Inside the Great Pyramid of Giza | Past Imperfect

http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/history/2011/09/inside-the-great-pyramid/

Inside the Great Pyramid

From the page: “….Few would be so bold as to suggest that, even today, we know why Khufu ordered the construction of what is by far the most elaborate system of passages and chambers concealed within any pyramid. His is the only one of the 35 such tombs constructed between 2630 and 1750 B.C. to contain tunnels and vaults well above ground level. (Its immediate predecessors, the Bent Pyramid and the North Pyramid at Dahshur, have vaults built at ground level; all the others are solid structures whose burial chambers lie well underground.) For years, the commonly accepted theory was that the Great Pyramid’s elaborate features were the product of a succession of changes in plan, perhaps to accommodate Pharaoh’s increasingly divine stature as his reign went on, but the American Egyptologist Mark Lehner has marshaled evidence suggesting that the design was fixed before construction began. If so, the pyramid’s internal layout becomes even more mysterious, and that’s before we bear in mind the findings of the Quarterly Review, which reported in 1818, after careful computation, that the structure’s known passages and vaults occupy a mere 1/7,400th of its volume, so that ‘after leaving the contents of every second chamber solid by way of separation, there might be three thousand seven hundred chambers, each equal in size to the sarcophagus chamber, [hidden] within.’

But if the thinking behind the pyramid’s design remains unknown, there is a second puzzle that should be easier to solve: the question of who first entered the Great Pyramid after it was sealed in about 2566 B.C. and what they found inside it.

It’s a problem that gets remarkably little play in mainstream studies, perhaps because it’s often thought that all Egyptian tombsâ,”with the notable exception of Tutankhamun’sâ,”were plundered within years of their completion. There’s no reason to suppose that the Great Pyramid would have been exempt; tomb-robbers were no respecters of the dead, and there is evidence that they were active at Gizaâ,”when the smallest of the three pyramids there, which was built by Khufu’s grandson Menkaure, was broken open in 1837, it was found to contain a mummy that had been interred there around 100 B.C. In other words, the tomb had been ransacked and reused.

The evidence that the Great Pyramid was similarly plundered is more equivocal; the accounts we have say two quite contradictory things. They suggest that the upper reaches of the structure remained sealed until they were opened under Arab rule in the ninth century A.D. But they also imply that when these intruders first entered the King’s Chamber, the royal sarcophagus was already open and Khufu’s mummy was nowhere to be seen.

This problem is one of more than merely academic interest, if only because some popular accounts of the Great Pyramid take as their starting point the idea that Khufu was never interred there, and go on to suggest that if the pyramid was not a tomb, it must have been intended as a storehouse for ancient wisdom, or as an energy accumulator, or as a map of the future of mankind. Given that, it’s important to know what was written by the various antiquaries, travelers and scientists who visited Giza before the advent of modern Egyptology in the 19th century.

Let’s start by explaining that the pyramid contains two distinct tunnel systems, the lower of which corresponds to those found in earlier monuments, while the upper (which was carefully hidden and perhaps survived inviolate much longer) is unique to the Great Pyramid. The former system begins at a concealed entrance 56 feet above ground in the north face, and proceeds down a low descending passage to open, deep in the bedrock on which the pyramid was built, into what is known as the Subterranean Chamber. This bare and unfinished cavern, inaccessible today, has an enigmatic pit dug into its floor and serves as the starting point for a small, cramped tunnel of unknown purpose that dead-ends in the bedrock….”

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Excellent article.

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