The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops)
Chambers and passages inside the pyramid of Khufu
Khufu's pyramid is not only the largest pyramid ever built, but it also
has the most complicated inner structures of all pyramids. This posed
a special challenge to the pyramid builders.
Overview Giza plateau - Overview
pyramid of Khufu - King's chamber - Stress-relieving
or stressing chambers? - Grand gallery - Antechamber
with portcullises - Air shafts -
Satellite pyramids - Sources
Please check out the pages about how the materials to build the passages
and chambers were transported up the pyramid.
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
Overview pyramid building
Overview Giza plateau
Memphis and its necropolis with the Pyramids of Giza, Abusir,
Saqqara und Dahshur were declared an Unesco
World Heritage Site.
Google Earth photo of the pyramids.
The Giza Plateau (Gizeh, Ghizeh, or Geezeh in Arab Al-Gîza)
with Khufu's, Khafre's and Menkaure's pyramids [1,3]
Overview Khufu's pyramid
1. Entrance with descending corridor 2. Entrance cut by grave robbers
3. Subterranean chamber 4. Grand Gallery 5. King's chamber, relieving
chambers, granite portcullis slabs 6. Queen's chamber 7. Shaft 8. Limestone
plugging the air shaft A= "Air shafts". The height of the core
of bedrock is only known at the places where the shafts and corridors
intersect and at the corners of the pyramid. It might be higher than on
The pyramid building yard - the center of
the construction project
The King's chamber
The King's chamber lies on 43.03m  and is lined
with granite. On top of the chamber are five so called relieving chambers
(see below). A granite sarcophagus lies
in the chamber, but it is not known if there ever was a corpse put to
rest there; a mummy or grave goods haven't been found inside the pyramid.
Plan of the King's chamber:
The King's Chamber (crypt) of Khufu's pyramid with its five relieving
chambers built with huge granite stone blocks. South to North (left) and
1. Kings chamber 2. Antechamber with portcullises 3. Sarcophagus 4. Air
shaft 5. Horizontal granite beams 6. Supporting limestone beams 7. Pointed
gabled roof of limestone 8. Stress-relieving chambers 9. Grand Gallery
The stones are drawn according to Stadelmann 
and Arnold , and the shafts according to a map
of Gantenbrink .
Dimensions of the King's chamber:
The measurements of the King's chamber are very interesting: the floor
plan is 10 X 20 Royal cubits (5.24m x 10.48m) with a height of 10.172
Royal cubits (5.33m). Experts were puzzled, why the height of the chamber
is not a whole number, for example 10 Royal cubits .
if you take a closer look you realize, that this was not by accident or
because of a slight miscalculation but was based on a well thought decision
of the master builder. Not the height but the diagonal of the smaller
side wall (15 Royal cubits = 7.86m) and the diagonal through the whole
room (25 Royal cubits = 13.1m) are whole-numbered (drawn with blue). Using
those distances to countercheck, the Egyptian master builders could be
sure, that the chamber which is completely enclosed inside the pyramid
structure was right-angled - otherwise a very difficult task to accomplish.
The ancient Egyptians didn't know the theory explaining the Pythagorean
theorem (a² + b² = c²) but they knew from experience, that
they could form right angles by using a so called primitive Pythagorean
triple (for example 3²+4²=5²). As the King's chamber shows,
they used this knowledge expertly when building.
Alignment of the pyramids and controlling
the shape of the pyramid
The base of the granite sarcophagus, lying in the King's chamber
of Khufu's pyramid measures 98,7 x 105,1 x 227,6cm ,
there is no lid. Because of its size the sarcophagus must have been transported
there already while the construction of the King's chamber was taking
place, it would not have been possible to haul it through the passages,
the Grand Gallery and specially past the low entrance into the chamber
According to some Egyptologists  the inside
of the sarcophagus was hollowed out using a bow drill and copper
bits. To chisel the precise corners inside the sarcophagus and
to make reliefs they suggest that chisels and scrapers made from stone
were used, not metal tools. The sarcophagus is made from hard granite,
so how could it have been hollowed out using only copper tools?
Franz Löhner calculated, that if you use drills made from copper
you would have needed 16 to 18 years to fashion the sarcophagus. Copper
wears off immediately and because it is very soft and granite very hard,
the tools would have to be reforged all the time. Without iron
tools it is not possible to drill granite or to chisel the precise corners
or a relief!
Cutting granite with iron tools
Stress-relieving or stress-creating chambers?
The largest granite beams were used for the so called relieving chambers.
The beams are about 2m thick and 8m long, between them lie limestone beams
and the whole structure is covered with a gabled roof also made from limestone.
Here the largest granite beams were used, they weight from 40 to 50 tons
and had to be brought to a height of 43 to 65 meters (= tip of the gable).
The lifting of these beams is challenging but not a insurmountable problem,
if you use Franz Löhner's heavy duty track system.
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
We only know about the stress-relieving chambers because in 1837 Howard
Vyse had small tunnels dug and blasted, but we don't know about what lies
on top of the gable. If you compare the configuration of the King's chamber
with the way the entrance to
the pyramid was built you notice, that two layers of stone blocks were
used there to form a double gabled roof. For this reason some archeologists
conjecture, that there might be another layer of limestone slabs lying
on top forming a double gabled roof.
Why build these chambers?
The King's chamber is a hollow space in the middle of a massive structure
of stone. The chamber itself is a hard granite nucleus surrounded by softer
limestone. On the roof beams which lie on 48 meters, another 98 meters
of stone press down - that weight is enormous! One cubic meter of limestone
weights 2.6 tons (density 2600 - 2900 kg/m³), so each square meter
of the roof is weighted down with 254.8 tons!
The purpose of the relieving chambers probably was to absorb
the enormous pressure on the King's chamber and to redirect it into the
surrounding stones. Because granite has a higher compressive
strength than limestone (160 - 240 N/mm² instead of 80 - 180 N/mm²)
the builders mainly used this type of rock. Compressive strength is the
capacity of a material to withstand axially directed pushing forces.
Damage observed in the stress-relieving chambers
The roof is slightly caved in, because the two gables don't lean flush
on each other anymore
2. The limestone supports are straining from the enormous
3. The original plaster bond between the upper western
granite beams and the western wall has moved by 15cm
4. Because 98 meters of stone press on the hard granite
chamber, the softer limestone around it shifted and lowered by 15cm. The
southern wall was injured and the chamber warped. The first and fifth
stone course subsided and from the eastern corner a long fissure is running
through several stones .
5. The roof beams are contorted by 4 cm and the second,
third and forth beam have burst at several places.
6. The so called air shaft is bent, perhaps because
of the lateral pressure.
The King's chamber was built high up on
43.03 meters - other pyramids had chambers underground or positioned only
a few meters above ground. For Khufu's pyramid the master builders had
to deal with totally new problems.
Because several granite beams have burst or otherwise been
damaged and the softer limestone around the chamber has been lowered by
15cm, some people think, that the stress-relieving chambers should be
called "stress-creating" chambers .
But the fact, that the King's chamber hasn't yet collapsed shows, that
the pyramid builders had found a solution that worked for thousands of
The Grand Gallery
The entrance used today to enter the pyramid is a breach underneath the
original entrance to the pyramid. Nowadays you go directly to the Grand
Gallery bypassing three large stones blocking the corridor.
The Grand Gallery is very impressive, it is 46.71m long, the roof is
8.74m high and the walls are made from granite. The roof forms a 26°-angle
 and consists of seven corbels. With Franz Löhner's
heavy duty track system you can transport the granite blocks you need
here up to the appropriate height with no problems.
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
It is interesting, that the so called corbelled vault
was "invented" at the same time as the larger pyramids were
built. The first corbelled vault was built in the pyramid of Meidum, then
Sneferu's pyramids and Khufu's pyramid followed :
- Pyramid of Meidum - corbelled vault spanning 2.65m, 5.05m high
- Bent pyramid with 2 burial chambers, the first 4.96 by 6.3m and 17.3m
high, the second 5.26 by 7.97m and 16.48m high
- Red pyramid - corbelled vault of 4.18 by 8.35m and 14.67m high with
- Khufu's pyramid (Grand Gallery) - corbelled vault 2.09m by 46.71m
and 8.74m high
Why was this new building element employed? A corbelled vault is used,
if the distance from one wall to the other is too large, so a piece of
stone put flat can't overcome it. Interestingly this new building element
abruptly appears and is executed right away on a very high level. Then,
two generations later it is already not employed anymore (Khafre's pyramid
only has gabled roofs, Menkaure's pyramid vaults).
If you read German check out this
book: H. Illig Wann lebten die
Antechamber with Portcullis
Three granite stones were once suspended in the antechamber to the King's
chamber. These so called portcullises were probably lowered after the
funeral ceremonies and blocked the access to the tomb. Their purpose was
to impede tomb raiders from entering. There were also 25 to 26 large blocks
lowered into the Grand Gallery , blocking it
completely. This system didn't help much - the robbers probably climbed
over the lowered portcullises and chiseled off enough of the granite over
the entrance to the burial chamber to be able to enter. Portcullises are
also known from the Bent pyramid and from Khafre's pyramid.
manner how those heavy portcullis slabs were suspended uses the
same principle as Löhner's rope roll. Ropes were slung over
a round longitudinal support (= roll) and then tied to a cross beam. The
rope glided over the beams and the huge weights were moved, but there
was no wheel or axle involved. The slabs were probably held in position
by wooden supports . The same principle was
used to lower other portcullises and stone plugs into corridors and shafts
- putlog holes for the wooden beams were found in several tombs.
Löhner's rope roll
The round cross beams were resting on specially shaped stones, which
had a semicircular cut on top. Franz Löhner thinks, that the tracks
he suggests for the sledges were also anchored to the pyramid flank on
similar looking Tura stones.
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's
image, how the portcullises were lowered (click on Anck symbol www.chufu.de)
/ Illustration portcullis
/ Photo side joints
for the ropes / semicircular cuts
for the beams / anchoring
the tracks according to Franz Löhner
The Air Shafts
These shafts start from the King's chamber and the Queen's
chamber upwards and to the north and south. The air shafts, which start
in the King's chamber are better known. They are made from limestone,
except where they cross the granite walls of the chamber. The exit of
the northern shaft was enlarged by tomb robbers to a depth of 11m ,
and part of the shaft destroyed. The southern exit of the shaft to the
surface of the pyramid was restored. It is not known, if the shafts were
covered by the outer casing stones or
not, because the stones are not there anymore. Both shafts are not straight,
but slightly bent .
There are also 2 shafts originating from the Queen's chamber,
but they were covered up originally. These "Air shafts" were
discovered in 1872 by Wayman Dixon who put a piece of wire through one
of the joints and realized, that the wall sounded hollow at two places.
He then broke open the wall and discovered the shafts which have a diameter
of 20 by 20cm.
In 1993 the engineer Rudolf Gantenbrink 
sent a robot into the air shafts. After 66m he discovered a stone blocking
the access to the rest of the shaft. In 2002 another robot (Pyramid Rover
2) was sent in again, this time with the cooperation of National Geographic
and the blocking stone was drilled through. Behind it was a small empty
space and a second blocking stone. If there is a third blocking stone
or if anything else can be found in the shaft is not known.
Those shafts only exist in the pyramid of Khufu but are
not known from other pyramids. This is probably the reason why speculations
about the purpose of these shafts are banded about. The explanations go
from "should have helped the Ba of the pharaoh to be able to enter
and exit"  to some undefined logistic function
or that they point to the Orion or to the Polar star.
If you discuss the function of these shafts you shouldn't
forget, that at least two of the shafts were completely covered. So one
thing is clear - they can't have been there to get fresh air
into the tombs, for that they would have to be open on both sides.
upuaut project Gantenbrinks robot explores the air shafts in the Khufu's
pyramid - excellent three
dimensional drawings of the shafts with scale.
Wikipedia about the Ba
Image of the northern
Illustration of the Queen's
chamber and its hidden shafts (www.cheops.org)
Critical words about the theory, that the 3 Giza pyramids are positioned
like the Orion's
belt (Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval) on www.doernenburg.de (in
The satellite pyramids
The three Queen's pyramid lie 56.2m (=107 cubits) from the eastern edge
of Khufu's pyramid (photo).
Like Khufu's pyramid all satellite pyramids have an angle of inclination
of nearly 52° . The ground where those pyramids
were built is sloping slightly to the south, this is probably the reason,
why their corners are not exactly right-angled. The side lengths measured
are from 45.2 to 49m (87 to 90 cubits). Some Egyptologists calculate 88
cubits which would be a fifth of the side length of Khufu's pyramid. They
think that, notwithstanding the sloping ground the builders wanted, that
the tips of the pyramid would be optically on the same height (G1a = 56
cubits=29.3m, G1b = 58 cubits=30.25m) . Because
the outer casing stones of those pyramids were removed we also don't know,
if they were step pyramids (as you would assume seeing the pyramids now)
or if they had a smooth outer surface.
The exact date, when those satellite pyramids were built is not known.
Some Egyptologists think, all three were built together, others reckon,
that the most northern pyramid, G1a was built first, because it lies on
the best building ground. Then the pyramid G1b would follow, it lies 10-12m
from the first one and last G1c would have been built, because it lies
on the most unfavorable building ground of the three and is built quite
close to G1b (4-6m). Goyon thinks, that the satellite pyramids were only
built, when most of the main pyramid was already finished .
Archeologists are not yet sure, for whom the pyramids were built. They
were named after queens (Hetepheres G1a, Meritites G1b, Henutsen G1c)
but these attributions are quite hypothetical because no inscriptions
Khufu's pyramid complex with the four satellite pyramids
(the attribution as the queens burial places is not certain 
- G1a Hetepheres, G1b Meritetes, G1c Henutsen and the recently discovered
Overview construction of the pyramid
Löhner's rope roll
South of Khufu's pyramid lies the small pyramid G1d, which
measures 23 x 23m, with an angle of inclination of 52° .
It is interesting, that 23.05m are exactly 44 cubits, which again are
a tenth of the side length of Khufu's pyramid (440 cubits). This satellite
pyramid was only found in 1993 by Z. Hawrass and is interpreted as a cult
pyramid (like the small pyramid G2a near Khafre's pyramid). During the
excavations a pyramidion was also found.
Alignment of the pyramids and controlling
the shape of the pyramid (using a small pyramid to adjust the exact
 D. Arnold Lexikon
der Ägyptischen Baukunst
 D. Arnold Building in Egypt
 J. Kérisel La pyramide
à travers les âges
 R. Stadelmann Die grossen
Pyramiden von Giza
 R. Gantenbrink 3D-drawings
 H. Illig und F. Löhner Der
Bau der Cheops-Pyramide
 D. Stocks Stone sarcophagus manufacture
in ancient Egypt
 J. P. Lauer Das Geheimnis der
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der Cheops-Pyramide - Informationen