huge stone rock, from which the Sphinx was carved nearby. The limestone could have been exploited, moved and then cut into huge slabs for the pyramid.
A deep cavity of almost 20 meters, now covered with sand, is located near the temples in front of the Sphinx, possibly being a result of the exploitation of the stone. Additional blocks of stone could have been brought with the floats. Dried canals were discovered leading from Giza to the nearby Nile, where a harbor could later be swallowed up by the sand dunes of the desert.
Contemporary experiments have shown that copper chisels and stone hammers used by workers were sufficient for carving limestone. Tests have established that heavy limestone blocks of 2.5-3 tons can be transported over a considerable distance, within a reasonable time, corresponding to what is supposed to have been built by Cheops Pyramid. During the experiments, the exploited stone was processed in slabs and transported with ropes drawn from 20 to 50 people.
Accepting the hypothesis that the pyramids were built from the ground up, the engineers theorized that scaffolding should have been installed as the edifice rises. Using water as a lubricant, workers pushed the stone blocks up the ramps, then installed them in their places. The ramp theory is popular considering that 96% of the total mass of the Great Pyramid is found in the two thirds of the base of the structure. By using the ramps, the work actually eased as the pyramid rose.
In the 1990s, archaeologists Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass (b. 1947) developed the theory that the construction of the pyramid would not have required 100,000 people, as Herodotus wrote, but a much smaller number of skilled workers who worked. all the year here, they joined thousands of other workers only towards the end of the summer and in the autumn months, when the Nile overflowed and watered the agricultural land. When the annual flood took place, farmers and villagers left their fields to work on the Great Pyramid of the King-God.
Teams led by Lehner and Hawass found traces of bakeries and buildings that cut fish used to feed labor. They also revealed calves’ bones and evidence that the wheat was brought and not processed there.
Initially it was thought that only the rich could benefit from the chosen foods such as beef. However, evidence was found to show that the permanent teams of workers could also enjoy the best food and grain as a reward for their skill in lifting the pyramids.
The mystery persists
In 1997 the foundations of several rooms were found. In addition to the discovery of other bakeries and molds used in the preparation of bread, crafts workshops were also found. A guardrail wall led to another building complex where a seal was found, probably on a wall, representing Pharaoh Khafre (2558-2532 BC). Lehner felt that an entire auxiliary complex could be revealed, which would provide many answers, but probably also raise more questions about the Giza pyramids.
In July 2000, in Giza, two miniature replicas of the pyramids were unearthed between the Sphinx and the pyramids. They housed the mummies of some supervisors and workers at the pyramids.
“Even simple people were allowed to use the pyramid model to make their graves,” concluded Hawass, the director of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
Inscriptions from the miniature pyramids have identified one of the mummies as a construction inspector. The upper level of the necropolis was reserved for technicians and craftsmen, and the lower level housed the workers’ bodies. Some of the bodies had beads for healing broken bones. Among the inscriptions were curses, and some frescoes presented workers in full activity. “Such care could not be given to slaves,” Hawass noted.
Lehner, associate professor of archeology at the Eastern Institute at the University of Chicago and the Harvard Semitic Museum, first arrived in Egypt in the 1970s. He was inspired by the theories of Edgar Cayce (1877-1945), who claimed that both the Great Pyramid of Cheops and the other pyramids on the Giza plateau were actually thousands of years older than previously thought. Cayce was one of the mystics who believed that the ancient atlases had built the pyramids shortly after 10,500 BC, before their own homeland was destroyed by a natural or man-made disaster.
Seeking evidence in support of Cayce’s prophecies, Lehner came to the conclusion, like many other researchers before him, that there are many interesting possibilities, capable of enhancing the mystery of the pyramids and bringing to light the performances of their builders.
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