One of the most contested aspects of the architecture of the Great Pyramid is the function of the relieving compartments (or chambers) stacked above the King’s Chamber.  Do they serve a strictly symbolic purpose?  Do they represent, as has been suggested, the Djed Pillar, or some other sacred configuration?  Or do they serve a structural purpose, despite adding seemingly unnecessary weight atop the King’s Chamber?

French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin sees the answer in the arrangement of internal elements of the pyramid’s architecture still hidden from plain view, but discernable by other architectural and material oddities, such as the relieving compartments themselves.  Why were they so high?  What purpose did raising the pressure points serve?

This is the fifth in a series of fascinating dialogues held between writer Marc Chartier, of the website Pyramidales, and Jean-Pierre Houdin following the premier of Khufu Reborn, the next chapter in the unraveling the mysteries of the Great Pyramid and the Giza Plateau.  This series of articles is being provided in English for Em Hotep in an exclusive arrangement with Marc, Jean-Pierre, and the Project Khufu team at Dassault Systèmes.

I do not think this will be a scoop for anyone: the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid is topped by an imposing and complex superstructure, made from five so-called “relieving chambers”, supposed to protect it from hypothetically crushing the last remains of the Pharaoh nestled in the heart of the monument.

Even those uninitiated into the subtleties of the art of Egyptian construction can easily feel how much these masses and spaces capping the funereal chamber could and still can fuel debates between Egyptologists or pyramidologists. (This latter term is sufficiently vague that it usefully covers an entire army of researchers trying to understand the hows and whys of the Egyptian pyramids).

In particular, among other good questions, why a “simple” raftered vault would not have sufficed, as in what is called the “Queen’s Chamber” – also intended to house the mortal remains of the Pharaoh at some time in the pyramid’s history, and on the face of it subject to the same volumetric compression? What is the “security” bonus of this stack of utterly enormous monoliths?

We will skip over the thorny question of the cracks that appeared in this enormous structure: this is not relevant here. Moreover, Pyramidales has already made a contribution on this subject, unwittingly stirring up a pretty unhealthy controversy just where the search for knowledge is called for, to the exclusion of any favoritism or personal bitterness.

As the five superimposed chambers are not there purely for style, nor in answer to any gratuitous challenge the Egyptian builders might have set themselves, but really are important pieces of the gigantic pyramid “puzzle”, Jean-Pierre Houdin could not disregard them in his Khufu Reborn (aka Khufu Renaissance) reconstitution of the Great Pyramid’s construction. Quite the opposite, he recognizes their essential role, without which part of the “puzzle” could collapse.

Let’s summarize what we already know from Khufu Reborn. Following Jean-Pierre Houdin along what he calls the “Noble Circuit” (corridors and structures deep within the pyramid intended for the royal funeral procession), we have discovered two antechambers in front of the King’s chamber, then an access corridor running up to the “formal” entrance to this chamber, distinct from the service entrance.

The architect then continues his reading of these places, using a totally new approach. In his opinion, the relieving chambers were not designed to be, as is generally thought, a cascade of bulwarks to prevent the King’s chamber caving in. Their construction and disposition must rather be associated with the existence of the two corbel-vaulted antechambers, ensuring their stability by protecting them from the effects of transferred load.


A major technical challenge

According to Jean-Pierre Houdin, the major technical challenge that must have faced Hemiunu and Ankhhaf, the architects of the Great Pyramid, derives directly from their decision to build a flat ceiling for the King’s chamber. This innovation was fundamental… but it did not make the task easier! It is the very key to the special nature of the monument’s construction and the raison d’être for some of its main structures, such as the Grand Gallery, for example.

“From one pyramid to the next,” comments Jean-Pierre Houdin,

Egyptian builders kept what was successful, abandoned what they considered not so good and, above all, took advantage of the opportunity to try new construction techniques. For the Great Pyramid, they kept corbelling for the antechambers and set themselves a gigantic challenge: that of offering their king, Khufu, a funereal chamber with a flat ceiling. This was a technical feat that they had never before attempted.

The entire organization of the project depended on this bold choice. The architects ordered materials from different quarries, from those at Tura for the facing blocks, from those at Aswan, more than eight hundred kilometers to the south, for granite for the King’s Chamber. This granite was the only material capable of spanning a void of some 5.20 m between the north and south walls of the chamber. The quarrymen could not deliver the beams to Giza at the start of construction because it would take years to extract and transport them. While they got down to their work, the monument was taking form. The beams would all have to be delivered to the site by the fourteenth year of Khufu’s reign at the latest, the pyramid having then reached a height of 43 m.

Jean-Pierre Houdin then made a detailed examination of the consequences, in terms of cost and technological progress, of the architectural choice governing erection of the Great Pyramid, which had a funereal chamber that until then had not featured on any architect’s plans:

The Egyptians did not order granite beams from Aswan for the pleasure of hiding such a quantity of beams inside the bulk: 2,100 tons altogether in the 43 beams distributed over 5 ceilings between level +48.85 m and level +60.15 m.

Exceptional technical resources were deployed to bring them from the banks of the Nile to their final position: between the levels of the delivery port (altitude 20 m ASL) and the last ceiling (altitude 100.15 m ASL), an uphill haul of more than 80 m!


Exceptional resources for an exceptional project

Major resources for a major project. Indeed, exceptional resources for an exceptional project. According to Jean-Pierre Houdin, the construction of the Great Pyramid required nothing less than:

  • the construction of a ramp more than 600 m long (in red on the sketch above) between the port and the bottom of the Great Pyramid’s exterior ramp (in blue on the sketch);
  • the installation of a counterweight-assisted traction system by cutting a huge trench in the bedrock (later buried under the pyramid of Khafre: in green, in the middle, on the left on the sketch) as an extension of the ramp coming from the port (Pyramidales will return to these technical aspects in a future article);
  • construction of the Grand Gallery (in green, on top on the sketch) , a real built-in “crane”, as a second counterweight-assisted traction system to bring the beams into the pyramid enclosure for the construction of the ceilings;
  • creation of an entire series of additional structures (ascending corridor no. 1, horizontal corridor no. 1, portcullis chamber), needed to operate the counterweight.
Counterweight sliding in Grand Gallery

Counterweight sliding in Grand Gallery

This is what it cost to implement the ambitious plans of the architects for the Pyramid of Khufu! “The construction of a corbelled roof for the King’s Chamber,” comments Jean-Pierre Houdin,

would not have required any of these facilities, and there would never have been any granite in this pyramid. To have brought granite into the pyramid, the only material capable of spanning a void more than 5 m side and thus the only material to allow the construction of a flat ceiling, is the result of an architectural choice.


The “umbrella” effect

At this stage in our reading of the architectural plan for the Great Pyramid, guided by Jean-Pierre Houdin, a question arises: Hemiunu and Ankhhaf decided to install a flat ceiling on the King’s chamber. So be it! But why were they not content with just one ceiling, then capping it directly with a raftered vault, the only structure to deflects loads laterally, rather than transmit them vertically downward?

The architects of the Great Pyramid didn’t choose this solution

The architects of the Great Pyramid didn’t choose this solution

With such a hypothetical single ceiling surmounted by its inverted “V” vault, the Grand Gallery with its corbelled vault constructed parallel to the slope would not have seen its stability threatened in the slightest. The location of the Grand Gallery on a projection of the northern rafters of the roof at a slope of 50% would have been structurally equivalent, for example, to a buttress of a Gothic cathedral. The gallery therefore certainly did not require the installation of additional relieving chambers.

Let’s read our architect-guide’s explanations: “Rafters transfer loads along an oblique, and if there had been only the Grand Gallery in the zone receiving the oblique load, it would have had no difficulty ‘absorbing’ it.

“There are three reasons for this:

  • the Grand Gallery is aligned with the oblique load and, given its very imposing structure, it reacts as an abutment (it is even stronger than the surrounding ‘in-fill’);
  • the empty part of the Grand Gallery (2 cubits: the width of the last corbelling) only receives the oblique load over half of each rafter, which is positioned so that the other half is butted against the side walls of the Grand Gallery;
  • given the position of the Grand Gallery entirely to the east, the rafters transfer more than 90% of the northern oblique load into the ‘in-fill’, compared with 100% of the southern rafters’ load.

“Conclusion: there would be no structural reason for the structure of the relieving chambers, as constructed, if there were only the Grand Gallery to consider.”

The relieving chambers were not therefore constructed to protect the Grand Gallery, although the Grand Gallery was built to transport and position the monoliths for the five load-deflecting chambers.

From this it follows that the reason for the relieving chambers must be sought elsewhere. And this “elsewhere” is called the “antechambers”, an essential part, according to Jean-Pierre Houdin, of the funereal architecture in the “Khufu’s Inheritance” version (see previous article from Pyramidales).

Without the relieving chambers superstructure, the antechambers would have been crushed down by the oblique load transferred by the rafters of the North side of the roof.

Without the relieving chambers superstructure, the antechambers would have been crushed down by the oblique load transferred by the rafters of the North side of the roof.

Jean-Pierre continues:

If the Egyptian builders had put the inverted “V” roof immediately above the ceiling of the King’s chamber, this roof would have underpinned the entire load above it in order to transfer it to the sides. And the corbel-roofed antechambers, unable to withstand this huge oblique load, would have ended up collapsing. They would have been crushed under the load.

So the architects had not hesitated. As they needed the counterweights of the Grand Gallery to construct the first ceiling in any case, it was no harder for them to construct five of them, each one above the other, before installing the raftered roof.

In the end, what we term the ‘relieving chambers’ were not constructed to protect the King’s Chamber, but to protect the nearby antechambers. Nor are the ‘ceilings’ really ceilings, but beams that retain the side walls of a large void (described nowadays as a ‘reinforced trench’). Hemiunu and Ankhhaf, the Viziers of Khufu’s Great Royal Works, were not only great architects, they were also great engineers.

By raising the roof very high, the architects greatly enlarged the protected zone so that the oblique load passed above the corbelling of the antechambers. Therein lies the real reason for the huge structure above the King’s Chamber. The Egyptians could not have done otherwise. The ‘relieving chambers’ served only to raise the roof of the King’s Chamber as high as possible, so that the oblique loads did not push on the corbelling of the antechambers.

This is what Jean-Pierre Houdin describes as the “umbrella” effect: “This type of structure is only found in the Great Pyramid, but it is essential due to the choice made by the designers to cover the King’s Chamber with a flat ceiling.”

Jean-Pierre Houdin concludes his analysis:

With the antechambers perpendicular to the King’s Chamber, they could possibly have been covered by raftered roofs. The problem would then only have been worse: it would also have been necessary to ‘raise’ the ‘stone umbrella’ (the raftered roof) very high up in the mass, because, being perpendicular to the funereal chamber, they would have similarly received the oblique load from the northern rafters of the roof to the King’s Chamber. They would then have been distorted (tilted) or perhaps even crushed under the pressure.

But another problem would have arisen: the eastern slope of the antechambers’ raftered roofs would then have transferred the absorbed vertical loads laterally directly against the western wall of the Grand Gallery; and it is the latter that would finally have been crushed. The choice of corbelling for the antechambers was extremely shrewd and perfectly suited to the situation: they wisely absorbed the vertical loads, without spreading them around, which is why they had been considered and tested for almost a century.

The pyramid’s designers therefore created a zone devoid of oblique load from the rafters between the top of the antechambers’ corbelling and the upper oblique line of the sheltered zone.

This is explicit proof of a very great understanding of materials, loads, forces, stresses and structural behavior. Nowadays would we call this an ‘Engineering and Building Technology Consultancy’.

One little detail: this was 45 centuries ago; in other words, with 5 generations per century, 225 generations ago. Egyptology, which was itself born following Napoleon Bonaparte’s Egyptian Campaign, can only claim (a maximum of) 10 generations in existence…”

Interview by Marc Chartier for Pyramidales.

Copyright by Marc Chartier, 2011.  All rights reserved.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 10th, 2011 at 8:26 am and is filed under Old Kingdom, Pyramids, The Giza Plateau. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

15 comments so far

Terence R Brooker

The King’s Chamber was never designed for funery purposes and until this fact is ever accepted, its real purpose will not be forthcoming!

December 13th, 2011 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for commenting, Terence 🙂

There are other theories, of course. One popular one I myself believed for some time was that the KC was used for ceremonial/initiation purposes. Do you have a theory you want to pass along?


December 15th, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Occam would have a hard time with this explanation, given other ideas in circulation.

I started with the basic question of why a civilization would put this much effort into a tomb.. is there something else they would have been interested in besides burying their leaders. I can see past that now, but in the case of Khufu and its unique features I’ve yet to discover a more compelling theory than the one assembled by John Cadman. He focuses on the subterranean aspect of the design and concludes that it was a pump intended to produce an acoustic standing wave. Above the king’s chamber we have several layers of piezoelectric granite. This is where I lose the plot.

[Link removed–John Cadman can rely on Google same as me]

Would love to hear your take.

March 6th, 2012 at 3:37 am

First, thank you for your interest in the article.

I took a look at Cadman’s article, and I will admit that I didn’t finish it. I too will invoke Occam’s razor.. 😉

There are many, many other pyramids that were clearly never intended to be anything other than a tomb. The reason those of Khufu and Khafre get special attention by alternative theorists is because they are so honkin’ big. Nobody is suggesting that the pyramids of Teti or Unas were intended as pumps or acoustic standing wave generators because for people who are not interested in mainstream Egyptology, they are pretty boring. Other than their remarkable insides, they are just piles of rubble by now, and not particularly large piles of rubble at that.

I think the angle from which Occam might approach the question is to ask why, with a culture so totally preoccupied with religion and the afterlife, and the cult of dead leaders as their own key to an afterlife (this was, after all, during the Old Kingdom period, before the “democratization of mummification”), would they build a giant tomb, which is undeniably what pyramids were, for the purpose of pumping something or producing an acoustic wave? Occam might ask why a civilization which has produced more gigantic religious monuments and structures than any other prior to Roman Christianity, and which is replete with religious and mortuary imagery everywhere, would expend their greatest effort to build something about which there is no attestment anywhere in the Egyptian literature at all?

I am not intending to be sarcastic, although I know that is probably how I am coming across. But there are a lot of theories out there that seem whiskey bent and hellbound to prove that the pyramids were anything other than a tomb. But there is a very well established mortuary tradition with pyramid complexes, and I just don’t see the point in taking serious a theory that says that the Great Pyramid was a pump, a power generator, a beacon to extra terrestrials, or anything else that cannot account for the fact that it has a mortuary temple right there at the base, a valley temple where the embalming took place, and… well… a casket inside. Plus, the Egyptians themselves practiced Khufu’s mortuary cult there for a heck of a long time after his death. They knew it was a tomb and treated it as such.


March 7th, 2012 at 5:43 pm

Thanks for your reply. (No sarcasm taken btw.)

I agree that if one looks at the Great Pyramid in a vacuum, all kinds of wondrous theories can seem plausible. I looked at the pump idea, saw how it had been replicated using Khufu as a model, and simply agreed with it. When I came back around for historical perspective I realized that pyramid building was an Egyptian dynastic tradition. You might say this discredits the idea that a pyramid is anything other than a tomb, but I would disagree, if only in the case of Giza.

I have read (here) that the pyramid builders did experiment with their designs. I would be happily refuted if you told me that, aside from its size, the design of Khufu was common among many pyramids. But if it is unique, what do you attribute its uniqueness to?


March 7th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

Hi Greg,

I don’t normally get drawn in to alternative theories because there are already many places on the internet devoted to them, but sometimes you have to bend the rules. After all, every established theory began as an alternative theory at one point, and the questions you ask are fair: In what ways is Khufu’s pyramid similar to others, in what ways is it different, and what accounts for the differences?

Jean-Pierre’s theory about the two antechambers began with the same question: A certain pattern had been established with pyramid antechambers, so why aren’t there any in Khufu? The whole subject of Khufu Reborn and the second phase of Jean-Pierre’s work revolved around that question and where it led him. Marc’s interviews (of which this article is one) laid out the theory, and when I resume the “Hemienu to Houdin” series I plan to build on Marc’s work. But for now, these interviews can partially answer your questions about how Khufu’s pyramid was the same as others, and how and why there were innovations.

I can say this—the innovations had largely to do with the size and the decision to have a burial chamber with a flat ceiling. According to Jean-Pierre’s work, the innovations also have to do with protecting inner structures that have not yet been opened, but for which there is some pretty strong circumstantial and physical evidence. Once Laval University is able to proceed with planned empirical testing of Jean-Pierre’s work we might have more answers, but for now we are all at the mercy of the political situation in Egypt.

In the meanwhile, I will take a closer look at John Cadman’s theory and see if I can give you a more satisfactory answer, or at least a more informed opinion. I don’t know what common ground we might find, but at least you will know I did not simply write your enquiry off in a kneejerk manner. Please understand that I get emails practically every day accusing me of everything from mental incompetency to being either an Illuminati dupe or an active conspirator. As with most things, the truth is somewhere in the middle… 😉

And thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt (re: no sarcasm taken, btw). It was maybe more generous than I deserved. Hopefully my tone now is a little more appropriate to your own.

To be continued..


March 7th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Hello Keith,

Science seems to be in a desperate place these days. (At least that makes it easy to identify the people who are committed to it.)

I learned a lot from the Jean-Pierre interviews. The subterranean component is the only piece of the puzzle that I don’t see him address.

It looks like all the pyramids were built near water, which makes sense at least for transporting stone to the site. I haven’t been able to determine whether the subterranean tunnels were a regular pyramid feature or a more recent innovation. I’m still getting my head around Jean-Pierre’s work but I think a water lock and pumping scheme would be an elegant solution for moving monolithic blocks into place.

[link removed]

March 8th, 2012 at 9:44 am

Hi Greg,

First, I want to be 100% clear that this is a response to Cadmen, not you. You seem to be as interested in knowing the truth about the Great Pyramid as me, and we share a passion for Ancient Egypt. But after immersing myself in Cadmen… well… you’ll see.

Okeyyyyyy…… :-\

I spent a good part of last night and this morning dedicated to trying to understand Cadmen’s work because I wanted to be fair. Here is what I came up with. I would point out here that if you get bored or just want to skip the entire thing, the myth is pretty much busted in two bullet points at the end. Everything in between is just me taking it seriously before I knew better. So…

There is no question that if you were to flood the subterranean chamber in the Great Pyramid and somehow create a vacuum, water would be pulled up the so-called well-shaft to flood the Queen’s Chamber, Grand Gallery, and presuming enough water and pressure, flood the entire interior of the Great Pyramid. That is just physics. My question is: Why would you want to do that?? Was the pyramid designed to do this, was it ever used to do this, why and for what purpose, and what is the evidence?

For answers I turned to the author’s faq (by the way, I apologize for the sometimes awkward conventions I use for avoiding the author’s name, but I am happy to say that Em Hotep ranks pretty well with search engines in the narrow field of Egyptology, and I don’t want to become known as a place for discussing his work. It is the same reason why I exclude his links). His faq addresses some of the same questions I have about the water, its source, and the purpose. Let’s see how “well” (cheesy pun number one) he does so.

Question number one—where did the water for the pump come from? He makes the assertion that if a pump is a pump, it doesn’t matter where the water is, it’s still a pump. To me that is sort of like saying that a crowbar is a toothpick for giants. If you begin with the assumption that a crowbar is a toothpick for giants, then the absence of giants is no real problem. But just because a crowbar could be used as a toothpick for giants (if there were giants) that is not a reliable basis for assuming that is what crowbars were made for.

Just because a source of water poured down the descending passageway of the Great Pyramid could result, I am assuming via displacement, in a pumping action, it does not necessarily follow that it was designed for that purpose, and the absence of a water source is not only a fair critique, it’s a pretty glaring weakness in the hypothesis. If the ancient Egyptians wanted to use the pyramid for a pump, they would have built it closer to the Nile, rather than a couple of kilometers away, up on a plateau.

The author of the water pump hypothesis is apparently aware of this and gets around it by relying on another alternative theory—that the pyramids were built at a time when the Giza Plateau was not a desert. He proposes that the Lake of Moeris once surrounded the Great Pyramid, but this would have also flooded the tombs of the builders and nobles that are contemporary to the building of the Great Pyramid, as well as the builder’s city currently being excavated by Mark Lehner. In fact, if the Lake of Moeris had been present during the building of the pyramid, it would have flooded the entire Memphis Necropolis. There is not a stitch of evidence for this. But as we e will see a little later, by compounding conspiracy theory on top of conspiracy theory, the lack of evidence is actually pretty good evidence itself. And who can argue with that?

So my own answer is that there was no water source for a pump.

Question number two—wasn’t the Great Pyramid more than a pump? The author of the hypothesis answers his own question by pointing out that water could not only have turned the desert into farmland, it could also have powered other machines as well. But…

It takes more than water to turn a desert into farmland.. It takes soil. Egypt developed around the Nile because the Nile had very regular annual flooding that not only irrigated narrow strips along its banks, but which deposited dark, nutrient rich silt from the south, where it runs through lands that are not deserts. The ancient Egyptians did expand this fertile strip by artificial canals, much like the one that reached the base of the Giza Plateau for transporting some of the non-local blocks (the Tura facing stones and the Aswan granite), but these canals carried the Nile water, along with its silt deposits. The presence of this dark silt is why the ancients called the living part of the land the “Black Land”, and its absence is why the dead desert was called the “Red Land”.

I guess the theory’s author might say that it was the dark, nutrient rich water that was being carried to the pyramid and then pumped out, but why not just build canals that would carry the water from the plateau’s high point downward if they were wanting, for whatever reason, to flood the necropolis? Somebody mentions Occam’s Razor…?

As for the machines that were powered by the water from the pyramid pump, some evidence would help. Where are they? Where are the pictorial representations? What did the ancient Egyptians call them? Again, just because a crowbar could function as a toothpick for giants does not mean that is what it is.

So my answer is that the question is based on a false premise—the Great Pyramids was not “more than a pump”, it was a tomb for a pharaoh, not a pump.

Question number three—were all pyramids hydraulic pumps? The author does not directly answer the question, but judging from his description of the many variances between pyramids I will presume he means “no”. But he does make an assertion worth addressing—that the reason for each side of the Great Pyramid being equally divided from the apex to the center of the base is in order to provide increased strength against water pressure from within the pyramid during construction. He then goes on to conclude that this feature (and unnamed others) indicates that the builders used hydraulic techniques to build the pyramid.

But part of what makes a true pyramid, no matter where or what it is built of, or for what purpose, is that its sides can be equally divided from apex to base. That has to do with mathematics and physics, not water containment. Again, maybe these qualities could be used for that purpose, but their presence does not necessarily lead to that conclusion, as the author says they do. An arch operates on the same principle—that equal sides leaning against each other can span a space and support the weight above it. This principle allowed the construction of both cathedrals and aqueducts, but it does not necessarily follow that cathedrals were built to carry water.

So my answer to this question would be that no pyramids, including the Great Pyramid, were pumps, and the fact that its sturdy construction would have contained water pressure does not mean that it ever did. The physical characteristics of any pyramidal structure can be employed for a variety of uses, but that does not mean that any particular pyramid can be definitively described as being for a given use just based on its inherent physical characteristics.

Question number four—if the Great Pyramid was an irrigation pump, what area was irrigated? The author of the theory points out correctly that the Libyan Desert is higher than the site of the Great Pyramid—so is Khafre’s Pyramid, which is why it looks taller. He also asserts, not quite so correctly, that the Great Pyramid is not higher than the surrounding landscape. True, it is not higher than the part of the Plateau that is uphill… a given. But it is a good bit higher than the valley below. I am not exactly sure of where he is going with this. I guess he is saying that the higher plain would need a pump to be irrigable. Again, that’s a given. Where is the proof that it ever was?

The valley would have been irrigated by the annual flooding of the Nile. The Libyan Desert is irrigated, inasmuch as it is irrigated, by oases. There is no evidence of the desert around the Great Pyramid having been irrigated by the Ancient Egyptians.

So my answer to this question would be that the Great Pyramid was not an irrigation pump, therefore no area was irrigated by it.

Question number five—is this theory the hallucinations of a raving maniac? False dichotomy. The author of the theory seems to me to be a thinking person with an extremely high level of technical aptitude, I just think that his logic is faulty and his theory is wrong. The false dichotomy carries with it the implication that there are two camps—those who are correct, and therefore rational, and those who are incorrect, who are raving maniacs. History is replete with raving maniacs who happened to be correct, and level headed people who happened to be wrong.

The author’s answer to his question also includes another logical fallacy—appeal to authority. As evidence of his sanity the author cites the fact that his theory is included in a book by a Mr. Richard Noone, which predicted that the world would end on May, 5th, 2000. Appeal to authority is never a safe bet. You can cite the authority’s relevant work, but name dropping alone is risky business.

Dr. Smith may be the best oral surgeon in the world, but if he says that cavities are caused by evil spirits from Pluto, I might be very privileged to have him extract my wisdom teeth, but I’m probably not going to ask for his opinion on astrophysics, nor is he getting anywhere near my heart with a scalpel.

And all of that aside, what if Noone is a raving maniac? C. (Cadmen) does not establish Noone’s sanity. I know it seems like I am being nitpicky here, but C. himself opened that floodgate (cheesy pun number two) when he used Noone’s company as the measure of sanity. If Noone is sane, it does not necessarily follow that his inclusion of the pump theory in his book makes the theory’s author sane, nor can we rightly question the sanity of the theory’s author if Noone is a lunatic.

So my answer is to this question is that I do not know enough about C. to determine if he is a raving maniac, but I think his citing his inclusion in a book that predicted the world would end twelve years ago as evidence of his sanity—and by erroneous extension, the validity of his theory—shows poor judgment.

Question number six—Why aren’t the ideas of [another alternative theorist] accepted by most Egyptologists? To answer this, the author of the theory cites yet a third alternative theorist, who has a theory about the Great Sphinx being twice as old as orthodox Egyptologists claim. The author of the theory goes on to explain that he and the other two are marginalized by mainstream Egyptology because, if Egyptologists admitted to being wrong it would invalidate the books they have written and the classes they teach, and that there is a vested interest in suppressing alternative theories to eliminate the competition.

I have some degree of sympathy for this argument. Who amongst us has not been oppressed by Them at some point or another? They control the media, They rig the elections, and They killed Davey Jones and replaced him with Justin Beiber. Obviously They have a vested interest in keeping Egyptology locked in the Nineteenth Century. But the truth is, there really is resistance to new theories, and the tenured Dons of academia certainly do not what to spend their twilight years seeing their theories trashed by brash Young Turks with their ePhones and imail.

But in seriousness, a philosopher/sociologist of science by the name of Thomas Kuhn wrote a book called “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” that dealt with this very concept. Paradigm shifts in science as a rule meet a hell of a lot of resistance from those who want to maintain the status quo, often for personal and cynical reasons. It does not help matters that the paradigm breakers often come from an outside discipline, making them instant Others, the opposite number and sworn enemies of Them.

The example C. cites, of geologists disagreeing with Egyptologists about the age of the Great Sphinx, is a good example of Others challenging Them in a battle royale over control of the narrative. My problem is that I don’t think it is a good example of a successful scientific revolution because, as is too damned often the case, They are probably right. I think C. overplays his hand in the same way that climate change “debunkers” overplay their own case by citing a few experts who are supposed to be the exception to the rule—less equals more. The fact is, there are not a majority of geologists who say the Sphinx is twice as old as They say it is, it is in reality just a handful of outspoken media-savvy Others promoting an agenda of their own, which seems to me to be to sell books and get specials on TV.

So my answer to question number six would be, some (but not all) alternative theories are rejected by most Egyptologists because they happen to be unsupported by the evidence. In fact, some (but not all) are contradicted by the evidence. I think both the water pumping pyramid and the pre-Egyptian Sphinx fall into the “some” category. I think they are rejected by mainstream Egyptology not out of a hidden agenda to keep science from progressing, I think the only agenda is to keep the scientific field uncluttered by spurious theories.

Question number seven—what about the archaeological evidence that the Great Pyramid is surrounded by tombs? Why build a water pump in the middle of a grave yard? The author’s answer is that “most researchers (except traditional Egyptologists) [contend] that the Great Pyramid predated Dynastic Egypt.” The parenthetical part, by the way, is original to C., the bracketed part is my addition.

Now we are getting to the nub of it—Them vs Others. Them (the bad guys) think that the Great Pyramid was built by ancient Egyptians during the Fourth Dynasty. The Others (the good guys) agree that it was built prior to Dynastic Egypt. While most of what C. calls “researchers” may agree that the Great Pyramid was built before the Dynastic Egyptians, you might find that “by who” generates a wide diversity of answers. Maybe it was built by the people from Atlantis. Maybe it was built by, or under the guidance of, extra terrestrials. Maybe it was built by an ancient lost civilization. Anybody but the ancient Egyptians.

Now we see why evidence of the Great Pyramid being a pump is non-existant—the ancient Egyptians themselves obliterated the evidence with their unenlightened presence and turned the invention of a great lost civilization into a mere tomb. To which I say, prove it.

My answer to question number seven is, yes, I agree that most traditional Egyptologists think that the necropolis surrounding the Great Pyramid is contemporary to its construction. This has been established to the satisfaction of pretty much everyone who has studied and conducted actual research in the Giza Necropolis. It is not the contention of a few stuffy old gents who never get out of their office, it is the result of a fresh new crop of graduate students every year, working with established Egyptologists on site, to test, challenge, and build on the older theories. As regards the second part of the question—they didn’t build a water pump in the middle of a graveyard, they built a grave in the middle of a graveyard.

Question number eight—Was the pyramid built by slaves pulling blocks up a ramp? The author of the theory does not answer the question, he instead writes a paragraph about why you should buy the book. So I will answer it myself. No, slaves did not build the Great Pyramid, Egyptians working in a rotating feudal-style workforce built the pyramid by pulling blocks up ramps. As for whether or not you should buy the book, I can only say that I won’t, and from what I have seen, I don’t recommend you do either. Sorry.

Question nine—The Great Pyramid was built as a tomb for a pharaoh, true or false? The author asserts that there is little if any evidence that Khufu was buried in the Great Pyramid. He goes on to assert that the various “ineffective obstacles to tomb robbers” were actually valves to control the pyramid water pump.

At this point I consulted the author’s schematic of the pyramid pump in an effort to understand where these valves were and how he says they work. I am reconsidering the “Raving Maniac Hypothesis.” The schematic drawing of the “Pharaoh’s Pump” has the Grand Gallery facing in the opposite direction of how it actually faces, with the King’s Chamber on the opposite side and unconnected to the Grand Gallery, and a drain in the floor of the Queen’s Chamber leading down, across, and then up to where the entrance of the King’s Chamber is actually located.

There is a bonfire at the top of the Grand Gallery that plays some role in making the pump work, the Queen’s Chamber shafts are non-existent and the King’s Chamber shafts appear to have water running in them. The mechanism that in the REAL Great Pyramid is located between the top of the Grand Gallery and the King’s Chamber, C. has apparently moved to the bottom of the Grand Gallery, at the entrance to the Queen’s Chamber. There is no evidence of C.’s so-called combustion area at the top of the Grand Gallery. The amount of soot and burn evidence would be undeniable, if it were there. It isn’t.

His schematic does not even look like the inside of the Great Pyramid.

Ok, I think I have gone far enough. I have wasted half a day on this, the joke’s on me.

C. makes one more point about how the pyramid could not have been built with the tools the ancient Egyptians had, but that has been thoroughly debunked elsewhere and I have wasted enough time with this conspiracy theory. The remaining points in the faq have to do with how you can contribute money to C. If you really want to contribute to Egyptology, call a university with an Egyptology program, they are mostly starved for cash. This “theory” is standard issue conspiracy crap, and any money you contribute to it will be spent on something other than Egyptology, what C. and his cadre apparently call “research”.

I promised at the top that if you wanted the myth busted in two bullet points you could skip to the end, so here it is:

There are red ochre mason’s lines in the pyramid shafts of both the King’s Chamber and Queen’s Chamber, and there are hieratic characters painted in the small chamber at the end of the southern shaft in the Queen’s Chamber. These marks could only have been made during the shafts’ construction—they were inaccessible afterwards and were only discovered a couple of years ago by Project Djedi. Water flowing in these shafts, as depicted by C.’s own schematic would have washed these painted marks away. Water has never flowed through the pyramid shafts, full stop.

C. contends that there is no evidence of “non-invasive” burials in any pyramid. If the Great Pyramid was ever used as a tomb, and C. denies that it was, then it was only used by the Egyptians who he contends did not build it. Thus, the presence of a sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Great Pyramid is another example of an “invasive” burial. But the sarcophagus is too large to have been inserted later, the chamber had to have been constructed around it, which means it was put there by the people who built the pyramid. Very fortuitous for those benighted Egyptians.

So far as Em Hotep goes, this topic is now dead. If the debate is going to be resumed, it will have to be elsewhere. Cadmen’s theory does not hold water (cheesy pun number three), and will get no more air time here.


March 8th, 2012 at 5:50 pm

Keith, I’m sorry I didn’t warn you that C does have a lot of wild ideas. With respect to this discussion, the only one I was interested in is the purpose of the pyramid’s subterranean features. I still find it compelling that he built a working pump using those features as a guide.

I have enjoyed the hours spent on this exchange but the best I can come up with at the moment is that the Egyptians are credited with a lot of historical firsts relating to water, hydrodynamics, hydraulics. (See articles on water clock, Moeris, siphon.) Perhaps the cycles of the Nile led them to conquer this force.

I suppose you’d say I’m stuck on this theory that water was involved in the construction of Khufu. I do consider it a very elegant solution and it’s not flagrantly out of time and place for the technology of this civilization. Yet the only ‘official’ theories I’ve read about the subterranean features is that they were screwups or they were intended to confuse robbers. Is that acceptable? How does one ignore this question when we haven’t proven that it was built another way?


March 8th, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Hi Greg,

That’s ok! As for the subterranean chamber in Khufu’s pyramid, I tend to favor Jean-Pierre’s hypothesis that both it and the so-called Queen’s Chamber were provisional burial chambers constructed in case Khufu died before the pyramid was finished. The subterranean chamber was left unfinished because they had it to the point where, if Khufu did die, it could be finished in the time it took to mummify him. Once the QC provisional tomb was finished, there was no longer any need for it even as a provisional tomb, so it was left as is.

I agree that the Ancient Egyptians made good use of water both as a resource and as a tool. I agree, this has been an interesting and enjoyable exchange. Thank you, Greg 🙂


March 8th, 2012 at 11:03 pm
Gideon Dreyer

Hi, my only difficulty here is the burial in the sky and not in the earth, in the dark. And who would steal a lid of the sarcophagus. two questions in fact. thanks for this site. Gideon

March 21st, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Hi all!

Congrats, this is the greatest site I have ever seen! I also read the book of Pierre.

I have two qoestions to the forum, perhaps somebody knows the answer.

How old is the unfinished bedrock chamber? Heminu was such a great engineer constructing the whole pyramid; would he really waste so much time and effort to build a chamber 30 meters below surface, in the bedrock, and with a passage as straight it can be?

2nd question: in the red Snefru pyramid, the transition of pyramid blocks build on the bedrock is weird. I shows that the bedrock has the same wearing caused by weather influences as is seen at the sphinx and on the walls of the valley temples. The “modern” masonry blocks placed by Snefru’s architect are not worn. It seem that those underground chambers existed long before the pyramid was built. Might that be also with Kufu’s underground chamber?

And yes, does anyone now when further investigations in the great pyramid continue?

Cheers all,


May 23rd, 2012 at 1:26 am
Richard O'Neill

Really enjoying this whole site, is there an up to date publication on Houdin’s work, as a lot of this material wasn’t in the first book

October 31st, 2012 at 4:52 am
Paul van Gelderen

Sorry to be a latecomer, but I was wondering if the problem of the roof of the King’s chamber putting too much pressure on the antechambers wouold not have been easier solved by rotating the roof 90 degrees so the pressure would be deflected into the mass of the pyramid?

(Apologies if this was already mentioned somewhere; I didn’t see it.)

April 3rd, 2017 at 6:34 am
Steve Daniel

Paul, the room isn’t square but could have been rotated 90° to do exactly what you suggest. It didn’t need to be at right angles to the Grand gallery and could have had the same construction as the queen’s chamber. Alternatively, the ceiling of the kings chamber could have been raised to reduce the number of “relieving” chambers. I found this site after reading about the void found with muon detectors and wondered if they were connected. As an engineer, I have always doubted that they did much to justify their effort; but FEA want around back then. If the pyramid took a lot more than 20 years to build, and Khufu died during construction, he could still be sealed up somewhere inside.

November 2nd, 2017 at 11:37 am

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