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Archaeologists discover a mysterious void inside Egypt’s Great Pyramid

Archaeologists have uncovered a mysterious enclosure hidden deep inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The massive cavity stretches for at least 30 metres and lies above the grand gallery, an impressive ascending corridor that connects the Queen’s chamber to the King’s in the heart of the historic monument. It is the first major structure found in the pyramid since the 19th century.

It is unclear whether the void is a chamber or a corridor, or whether it played any more than a structural role in the pyramid’s construction – such as relieving weight on the grand gallery below. But measurements show that it has similar dimensions to the grand gallery, which is nearly 50 metres long, eight metres high and more than a metre wide.

Inside the great pyramid

Scientists discovered the void using sensors that detect particles known as muons, which rain down on Earth when cosmic rays slam into atoms in the upper atmosphere. The muons travel at close to the speed of light and behave much like x-rays when they meet objects. Armed with suitable equipment, researchers can used them to reveal the rough internal structure of pyramids and other ancient monuments.

“We know that this big void has the same characteristics as the grand gallery,” said Mehdi Tayoubi at the HIP Institute in Paris, a non-profit organisation that draws on new technology to study and preserve cultural heritage. “It’s really impressive.”

NG STAFF. SOURCE: MORISHIMA, K. ET AL. DISCOVERY OF A BIG VOID IN KHUFU’S PYRAMID BY OBSERVATION OF COSMIC-RAY MUONS. NATURE – Image Source: National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com

Also known as Khufu’s Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Cheops, the Great Pyramid was built in the 4th dynasty by the pharaoh Khufu, who reigned from 2509 to 2483 BC. The monument rises 140 metres above the Giza Plateau and has three chambers known from previous explorations: a subterranean one at the base of the pyramid, the Queen’s chamber at the centre, and the King’s chamber above. While a granite sarcophagus sits in the King’s chamber, King Khufu’s mummy is missing, and his queens were buried elsewhere. Whatever riches were once in the chambers were looted long ago.

Egyptologists have scores of theories about how the pyramid was built, but there are no reliable accounts of its construction. Herodotus wrote of stones being drawn from quarries near and far, with some being shipped down the Nile on boats. The mammoth construction project occupied the lives of a hundred thousand men, fuelled in part by radishes, onions and leeks, he noted.

To pinpoint the cavity, scientists from Nagoya University in Japan, and KEK, the country’s high energy physics lab, installed muon-detecting photographic plates and electronic muon detectors around the Queen’s chamber. At the same time, researchers from CEA, France’s energy research organisation, trained “muon telescopes” on the pyramid from the outside. All three techniques can tell from which direction incoming muons arrive.

When the teams compared their results, all had found a muon hotspot in the same place, indicating the presence of a large cavity in the pyramid. While most of the monument is made of stone that absorbs muons, chambers and cavities let the particles pass through.

Muon analysis allows scientists to look deep inside ancient monuments without drilling holes or causing other damage to the precious structures. But the technique produces low resolution images, making it impossible for the researchers to tell if the newly-found void runs horizontally or parallel to the grand gallery. Nor can they be sure it is a single enclosure rather than a series of smaller cavities close together, they report in Nature.

“What we are sure about is that this big void is there, that it is impressive, and was not expected by any kind of theory,” said Tayoubi. To shed more light on the purpose of the cavity, Tayoubi called on specialists in ancient Egyptian architecture to come forward with ideas of what it may be so they can be modelled and checked against the team’s data. The cavity may have relieved weight on the roof of the underlying grand gallery, or be a hitherto unknown corridor in the pyramid. The team has no plans to drill into the cavity to explore inside, but they are developing a tiny flying robot that might one day be sent in, if the Egyptian authorities approve.

“It’s a tribute to humankind,” said Tayoubi of the pyramid. “It asks a question about what is our future. If they have been able to do this with the means they had 4,000 or 5,000 years ago and they left this heritage today, what will our own society leave for future generations?”

Peter Der Manuelian, professor of Egyptology and director of the Harvard Semitic Museum, said the discovery was “potentially a major contribution to our knowledge about the Great Pyramid.”

“I’m sure there are imperfections and perhaps small voids or cavities in several locations in the pyramid. What makes this one so interesting is the size, seeming to rival the grand gallery itself in scale,” he said.

“The muons can’t tell us about chambers, form, size, or any possible objects, so it’s far too early to speculate. I know most people want to know about hidden chambers, grave goods, and the missing mummy of King Khufu. None of that is on the table at this point. But the fact that this void is so large warrants further non-invasive exploration,” he added.

In 2011, Rob Richardson, a researcher at the University of Leeds, sent a small snake-like robot into one of the tunnels of the Great Pyramid and took pictures of hieroglyphs that had not been seen for 4,500 years. “I think people assume that all these mysteries of what’s in our world are known but there are still places like the pyramids where we simply don’t know,” he said. “The pyramids have been there for thousands of years and we still don’t know exactly why they are there, what they were used for, or how they were built.”

Source: theguardian.

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Secret of all Secrets Unveiled: How the ancient Egyptian built the Great Pyramids (with the proof)

By Narjas Zatat for Independent.

Archaeologists believe they have solved one of the history’s most puzzling questions – how the ancient Egyptians transported over 170,000 tons of limestone to build the Great Pyramid at Giza.

New findings at the site on the outskirts of Cairo have revealed purpose-built boats were used to transport the huge stones.

The findings shed new light on how King Khufu’s tomb, built over 4,000 years ago in about 2550 BC, was built

Archeologists have long known that some rock had been extracted eight miles from Giza in a place called Tura, while granite was quarried from over 500 miles away.

The way in which these materials were transported, however, has long been a source of disagreement amongst academics.

A group of archaeologists working at the Giza pyramid complex – an archaeological site – have unearthed an ancient papyrus scroll, remains of a boat and a network of waterways at the site of the pyramid, providing new evidence that points to how the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built.

Pierre Tale, who spent four years painstakingly deciphering the papyrus written by an overseer working on the pyramid’s construction, told Channel 4 in the new documentary Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence: “Since the very day of the discovery it was quite evident that we have the oldest papyrus ever found in the world.”

The document was apparently written by a man called Merer who was in charge of 40 elite sailors. Archaeologists discovered that thousands of trained workers used boats to navigate canals dug along the River Nile for the purposes of transporting limestone.



The boats were held together by thick, twisted ropes, some of which have survived and were found in good condition.

The discovery of an ancient papyrus, a ceremonial boat and an ingenious system of waterworks have shed light on the infrastructure created by the builders (Source: dailymail)

After collecting the materials, workers would bring them to an inland port a few meters from the base of the pyramid. In total, some 2.3 million blocks of stone were shipped across the land over the course of two decades.

The papyrus scroll details how specially built waterways were used to transport 2.5 ton limestone blocks (Ch 4)(Source: The Sun)

American archaeologist Mark Lehner, who has over 30 years experience excavating in Egypt, said: “We’ve outlined the central canal basin, which we think was the primary delivery area to the foot of the Giza Plateau.”

Source: Independent.

New proof shows how the Egyptians transported 2½-ton blocks for 500 miles.
Blocks of limestone and granite built the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu in 2,600 BC.
170,000 tons carried along the Nile in wooden boats held together by ropes.
Boats used purpose-built channels and canals to inland port yards from site.

By Claudia Joseph For The Mail.

The detailed archaeological material shows that thousands of skilled workers transported 170,000 tons of limestone along the Nile in wooden boats held together by ropes, through a specially constructed system of canals to an inland port just yards from the base of the pyramid.

A scroll of ancient papyrus has also been found in the seaport Wadi Al-Jarf which has given a new insight into the role boats played in the pyramid’s construction.

An ancient papyrus scroll that dates back to 2600BC has been recently discovered and is the only first hand account of how the pyramid was built (Source:dailymail)

Written by Merer, an overseer in charge of a team of 40 elite workmen, it is the only first-hand account of the construction of the Great Pyramid and describes in detail how limestone casing stones were shipped downstream from Tura to Giza.

The detailed archaeological material shows that thousands of skilled workers transported 170,000 tons of limestone along the Nile in wooden boats held together by ropes, through a specially constructed system of canals to an inland port just yards from the base of the pyramid. (Source:dailymail)

In his diary, Merer also describes how his crew was involved in the transformation of the landscape, opening giant dykes to divert water from the Nile and channel it to the pyramid through man-made canals.

Although it has long been known that the granite from the pyramid’s internal chambers was quarried in Aswan, 533 miles south of Giza, and the limestone casing stones came from Tura, eight miles away, archaeologists disagreed over how they were transported.

Now archaeologist Mark Lehner, a leading expert in the field, has uncovered evidence of a lost waterway beneath the dusty Giza plateau. ‘We’ve outlined the central canal basin which we think was the primary delivery area to the foot of the Giza Plateau,’ he said.

The new discoveries are revealed in tonight’s Channel 4 documentary Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence, which also includes another team of archaeologists who have unearthed a ceremonial boat designed for Khufu to command in the afterlife, which gives new insights into the construction of vessels at the time.

A team of specialists restored the wooden planks before scanning them with a 3D laser to work out how they were assembled. They discovered that they were sewn together with loops of rope.

Source: Dailymail

skilled-workers-ancient-egypt

Slaves Didn’t Build Pyramids

The tombs of ancient Egyptian pyramid builders suggest these artisans were respected — and paid — for their work.

Egypt displayed on Monday newly discovered tombs more than 4,000 years old and said they belonged to people who worked on the Great Pyramids of Giza, putting the discovery forth as more evidence that slaves did not build the ancient monuments.

The series of modest nine-foot-deep shafts held a dozen skeletons of pyramid builders, perfectly preserved by dry desert sand along with jars that once contained beer and bread meant for the workers’ afterlife.

The mud-brick tombs were uncovered last week in the backyard of the Giza pyramids, stretching beyond a burial site first discovered in the 1990s and dating to the 4th Dynasty (2575 B.C. to 2467 B.C.), when the great pyramids were built on the fringes of present-day Cairo.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus once described the pyramid builders as slaves, creating what Egyptologists say is a myth later propagated by Hollywood films.

Graves of the pyramid builders were first discovered in the area in 1990 when a tourist on horseback stumbled over a wall that later proved to be a tomb. Egypt’s archaeology chief Zahi Hawass said that discovery and the latest finds last week show that the workers were paid laborers, rather than the slaves of popular imagination.

Hawass told reporters at the site that the find, first announced on Sunday, sheds more light on the lifestyle and origins of the pyramid builders. Most importantly, he said the workers were not recruited from slaves commonly found across Egypt during pharaonic times.

Hawass said the builders came from poor Egyptian families from the north and the south, and were respected for their work — so much so that those who died during construction were bestowed the honor of being buried in the tombs near the sacred pyramids of their pharaohs.

Their proximity to the pyramids and the manner of burial in preparation for the afterlife backs this theory, Hawass said.

“No way would they have been buried so honorably if they were slaves,” he said.

The tombs contained no gold or valuables, which safeguarded them from tomb-raiders throughout antiquity. The skeletons were found buried in a fetal position — the head pointing to the West and the feet to the East according to ancient Egyptian beliefs, surrounded by the jars once filled with supplies for afterlife.

The men who built the last remaining wonder of the ancient world ate meat regularly and worked in three months shifts, said Hawass. It took 10,000 workers more than 30 years to build a single pyramid, Hawass said — a tenth of the work force of 100,000 that Herodotus wrote of after visiting Egypt around 450 B.C.

Hawass said evidence from the site indicates that the approximately 10,000 laborers working on the pyramids ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms.

Though they were not slaves, the pyramid builders led a life of hard labor, said Adel Okasha, supervisor of the excavation. Their skeletons have signs of arthritis, and their lower vertebrae point to a life passed in difficulty, he said.

“Their bones tell us the story of how hard they worked,” Okasha said.

giza-pyramids-satalite

Egyptian Pyramids Found With NASA Satellite

Egyptian Pyramids Found With NASA Satellite | As many as 17 pyramids, more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 settlements were uncovered using infrared technology.

THE GIST

NASA satellite technology has revealed previously unknown sites from the ancient Egyptian world.

The satellites used powerful cameras that can pinpoint objects less than three feet long on Earth’s surface.

The technology was helped by the density of houses and other buildings, made of mud brick so that they showed up somewhat clearly.

Archaeologists have uncovered as many as 17 buried pyramids in Egypt with the help of NASA satellite imagery, according to a documentary to be aired by the BBC on Monday.

Led by researcher Sarah Parcak at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the team has already confirmed two of the suspected pyramids through excavation work.

NEWS: Pyramid-Exploring Robot Reveals Hidden Hieroglyphs

The BBC, which funded the research, released the findings this week ahead of a broadcast describing the technique and what was uncovered.

“I couldn’t believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt,” Parcak was quoted as telling the BBC. “To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist.”

The team also found more than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements, according to the report.

Infrared images, which were taken by satellites orbiting 700 kilometers (435 miles) above the Earth, revealed the below-ground structures.

NEWS: Great Pyramid May Hold Two Hidden Chambers

The satellites used powerful cameras that can “pinpoint objects less than one meter (three feet) in diameter on the Earth’s surface,” the report said.

The technology was helped by the density of houses and other buildings, made of mud brick so that they showed up somewhat clearly against the looser soil cover.

The documentary, “Egypt’s Lost Cities,” airs Monday on BBC One and will also be shown on the Discovery Channel in the United States.

pyramids-khufu

The Great Pyramid’s Secret Doors

Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid’s Secret Doors. Will the mystery over the Great Pyramid’s secret doors be solved in 2012?

I dare say yes. After almost two decades of failed attempts, chances are now strong that researchers will reveal next year what lies behind the secret doors at the heart of Egypt’s most magnificent pyramid.

New revelations on the enduring mystery were already expected this year, following a robot exploration of the 4,500-year-old pharaonic mausoleum.

But unrest in Egypt froze the project at its most promising stage after it produced the first ever images behind one of the Great Pyramid’s mysterious doors.

Now the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), once led by the controversial yet charismatic Zahi Hawass, is slowly returning to granting permits for excavations and archaeological research.

Zahi Hawass, the famous Egyptian archaeologist

WIDE ANGLE: BIG QUESTIONS FOR 2012

“As with other missions, we have had to resubmit our application to be allowed to continue. We are currently waiting for the various committees to formalize the approval,” project mission manager Shaun Whitehead, of the exploration company Scoutek UK, told Discovery News.

“Once we”re allowed to continue, I have no doubt that we can complete our work in 2012,” he added.

Built for the pharaoh Cheops, also known as Khufu, the Great Pyramid is the last remaining wonder of the ancient world.

The monument is the largest of a family of three pyramids on the Giza plateau, on the outskirts of Cairo, and has long been rumored to have hidden passageways leading to secret chambers.

Archaeologists have long puzzled over the purpose of four narrow shafts deep inside the pyramid since they were first discovered in 1872.

Two shafts, extend from the upper, or “Kings Chamber” exit into open air. But the lower two, one on the south side and one on the north side in the so-called “Queen’s Chamber” disappear within the structures, deepening the pyramid mystery.

Widely believed to be ritual passageways for the dead pharaoh’s soul to reach the afterlife, these 8-inch-square shafts remained unexplored until 1993, when German engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink sent a robot through the southern shaft.

After a steady climb of 213 feet from the heart of the pyramid, the robot came to a stop in front of a mysterious limestone slab adorned with two copper pins.

NEWS: Giza Pyramids Align Toward City of Sun God

Nine years later, the southern shaft was explored on live television. As the world held its breath, a tomb-raiding robot pushed a camera through a hole drilled in the copper pinned door — only to reveal what appeared to be another door.

The following day, the robot was sent through the northern shaft. After crawling for 213 feet and navigating several sharp bends, the robot came to an abrupt halt in front of another limestone slab.

As with the Gantenbrink door, the stone was adorned with two copper pins.

BLOG: The Great Pyramids’ Amazing Non-Mysteries

The current Djedi project, a joint international-Egyptian mission named after the magician whom Khufu consulted when planning the layout of his pyramid, has gone further than anyone has ever been before in the pyramid.

The project began with an exploration of the southern shaft, which ends at the so-called “Gantenbrink’s door.”

A robot, designed by Rob Richardson at the University of Leeds, was able to climb inside the walls of the shaft while carrying a “micro snake” camera that can see around corners.

Unlike previous expeditions, in which camera images were only taken looking straight ahead, the bendy camera was small enough to fit through a small hole in a stone door at the end of the tunnel.

This gave researchers a clear view into the chamber beyond — one that had not been seen by human eyes since the construction of the pyramid. Images of 4,500-year-old hieroglyphs written in red paint began to appear.

According to some scholars, the markings are hieratic numerical signs that record the length of the shaft. The theory has not been confirmed by the researchers.

“Our strategy is to keep an open mind and only draw conclusions when we have completed our work,” Whitehead said.

The Djedi team was also able to scrutinize the two puzzling copper pins embedded in the door to the chamber.

NEWS: Pyramid Hieroglyphs Likely Engineering Numbers

Images showed that the back of the pins curves on themselves, possibly suggesting an ornamental purpose.

Equipped with a unique range of tools which also included a miniature “beetle” robot that can fit through a 0.74-inch diameter hole, a coring drill, and a miniaturized ultrasonic device that can tap on walls and listen to the response to help determine the thickness of the stone, the Djedi team was ready to continue the pyramid’s exploration last August. But the political turn of events in Egypt halted the project.

Whitehead is confident that the robot will reveal much more once the team is allowed to resume their research.

“The plan is the same as it always was. We will completely survey the shafts leading from the Queens Chamber and look beyond the first and second blocking stones in at least one shaft,” Whitehead said.

“Even if we do not look further beyond the blocking stones, accurately mapping the shafts will be a fantastic result and will provide significant clues to determine the purpose of these unique archaeological features,” he concluded.

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Making a boat fit for a Pharaoh

Making a boat fit for a Pharaoh | Giza plateau was crowded on Monday as journalists, TV anchors, photographers and antiquities officials flocked to the northern side of King Khufu’s Great Pyramid to witness Japanese scientists and archaeologists taking samples from different parts of Khufu’s second solar boat, which is still buried in sand after 4,500 years.

The boat’s wooden beams are to be subjected to laboratory analysis to determine the types of fungi, insects and viruses that are affecting the boat, as well as the amount of deterioration that has taken place, so that an appropriate method can be selected to restore it and place it on display beside King Khufu’s first boat, which is on display in a museum especially constructed for it on the plateau.

“This is the third phase of the five-year project to restore Khufu’s second boat,” — Minister of State for Antiquities Mohamed Ibrahim who told journalists.

The first phase began 20 years ago, when in 1992 a Japanese scientific and archaeological team from Waseda University in collaboration with the Japanese government, offered a grant of $10 million to remove the boat from its original pit, restore and reassemble it and put it on show to the public.

The team cleaned the pit of insects, but found that water had leaked from the nearby museum which housed the first solar boat. This had affected a small part of the wood, hence the necessity quickly to finish the studies and restore the wood. The Japanese team, under the direction of Professor Sakuji Yoshimura, inserted a camera through a hole in the chamber’s limestone ceiling to transmit video images of the boat onto a small TV monitor on the site. Images screened showed layers of wooden beams and timbers of cedar and acacia, as well as ropes, mats and remains of limestone blocks and small pieces of white plaster. The camera allowed an assessment of the boat’s condition and the possibility of restoration.

A large hanger has been constructed over the area surrounding the second boat pit, with a smaller hanger inside to cover the top of the boat itself. The hangers were designed to protect the wooden remains during analysis and treatment. A laser scanning survey also documented the area and the wall between the Great Pyramid and the boat pit.

According to Yoshimura while the fillings around the sides of the covering stone were being cleaned the team uncovered the cartouche of King Khufu of the Fourth-Dynasty inscribed on one of these blocks, and beside it the name of the crown prince Djedefre. This, he argued, meant that this boat was constructed during the reign of King Khufu and not, like the first boat now on display at a special museum on the plateau, during the reign of his son and successor Djedefre.

Yoshimura said that restoration and reconstruction work would last for five years. A special small museum will be constructed for it at the entrance of the Giza plateau on the Cairo-Fayoum road, while the first boat will be transferred to the planned Grand Egyptian Museum.

The second boat was in a much better state of preservation than was the first when it was discovered in 1954, when Egyptian architect and archaeologist Kamal El-Malakh together with Zaki Nour were carried out routine cleaning on the south side of the Great Pyramid. The first boat was removed piece by piece under the supervision of the master of restorers Ahmed Youssef, who spent more than 20 years restoring and reassembling the boat. The second boat remained sealed in its pit up until 1987, when it was examined by the American National Geographic Society in association with the Egyptian office for historical monuments. They bored a hole into the limestone beams that covered it and inserted a micro camera and measuring equipment. The void space over the boat was photographed and air measurements taken, after which the pit was resealed.

It was thought that the pit had been so well sealed that the air inside would be as it had been since ancient Egyptian times, but sadly this was not the case, as air had leaked into the pit and mixed with the air inside it. This had allowed insects to thrive and affect some parts of the wooden beams.

Author: Nevine El-Aref | Source: Al-Ahram Weekly

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Pyramid of Menkaure

Pyramid of Menkaure – Giza, Lower Egypt. On the south-western corner of the Giza Plateau, the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mycerinus) stands in alignment with its larger neighbours. Menkaure was Khafre’s son and his monument, by far the smallest of the three Giza pyramids, was called ‘Menkaure is Divine’.

The pyramid appears to have been unfinished at the death of the king and was completed in mudbrick by Menkaure’s son Shepseskaf, and later additions were built to his temples during Dynasties V and VI, suggesting that his mortuary cult was still flourishing then. The king ruled for around eighteen years and an inscription in the pyramid’s entrance (thought to have been carved by Khaemwaset, son of Rameses II) gives the day and month of his death. The casing blocks on the upper parts of the pyramid were probably of white limestone, but the lower courses were sheathed in rougher pink granite. This suggests that the final casing was done from the top, downwards and adds to the theories of the pyramid being unfinished. The granite casing blocks can still be seen around the modern entrance.

A great gash was made in the northern side of the pyramid during the Mamaluke era, in the 12th century AD, but the first Europeans to enter the monument were Perring and Vyse in 1837, who found a basalt sarcophagus which was shipped off to England in the Beatrice – only to meet with the disastrous fate of being lost at sea when the ship was wrecked in the Mediterranean. The pyramid was later properly excavated by Reisner and the Harvard University Expedition from 1906 to 1924.

The entrance to Menkaure’s pyramid, on the northern side about 4m above ground level, leads to a descending corridor opening into a short horizontal passage and a decorated chamber with carved stone panels, reminiscent of palace façade motifs, but the significance of this unusual decoration is unknown. A horizontal corridor leads into a large rectangular antechamber, oriented east to west, which seems to have undergone a number of changes before being completed and may have been intended as an earlier burial chamber. This room was also reached by another descending passage (known as the upper corridor) which runs above the lower corridor from the pyramid’s base. When the plan was changed, the floor of the large antechamber was lowered which meant that the upper corridor came out near the ceiling and so was abandoned. Vyse discovered remains of a wooden anthropoid coffin in this room, which bore the name of Menkaure and contained human remains, but these have subsequently proven to be of a much later date than the pyramid. Another passage leads down from the floor of the antechamber to the burial chamber. Before the burial chamber is reached there is another room which has six deep niches – four in the east and two in the north – which may have been used to hold funerary goods, or the canopic jars of the king.

The rectangular barrel-vaulted burial chamber in the bedrock below the pyramid is lined with pink granite and oriented north to south and it was here on the west wall that Vyse found the beautiful basalt sarcophagus of the king. The lost sarcophagus had carved panel decoration in a recessed ‘palace-façade’ design.

Menkaure built three queen’s pyramids on the southern side of his monument, though the largest eastern one (G3-a), which has a T-shaped substructure, was perhaps first intended as a satellite cult pyramid, but later presumably used for the burial of a queen, as were all three satellite pyramids, which had mudbrick chapels attached. The rock-cut burial chamber in G3-a once contained a pink granite sarcophagus embedded into the floor, and charred remains of wood and matting were found there. It was possibly the burial place of Menkaure’s Chief Wife, Khamerernebty II, who is thought to be buried at Giza. The central queen’s pyramid (G3-b) was found to contain a pink granite sarcophagus and the bones of a young woman, while the third pyramid (G3-c) was unfinished and had no traces of a burial.

The remains of the king’s mortuary temple are still visible on the eastern side of the pyramid and this was also found to have been hastily completed. It appears that it was begun in locally quarried massive blocks of limestone, with the intention of facing the inner and outer walls with black granite, but in fact they were mostly finished in painted plaster over mudbrick, presumably by Shepseskaf. The structure was built around a rectangular courtyard, leading to a portico with a double colonnade flanked to the north and south by store-rooms and niches and to the inner sanctuary. The temple is actually better preserved that Khafre’s mortuary temple and Reisner’s team found the evidence of construction techniques very interesting. Fragments of royal statues were found in the temple.

Menkaure’s causeway was apparently completed by Shepseskaf, in mudbrick rather than limestone, but never reaching as far as his valley temple. Reisner’s excavations of the sand-covered valley temple revealed several very fine statues of Menkaure which display the superb quality of Egyptian art from this period. Three complete triads and one fragmentary, showing the king wearing the white crown of Upper Egypt with the goddess Hathor and four different nome deities (now in Cairo and Boston Museums), were uncovered in 1908 and the famous perfectly preserved dyad depicting Menkaure with an unnamed queen (possibly his Chief Wife Khamerernebty II), were found in 1910 (Cairo Museum). Two different phases of construction were found in the valley temple, the earlier parts built from stone and the later parts in mudbrick. An inscription in the valley temple indicated how Shepseskaf completed the temple in memory of his father. It was completely rebuilt during Dynasty VI, probably by Pepy II.

Reisner found evidence of huge clay walls, workshops and lodgings of the pyramid-builders in front of Menkaure’s valley temple and houses which later invaded the temple walls. It is not surprising that recent excavations by Mark Lehner’s team have again begun to uncover this vast city of workers who built and maintained the pyramids for generations afterwards. Since 1988 excavations have been concentrated around the area about 300m south of the Sphinx and the gigantic structure known as the ‘Wall of the Crow’, near to a recently discovered ‘worker’s cemetery’. So far they have uncovered bakeries, a copper workshop, and worker’s houses which, in the year 2000 were found to belong to a vast royal complex comprising huge galleries or corridors, separated by a paved street. The royal palace?

Other recent excavations around the pyramid of Menkaure have been conducted by the Egyptian Antiquities Organisation in search of evidence of the king’s funerary boats and the pyramid’s construction ramp. They have discovered an unfinished double-statue of Rameses II, sculpted from a single block of stone and measuring over 3m tall – the first large New Kingdom statues to be discovered at Giza, and yet another mystery.

Entrance

The three main pyramids are open on an annual rotation with one of them being closed for restoration each year. Tickets on sale at 8:00am and 1:00pm and cost EGP 25.

pyramid-of-khafre-giza

Pyramid of Khafre

Pyramid of Khafre – Giza, Lower Egypt. Khafre (Chephren) sited his pyramid at Giza, a short distance to the south-west of the monument of his father Khufu. Khafre’s brother Djedefre had succeeded their father on the throne but only reigned for around eight years and had chosen to site his own pyramid at Abu Roash to the north. Returning to Giza, Khafre’s monuments have survived better than most and his pyramid makes an impressive backdrop to the Great Sphinx which lies next to his causeway and was probably part of the pyramid complex.

Appearing to be bigger than Khufu’s pyramid because of the rising ground on which it was built and its steeper angle of slope, Khafre’s pyramid actually had a base measurement of 215m and a height of 143.5m, making it slightly smaller than his father’s. It is the only pyramid to be preserved almost to its full height by the casing stones remaining at its apex. Belzoni, in 1816, was the first to enter the pyramid in modern times. He discovered the upper entrance and underground chambers and is commemorated in an inscription by the English Colonel Fitzclarence on the upper entrance. In 1860 Auguste Mariette found seven statues of Khafre while excavating the valley temple, including a wonderfully preserved diorite statue of the king protected by a Horus falcon, one of the great masterpieces of Egyptian sculpture now in the Cairo Museum. More recent investigations of Khafre’s pyramid complex, using modern archaeological techniques, have been undertaken by the Giza Plateau Mapping Project under the directorships of Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass.

The core of the pyramid, which was built on a levelled terrace, was of rough irregular limestone blocks, left behind when the casing blocks of Tura limestone were stripped off in antiquity, although a band of more regular-shaped stone can be seen just below the remaining casing. A lower course of the pyramid’s outer skin is composed of red granite which are well preserved on the southern side.

There are two entrances on the northern side of the pyramid. The first or ‘upper entrance’, found at a height of 11.5m, leads to a descending corridor which straightens out to join an ascending passage from the ‘lower entrance’. It is the lower entrance, at ground level which is used today to access the structure. This leads to a lower corridor which has an unfinished chamber cut into its western side and it is suggested that the lower gallery was begun on the assumption that the pyramid was to be built further north, or was intended to be larger, as the two entrances show. This may have been a serdab chamber however, similar the the ‘Queens Chamber’ in Khufu’s pyramid. The lower passage then ascends to meet the entrance corridor from above, and continues horizontally to the burial chamber.

Khafre’s burial chamber lies on the vertical axis of the pyramid and is simply constructed in a pit in the bedrock. The roof of the chamber is composed of pented limestone blocks, similar to those used in Khufu’s pyramid to relieve the weight of stone. The words ‘Discovered by G Belzoni – March 2 1816′ (in Italian) appear on the south wall of the burial chamber, although he had already discovered writing on the west wall showing that the pyramid had been entered previously, probably around the 12th century AD. The burial chamber was found to contain Khafre’s red granite sarcophagus, sunk slightly into the floor, it’s cover broken and a nearby pit which would have contained the canopic chest.

A satellite pyramid (G2-a) belonging to Khafre’s complex is now almost gone, with only the foundations remaining on the southern side of the king’s pyramid. It is currently believed to have been a cult pyramid and not to contain a burial.

The huge mortuary temple of Khafre’s complex is separated from the east face of the pyramid by a limestone pavement, which runs around all four sides of the pyramid. The temple was excavated in 1910 by Holscher and von Sieglin and shown to have consisted of an entrance hall, courtyard, five statue chapels, store-rooms and an offering hall. Sadly the structure was quarried for its stone in ancient times, but the surviving foundations show its innovative construction method, using massive core blocks of limestone cased with finer quality stone and lined on the inside with red granite. In the massive open courtyard there were recesses for huge statues of the king. Five boat pits were discovered to the north and south of the mortuary temple, but all of them had been plundered.

The ruined causeway leads from the mortuary temple, 494m south to Khafre’s valley temple, which is in a better state of preservation – the only well preserved valley temple found to date. This too was constructed from huge limestone monoliths, faced with granite and was discovered by Mariette in 1852 who wrongly described it as the Temple of the Sphinx. Huge rectangular blocks of Aswan granite form pillars and lintels, giving the structure a very distinctive style, reminiscent of the Osirion at Abydos. Originally there were 24 diorite statues of the king seated on his throne around the walls, of which only one survives to be seen in Cairo Egyptian Museum. Although it’s function is not yet clear, it is thought that the valley temple may have been used for the embalming rites before the king’s funeral and in 1995, traces of a ‘purification tent’ were found near the temple, along with two ramps and underground tunnels.

To the north of Khafre’s valley temple lies the Great Sphinx, inside its own enclosure. It is currently thought to have been modelled during Khafre’s reign, and would have been the first colossal statue in ancient Egypt.

Entrance

The three main pyramids are open on an annual rotation with one of them usually being closed for restoration each year. Tickets for Khafre’s Pyramid cost EGP 30 and are on sale at 8.00am and 1.00pm. The numbers may be limited.