What exactly is inside the Great Pyramid?

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, is a marvel of ancient engineering and has fascinated historians, archaeologists, and tourists for centuries. Built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, around 2580-2560 BC, it is the oldest and only surviving structure of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

This iconic monument, situated on the Giza Plateau near Cairo, has been extensively studied, yet it continues to hold mysteries and provoke curiosity about what lies within its colossal stone boundaries.

The Pyramids of Giza, continuing the tradition of Egyptian pyramids as royal tombs, served as the eternal resting places for pharaohs. These monumental structures were typically part of a larger funerary complex, including burial sites for queens and mortuary temples for daily offerings.

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Exterior Structure

Before diving into the interior, understanding the Great Pyramid’s exterior is essential. Originally, the pyramid was covered in smooth, white Tura limestone casing stones, which would have made it shine brilliantly under the sun.

The base covers an area of about 13 acres, and it was originally 146.6 meters (481 feet) tall, although now it stands at 138.8 meters (455 feet) due to the loss of the outer casing stones and the capstone.

Entrance and Internal Passages of the Great Pyramid

The main entrance to the Great Pyramid is located on the northern face, about 17 meters (56 feet) above ground level. This entrance leads to a descending corridor that splits into two paths: one leading downwards to the unfinished subterranean chamber, and the other ascending towards the Grand Gallery and the pyramid’s interior chambers.

The Great Pyramid of Giza was originally about 146.6 meters (481 feet) tall. Today, due to the loss of its outer casing stones and the capstone, it stands at approximately 138.8 meters (455 feet).

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The Subterranean Chamber

The subterranean chamber, carved into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built, remains unfinished and is the lowest chamber within the structure. Its purpose is unknown, with speculation ranging from a symbolic tomb for Khufu to a storage chamber.

The Queen’s Chamber

Above the subterranean chamber and accessible via the ascending corridor is the so-called Queen’s Chamber, which, contrary to its name, was likely not intended for a queen. This chamber is located at the heart of the pyramid but remains empty, and its original purpose remains a topic of debate among Egyptologists.

Furthermore, two narrow shafts extend from the north and south walls of the Queen’s Chamber to the outer surface of the pyramid. Initially thought to be for ventilation, these shafts might have had symbolic significance, possibly aligning with stars or serving a function in the pharaoh’s journey to the afterlife.

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The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery is a breathtaking architectural feat within the pyramid, leading up to the King’s Chamber. This high, corbelled passage is 47 meters (154 feet) long and 8.6 meters (28 feet) high, with a series of steps and benches along its sides.

It is believed to have served as a staging area for the final construction stages of the King’s Chamber or to facilitate the placement of a large granite plug to block access to the chamber.

Did you know…?

  • The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, stands as the oldest and tallest among the three monumental pyramids dominating the Giza landscape.
  • Ancient Egyptian pharaoh’s burial chamber, where they were laid to rest, was often placed underneath the pyramid. In the case of the Great Pyramid, its subterranean chambers remained unfinished.

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The King’s Chamber

At the heart of the Great Pyramid lies the King’s Chamber, made entirely from red granite brought from Aswan, over 800 kilometers (500 miles) away. The chamber houses a large, empty sarcophagus, which is believed to have held the remains of Pharaoh Khufu.

It must be noted that the precision and craftsmanship of the King’s Chamber and the sarcophagus are remarkable, with the chamber’s ceiling supported by five relieving chambers above it to distribute the weight of the massive structure overhead.

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The Relieving Chambers and the Big Void

Above the King’s Chamber are five relieving chambers, intended to protect the King’s Chamber from the immense pressure of the pyramid’s mass.

In 2017, the ScanPyramids project discovered an additional, large void within the Great Pyramid, located above the Grand Gallery. This “Big Void” is at least 30 meters (98 feet) long, and its purpose or contents, if any, remain unknown, fueling further interest and speculation about the pyramid’s construction and function.

The Great Pyramid of Giza continues to be a subject of fascination and mystery, embodying the pinnacle of ancient Egyptian architectural, engineering, and astronomical knowledge.

Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and the Great Pyramid

Napoleon Bonaparte‘s relationship with the Great Pyramid of Giza is steeped in legend and historical intrigue. During his Egyptian campaign in 1798-1799, aimed at undermining British access to India and establishing scientific and cultural achievements, Napoleon visited the Giza Plateau.

A popular myth suggests that he spent a night alone in the King’s Chamber within the Great Pyramid, emerging shaken by unknown visions or revelations. Although this tale is widely recounted, its veracity remains uncertain, as contemporary accounts do not confirm it.

What is factual, however, is Napoleon’s initiation of the Description de l’Égypte, a comprehensive scholarly work documenting Egypt’s history, including the pyramids. This project marked the beginning of modern Egyptology, indirectly linking Napoleon to the increased scholarly interest in ancient Egypt.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the Great Pyramid of Giza

These FAQs provide a snapshot of the intrigue and fascination surrounding the Great Pyramid of Giza, reflecting its significance in ancient history and modern archaeology.

Who built the Great Pyramid of Giza?

The Great Pyramid was built by Pharaoh Khufu of the Fourth Dynasty around 2580-2560 BC.

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What was the purpose of the Great Pyramid?

It was primarily constructed as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu, embodying ancient Egyptian beliefs in the afterlife and demonstrating their architectural and engineering prowess.

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How tall is the Great Pyramid?

Originally, it was about 146.6 meters (481 feet) tall. Today, it stands at approximately 138.8 meters (455 feet) due to the loss of its outer casing stones and capstone.

How long did it take to build the Great Pyramid?

It is estimated that the Great Pyramid took around 20 years to complete.

What materials were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid?

The pyramid was constructed using limestone blocks for the core, Tura limestone for the casing, and granite for the internal chambers.

Despite centuries of study, the Great Pyramid of Giza keeps some of its secrets well hidden, with the latest technology only beginning to unveil its complexities.

Are there any chambers inside the Great Pyramid?

Yes, the Great Pyramid contains three main chambers: the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, and the Subterranean Chamber, along with several corridors and the Grand Gallery.

Has the body of Pharaoh Khufu been found in the Great Pyramid?

No, the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber was found empty. The actual resting place of Pharaoh Khufu’s body remains a mystery.

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What are the air shafts in the Great Pyramid for?

The purpose of these shafts is debated; they may have been intended for ventilation, for spiritual reasons aligning with stars, or as part of the pharaoh’s journey to the afterlife.

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How many stones are in the Great Pyramid?

It is estimated that the Great Pyramid is made of approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone.

Is there undiscovered treasure or rooms within the Great Pyramid?

Although the primary chambers are known, modern scanning technologies have hinted at the possibility of undiscovered rooms or voids, such as the “Big Void” discovered in 2017. However, no treasure has been found inside the Great Pyramid.

What happened when Napoleon entered the Great Pyramid of Giza?

According to legend, after spending hours alone in the Great Pyramid’s King’s Chamber, Napoleon emerged pale and shaken, a profound experience that he never disclosed.

This enigmatic encounter in Egypt is said to have deeply impacted the future French emperor, hinting at a transformative moment that could have altered the course of his life, yet its true nature remains a tantalizing mystery.

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Can tourists enter the Great Pyramid?

Yes, tourists can enter the Great Pyramid, but access is limited to certain areas to preserve the structure. Entry is regulated and requires a separate ticket from the general Giza Plateau admission.

What happened to the original smooth outer casing of the pyramid?

The Tura limestone casing stones were removed over centuries for use in other constructions. Only a few of these casing stones remain at the base of the pyramid.

As research continues, each discovery brings us closer to understanding the full extent of what lies within the Great Pyramid, a testament to human ingenuity and the enduring allure of ancient Egypt.

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