May 14, 2012

Pyramids of Giza Facts Part 4

The second pyramid at Giza is that of King Chephren (known to the Egyptians as Khaef-Re). Chephren’s pyramid actually appears taller than the Great Pyramid, simply because it is situated on slightly higher ground. Its measurements at the time of construction were nearly 708 feet square and 471 feet high; now it is slightly more than 690 feet square and reaches a height of only 448 feet. The other reason for the illusion of greater height is that although the base of Chephren’s pyramid is smaller than that of Cheop’s, its faces slope at a steeper angle, 52 de grees, 20 minutes, which allowed it to reach a height of only 10 feet less than the Great Pyramid.
The exterior of Chephren’s pyramid is somewhat unique in two respects: it is faced with two different types of stone, and most of its facing is still intact. The outer casing which remains intact near the apex is of Tura limestone, while the casing at the base is of red granite.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
There are, surprisingly, two entrances to the substructure on the north side of the pyramid. One entrance is situated on the north face of the pyramid, and the other is directly beneath it, just past the foundation wall of the pyramid. Both corridors from each entrance descend at about the same angle. The upper corridor, lined with red granite, levels out and leads into a chamber 46lA feet long, 16'A feet wide and 22Vi feet high. Interestingly, the chamber is aligned with its shortest side in the north-south direction. The entire chamber, except for the roof was hewn out of the rock beneath the pyramid. The roof, which is within the pyramid structure itself, is gabled of slabs of limestone which were laid at the same angle as that of the faces of the pyramid. Signs of attempts to place ventilating shafts, similar to those in Cheops’ pyramid, are apparent but were never undertaken. Near the west side of the chamber a magnificent polished granite rectangular sarcophagus is sunk into the floor up to the lid. The lid was found removed and broken in two when the chamber was first entered by archaeologists in 1818. Of course, no mummy was found.

The lower corridor levels out after its descent, much like the upper corridor, and then slopes upward again to enter the horizontal part of the upper chamber through its floor. The horizontal portion of the lower corridor contains an entrance ramp in the west side which leads into a chamber slightly larger than 34 feet long, 10 feet wide and 8 feet high. It is thought that this chamber was originally intended to be the tomb and for some reason the larger chamber was built to receive the sarcophagus.

The third pyramid in the group is ascribed to Mycerinus. However, there are no validated records available to shed light on the life and character of Mycerinus. The only structure even nearly completed among the pyramid complex of Mycerinus is the actual pyramid; the subsidiary buildings are in various stages of completion. The Pyramid of Mycerinus covers less than one-fourth of the area of Cheops’ Pyramid and was originally 218 feet high. It now stands only 204 feet.

As on the facing of Chephren’s Pyramid, the pyramid of Mycerinus has Tura limestone facing on the uppermost section and red granite casing on the lower section. The interior of the pyramid is not unique in its planning, and is somewhat similar to that of the Great Pyramid. There is evidence of a corridor, thought to be originally the primary entrance to the pyramid, which was never finished; a second, lower corridor was built instead. The possibility exists that this blind corridor may perhaps have been intended to lead to another chamber, the construction of which was never even begun because of the untimely death of Mycerinus.

The entrance corridor leads into an ante-chamber and then continues into a large rectangular room,- whose longest axis is aligned east-west. At the end of this room is what is thought to be the burial chamber.

This is built entirely of granite walls, floor and pointed roof. The underside of the roof was rounded to give a barrel-vault effect.

The British colonel Howard Vyse originally opened the pyramid of Mycerinus during his excavations of 1837 and 1838. He found a sealed rectangular, panel-decorated, carved basalt sarcophagus; also, some human bones and the lid of a wooden coffin inscribed with the name of Mycerinus. Colonel Vyse decided to ship the presumably never-opened sarcophagus back to England. Unfortunately, the ship floundered off the coast of Spain and the sarcophagus was lost. This sinking led to the story of the fulfillment of a so-called mummy’s curse which periodically makes a sensational story for the news media. There is no known record of whether the sarcophagus was empty or not. It has been difficult to identify the owners of the many subsidiary pyramids and mini-pyramids in each of the three pyramid complexes. The builders are assumed to be those of the original main pyramids. The difficulty lies in the fact that after the pyramid complexes were built, many noblepeople and others of even lesser rank had themselves buried in vaults, chambers and mini-pyramids either within or close to the complex, in order that they might receive the benefit of being buried near their idols and perhaps reap the same benefits in the afterlife and live with their pharaohs.

It is thought that during the time of Chephren, the Sphinx was carved from a monolith left as surplus by the builders of the Great Pyramid. The Sphinx is, as most authorities agree, a recumbent lion with a human head. When completed, it probably had a covering of plaster and was painted with royal colors.

The symbol of royalty is well portrayed by the beard on its chin, the cobra snake on its forehead and the royal headdress. The width of the face alone, is nearly 14 feet at its maximum. The colossal figure is over 66 feet high and more than 240 feet long; its weight is estimated to be in hundreds, if not thousands, of tons.

Although now very much in disrepair, it is believed that the human face was either originally intended to be that of Chephren, or perhaps was revamped during his reign to resemble him.

The dream of Tuthmosis IV of the Eighteenth Dynasty is recorded on a red granite stone which is perched between the paws of the Sphinx. The stone’s story has been deciphered to explain that one day, when Tuthmosis was still a prince, he decided to rest during a hunting expedition. He fell asleep in the shade of the Sphinx, and had a dream in which the Sphinx, regarded at that time to be the sun god Harmachis, promised to reward him with the double crown of Egypt if he were to clear the sand away from the Sphinx and restore its majestic beauty. The rest of the inscription is too worn to relate just how the promise was fulfilled. Apparently it was, because Tuthmosis IV did have the Sphinx restored.

The mythology of the Egyptians always contains a lion as the guardian of sacred places. This could date back to the priests of Heliopolis who incorporated into their solar creed, the lion as the guardian of the gates of the underworld. The lion, as symbolized by the Sphinx, retained the function of a sentinel, while its human features are thought to have been those of an early sun deity known as Atum. When the face of the Sphinx was re-chiseled to resemble
Chephren’s, it is probable that the pharaoh identified with the sun god and intended that the Sphinx represent him (Chephren) as the solar deity in its sentinel position by the Giza Pyramids.

There are some experts who believe that there may be some tunnels or corridors to which access is gained through a hidden entrance on the structure of the Sphinx, linking the three main pyramids to their secret burial chambers. However, no such secret passageway has been found, and the accepted premise is that it does not exist.

Colossal pyramids; missing mummies; scant pieces of jewelry and furniture, apparently left as token items for robbers of burial vaults; missing capstones; empty sacophagi; mind-boggling feats of engineering: these are the clues, scattered over a mere 500 years, to what is perhaps the most perplexing mystery of all time. And, to add to the intrigue, it appears from the records surviving from the Old Kingdom Period that the peoples of successive Egyptian dynasties were as mystified by it all as we are today.

In the next chapter, we will discuss the theories of the purpose and construction methods of the pyramids, as propounded by modem Egyptologists.

Pyramids of Giza :
Pyramids of Giza Facts Part 1
Pyramids of Giza Facts Part 2
Pyramids of Giza Facts Part 3
Pyramids of Giza Facts Part 4


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