Pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) in Egypt
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The Age of the Old Kingdom is the most vivid in the history of Egypt , which the ancient Egyptians themselves called the "golden age" of their civilization. Pharaohs of this time went down in history thanks to their giant pyramids, which became their tombs. In this article, let's talk about the largest of them - the pyramid of Pharaoh Cheops (Khufu) - the most famous landmark of Egypt .
The biggest misconception
Let's start with the most important: which of the three pyramids on the Giza - Cheops plateau ? Knowing that she is the tallest of all, 90% of tourists choose visually the largest and believe that it is her.
In the photo to the right, we marked which of the three is the pyramid of Cheops. Remember that the building in the center is the pyramid of Kefren . Pharaoh Khafre (Khafra) was the son of Cheops, although there is an alternative version that he was his brother.
Visually the pyramid of Chephren looks the highest, although it is 3 meters below the pyramid of Cheops. Pharaoh Chefren slightly cunning. He built his tomb in the place where the plateau of Giza itself is 10 meters high. Hence this effect.
Such confusion arises not only among tourists, but also at a higher level. It would seem that Google corporation supplies the whole world with information, and this is the most popular search engine in the world. But, and they are wrong. Here is a screenshot from the google site when requesting the phrase "Pyramid of Cheops". As you can see, google shows us a great photo of the Chephrenic pyramid. What can I say? Obprostovolosilis!
Patriots, rejoice. The Russian search engine Yandex all shows true. Here is a screenshot . We hope that Google employees correct this misunderstanding by the time you read this article.
And is it really Cheops?
The pyramid of Cheops is a rare case in Egyptology, when we can be sure who owns the monument. Often ancient monuments of Egypt were appropriated by later rulers. The technology of appropriation was very simple - the name of the building pharaoh (cartouche) was simply strayed from the inscriptions in the temple or in the tomb, and another name was knocked out.
This phenomenon was very common. Take, for example, the famous Pharaoh Tutankhamun. Until 1922, when archaeologist Howard Carter unearthed the tomb of Tutankhamun , Egyptologists doubted the existence of this ruler. About him there was almost no written evidence, everything was destroyed by subsequent pharaohs.
In the 19th century archaeologists often used very barbaric methods of investigation. In the pyramid of Cheops used explosions of gunpowder to search for secret spaces. Traces of such methods you can now see on the surfaces of structures (see the photo on the left).
During such a study, small rooms were found above the main burial chamber. The researchers rushed there in the hope of finding treasure, but of course there was nothing but dust.
These rooms only 1 meter in height had a purely technical purpose. These are unloading chambers, they protect the ceiling of the burial chamber from collapse, relieve the mechanical load. But it was on the walls of these unloading chambers that scientists discovered inscriptions made by ancient builders.
These were block markings. As at us now on the label glue, and ancient Egyptian foremen marked blocks: "The block such-and-such for a pyramid Khufu, is made then, is laid then". These inscriptions can not be a fake, they prove that this structure was built by Cheops.
A little about Pharaoh Cheops
In the last paragraph we used the name "Khufu". This is the official Egyptian name of this pharaoh. Cheops is a Greek interpretation of his name, and not the most common one. More common are the other pronunciations of "Cheops" or "Kyops".
The name "Khufu" is more common in the world. If you are going on an excursion to Giza with a Russian-speaking guide, then there will be no problems, he will be aware of this phonetic difference. But, if you communicate with locals or tourists from other countries, we recommend using the name "Khufu".
Although Pharaoh Khufu is one of the most famous Egyptians , one can not write much about him. We know very little about him.
In addition to the construction of this pyramid, we know that Khufu arranged expeditions for the development of useful resources on the Sinai peninsula. That's all. Up to now, only two artifacts have survived from Khufu - a giant pyramid 137 meters high and a small ivory figurine only 7.5 centimeters high (pictured right).
Pharaoh Cheops remained in the people's memory as a tyrant ruler, who forced people to work on a grandiose construction. We can read about this in the works of the Greek historian Herodotus, who visited Egypt and recorded the stories of the priests.
Surprisingly, his father Pharaoh Snofru remained in the people's memory as a very kind ruler, although he built as many as three pyramids ( Loman and Pink ) and overextended the country twice as much as Cheops.
Now the height of the Cheops pyramid is just over 137 meters, although initially it was 147 meters high. For the last 4,600 years, she has lost 10 meters of her height. There are many reasons for this, we'll talk about them a little later.
Herodotus writes that the pyramid was built for about 30 years. At the same time, it took 10 years not to build the structure itself, but to build a road, dig the canal and other infrastructure works. Modern models, reconstructions and calculations confirm the version of Herodotus.
Herodotus also writes that it was built by 100,000 people. Here the opinion of modern science and the famous Greek historian diverge. Models and restorations show that 20,000 is the maximum of workers who could fit on the construction site.
Previously there was an opinion that Egyptian monuments built thousands of slaves, especially actively this idea was picked up by Hollywood and mass culture.
So many slaves in Egypt then simply were not. And where did they come from? Near Egypt there were no inhabited areas where one could take slaves. However, the topic quickly "picked up" in Hollywood, and it still does not leave the mass culture. Even in the comic animated series "Futurama" it managed to beat in one of the series (see the picture on the right).
The pyramids were built by hired workers from Egypt itself. Of course, they had overseers watching to ensure that no one "messed up."
However, Khovaps himself managed to "shalt". Its pyramid is on a natural hill, which occupies about a quarter of the interior space of the structure. Thanks to the hill, the builders saved materials and man-hours.
The main material of the ancient Egyptian architects was limestone. It was mined right here - on the Giza plateau. The version that the stones were brought here along the Nile River is right and wrong at the same time. The stones were indeed carried, but they were not building blocks, but facing material.
How the pyramid of Cheops looked in ancient times
The ancient Egyptians never called it a pyramid, they said: "Khufu horizon". This name was given to the construction because of its shining brilliance, but now you will not see this shine.
The outer surface was not stepped, as now, but was covered with a facing stone. Two types of stone were used: white limestone from Tura and red Aswan granite. Granite was a more expensive solution, as from Giza to Aswan swim 900 kilometers. The delivery cost astronomical money. Pharaoh Cheops could only afford white limestone.
The facade was polished to a mirror shine, and the pyramid shone in the sun like a beacon. Hence the expression "Khufu horizon". In the photo on the left you see this cladding in the place where it was preserved until our time.
Now there is no cladding on the tomb of Cheops, it was removed by the Arabs and used as a building material.
Guides say: "What a pity that we can not see this cladding in our time." Why can not we? We can! Walk around the ancient mosques of Cairo, they are all made up of this facing stone. Moreover, this is not an assumption, this fact is proved by scientific methods.
We have already said that the pyramid of Cheops has lost 10 meters of its height in the past 4600 years. The loss of the cladding is one of the reasons. The second reason is that it is flattened naturally because of its weight. The third reason - formerly at the top of the pyramid was a large stone, which was called "pyramidon" or "benben."
According to the Egyptian ideas, the whole world was created by the god Atum. All the religious myths about the creation of the world by the creator god contain a contradiction: if the world was created by the creator god, then where did he come from?
The Egyptians resolved this contradiction in a very extravagant way. According to their legend, the god Atum created himself. The by-product of this creation was the pyramidal hill "Benben" - the only one that protruded from the boundless world ocean "Nuna". Atum sat down on the hill and began to think about how and what to do next.
It is believed that all the big pyramids had pommels that imitate this stone. They were called "Benben", but now we call them the word "pyramidon". The pyramids were covered with gold and inscriptions.
Not a single pyramid from the tops of large pyramids has survived to our days, although we have pyramids from small objects. In written sources, they are also not described, and modern Egyptology can not give 100% guarantees that they existed at all.
And now we will think what impression the Cheops pyramid made on ancient people? Even now it amazes tourists, although we can see huge buildings - Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the Shanghai Tower in China or the skyscrapers of Moscow City. They did not see buildings with a height of more than 10 meters in their lives, and here a 147-meter high.
How the pyramid looks now and what to see for tourists
First, it is worth looking at the pyramid itself from the outside, imbued with its grandeur. Tourists can even climb a few tiers up. On top of climbing is prohibited, followed by protection.
Many tourists have a false impression. The blocks of the lower tier are huge - they are more than a meter high. Visitors think that the whole pyramid consists of such gigantic blocks, but it is not.
The higher the tier, the smaller the blocks. The blocks at the top seem very small. Perhaps, because of this, visitors are not allowed upstairs - they do not want to spoil the impressions of travelers.
The Shrine of Cheops is the only one of the big pyramids, inside which tourists are allowed in. The entrance costs 100 Egyptian pounds . The tour is rather boring. You enter through the "predatory entrance", descend the narrow corridor, then go up the "big gallery" and get into the tomb of the pharaoh, where you look at the remains of the outer sarcophagus.
Why do we call excursion boring? Firstly, tourists expect to see here inscriptions and murals on the walls, but they are not here. At the time of the 4th dynasty there was not yet a tradition to cover the walls with frescoes, it appeared later during the V dynasty.
Inside there is lighting and wooden platforms that tourists can comfortably climb. The lighting is dim, although there is not much sense in bright lighting, there is really nothing to watch.
Of course, inside you will find many inscriptions "here was Vasya" and similar, made by tourists in different languages. The authorities of Egypt have been expressing their intention to close the pyramid of Cheops for a number of years and to clean the walls of these inscriptions.
There is one thing inside, which is worth paying attention to. And, none of the tourists does not notice it. This is a masonry in the "big gallery" - that big corridor that leads up to the tomb.
In many books and articles you can read that, supposedly, the blocks in the pyramid of Cheops are so well laid that one can not put a razor blade between them. When tourists approach the pyramid itself, they discover that both the blade and the knife pass through the gap. In some slots you can put your finger, and in some and a leg. A reasonable question arises: where is the truth?
The only place where there really is such an accurate masonry is the "big gallery". It is here that you can try to insert the blade between the blocks and make sure that it does not pass.
Blocks were ground before laying to get such an effect. This is the creation of human hands, and the reality of such work was confirmed during historical reconstructions. No aliens here "do not smell." Only it is not clear to whom it was done and why?
Inside you can not take a photo or video. Given all of the above facts, it is difficult to say whether the trek into the Cheops Pyramid is worth its 100 pounds. Many tourists come out with a feeling of oppressive dissatisfaction and the realization that they spent their money in vain. Nearby there is a small pyramid, in which, presumably, the mother of Cheops rested. They are allowed to enter this tomb free of charge.
Naturally, there are no treasures inside the pyramid, and you will not find them in museums either.
When and how they opened the pyramid of Cheops
When Napoleon Bonaparte entered the pyramid in 1798, it was already empty - neither the treasure nor the mummy of the pharaoh.
Up to this point, the Arabs had penetrated the pyramid under the leadership of Caliph al-Mamun. It was the Arabs who made the passage through which the tourists now get inside, called the "predatory entrance." They did it quite barbarically - with pickaxes and vinegar. The soldiers of the Caliph checked all the premises, but found nothing valuable inside.
There is a legend that Alexander the Great entered the pyramid, spent the night there, but nothing valuable was there at that moment.
Probably, the pyramid included dozens of times in ancient times, and everyone saw it empty. We have written evidence of the Middle Kingdom era (the beginning of the II millennium BC), which says that "the pyramids are empty, and their owners are thrown out."
That is, the pyramids were robbed at the time of the "first transition period" in the history of Egypt. It happened about 4000 years ago, and Pharaoh Cheops himself lay in his tomb only 500 or 600 years.
Tourists are allowed only to the main gallery and tomb, but in the pyramid of Cheops there are many other rooms, which should be told in detail.
What is inside
The configuration of the interior of the Cheops pyramid is very different from the other Great Pyramids of Giza. Inside the pyramids of Khafre and Mikerin everything is quite simple, the burial chamber is only one, and it is underground.
In the pyramid of Cheops, there are three burial chambers: one under the earth, and the other two above the surface. Why are there three? Scientists Egyptologists are still arguing.
We know for sure that Pharaoh Khufu himself was in the upper chamber. The second chamber is called "the chamber of the queen", but this is just such a name. Wives of the pharaohs were buried in small buildings nearby. Presumably, in this cell were kept vessels with the bodies of the pharaoh, which were called "canopies".
The biggest mystery is the lower camera. It is obviously unfinished, and its appointment to scientists is not clear. There are several reasonable hypotheses in this regard.
The first says that it was originally planned to make the tomb of the pharaoh the lower chamber, but Pharaoh Cheops did not like this idea, and he ordered to build two upper chambers - one for the sarcophagus, the second for the canopies.
This is a very realistic version. It does not have any evidence, but it does not contain contradictions either. The main thing is unclear: why did Cheops prefer the funeral chamber above the surface? After all, his descendants Khafren and Mikerin preferred underground chambers.
There is an alternative version. Let's think, no one knew when Pharaoh would die. There are no guarantees that he will live until the end of the construction of his tomb.
For this reason, the pyramids were built in several stages. It was necessary to ensure a decent burial of the pharaoh even in the event of a sudden death.
According to this hypothesis, the lower chamber was reserved for this case. When it became clear that Pharaoh would live to build his main burial chamber, the lower chamber was abandoned.
This version is also not devoid of flaws. It is not clear why in the remaining pyramids there are no upper burial chambers, but in the pyramid of Cheops they are. For example, Pharaoh Khefren ruled for at least 24 years, he would have had time to make a surface burial chamber.
There is no generally accepted hypothesis, you can put forward your own version.
From the funerary chambers, long corridors that are called "ventilation shafts" go out. Their appointment is not exactly established. The main version is tunnels, according to which the soul of the pharaoh was to go to the sky to meet the gods.
In alternative versions, they were actually used for ventilation or for astronomical observations.
An interesting point is that the tunnels from the "chamber of the king" come to the surface, and there are no tunnels from the "chamber of the queen". This fact testifies to the hypothesis of a tunnel for the passage of the soul.
Scientists allowed a miniature robot to go there, who passed this tunnel and came across a damper with copper handles. The drill was drilled, behind it was another cavity and another damper.
Scientists want to drill this second shutter, we are waiting for the permission of the Egyptian authorities for this operation. We hope that we will see something interesting behind it.
The dimensions of these tunnels are only 20x20 centimeters. The person in them will not get through, and versions about their transport assignment can be confidently discarded. These tunnels you can see with your own eyes, if you pay 100 pounds and go to the pyramid of Cheops.
We hope you like the pyramids of Egypt. Read about them and other sights of the country in our articles ( links below ).