Archive for the ‘The Giza Plateau’ Category

Last week the news about the preliminary findings of the Djedi Project broke worldwide, and not without a little sensationalism.  While sensationalism can be fun, it can also backfire when people form preconceived notions about what the findings mean.

“Red-painted numbers and graffiti are very common around Giza,” advises Peter Der Manuelian, an Egyptologist at Harvard University and director of the Giza Archives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “They are often masons’ or work-gangs’ marks, denoting numbers, dates or even the names of the gangs.”

There is a lot to be excited about with the Djedi mission, but we need to keep the discoveries in context until Egyptologists have had an opportunity to analyze the findings and their implications.  But that does not mean that we can’t have some fun in the meanwhile…

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Follow Pharaoh Khufu’s funeral procession into the Great Pyramid where we learn the layout of the two very different routes to the King’s Chamber—one used by the workers in the construction of the vast monument, and one created for the sole purpose of the king’s last journey from his Valley Temple to the burial room.

This is the seventh article in a series based on Marc Chartier’s discussions with Jean-Pierre Houdin following the premier of Khufu Reborn, the long awaited revelation of the second chapter of Project Khufu.  These articles are provided in English to Em Hotep via special arrangement with Marc Chartier/Pyramidales, Jean-Pierre Houdin and the Project Khufu team at Dassault Systèmes.

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Jean-Pierre Houdin’s theory of the how the Great Pyramid was built continues to unfold.  How were the sixty-ton megalithic beams moved from the harbor at the base of the Giza Plateau to 43+ meters high into the Great Pyramid?  Was there a second counterweight system like the one in the Grand Gallery?  Why was Khafre’s Royal Causeway so wide?

In this, the sixth in a series of articles and interviews from Pyramidales writer Marc Chartier, we learn some of the key evolutions in Jean-Pierre Houdin’s theory.  In the few short years between Khufu Revealed and Khufu Reborn, researcher/architect Houdin has expanded his work to account for anomalies surrounding the pyramid of Khufu’s successor, Pharaoh Khafre, and what they tell us about Khufu’s pyramid.

The English-language version of this article was very kindly provided by Marc Chartier, Jean-Pierre Houdin, and the Project Khufu team at Dassault Systèmes exclusively for Em Hotep readers.

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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.

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Is there a second, as of yet unopened, entrance to the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid?  How did the ancient builders seal the burial chamber?  Measuring the entrance that we do know about suggests that the sealing block would have fit into the entrance like a cork, but this cork was made to plug the neck from within the bottle.  In other words, the sealing block could only have been closed from within the King’s Chamber. 

So who pushed the block into place, when did they do it, and how did they get out?  Human sacrifice within royal tombs had not been practiced since the early years of the Second Dynasty, so, cork or no cork, ultimately the King’s Chamber had to be sealed from the outside.  How do we reconcile this contradiction?

This is the fourth in a series of articles and interviews conducted by Marc Chartier, writer and webmaster of the French-language site Pyramidales, with Jean-Pierre and other key members of Team Khufu, provided in English exclusively to Em Hotep.

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The legacy Pharaoh Snefru left to his heir, Khufu, included more than the crown and wealth of the Old Kingdom.  Building on an architectural and engineering revolution that stretched at least as far back as Pharaoh Djoser’s Master Builder, Imhotep, Khufu’s own architect Hemiunu was determined to build a monument that would last the ages.  To say the least, he was successful.

But erecting the final resting place of a god-king involved more than structural and aesthetic considerations.  Hemiunu was creating sacred ground, and within Khufu’s holy mountain there were specific paths to be trodden and a celestial order of operations to be observed.

Beginning with the physical evidence from the pyramid, Jean-Pierre Houdin pieces these ancient traditions together in a way that suggests where to look and what to look for in unlocking the secrets of the Great Pyramid.  This is the third in a series of articles and interviews conducted by Marc Chartier with Jean-Pierre and other key members of Team Khufu, provided in English exclusively to Em Hotep.

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Part Two of Marc Chartier’s interview with Jean-Pierre Houdin following the premier of Kheops Renaissance, the long-awaited Episode Two of Project Khufu.  This interview is part of a series of articles that first appeared on the website Pyramidales, run by Marc Chartier.  These exclusive English-language translations are provided to Em Hotep courtesy of Marc, Jean-Pierre Houdin, and Dassault Systèmes

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Just hours before the premier of Kheops Renaissance (also called Khufu Reborn), Jean-Pierre Houdin granted an exclusive interview to fellow Egyptology blogger Marc Chartier, proprietor of the website Pyramidales.  Timed for release immediately following the event, Marc’s interview is a perfect introduction to Episode Two and the  Project Khufu material that will be forthcoming from both Pyramidales and Em Hotep.

Previously available only in French, this is the first official English language translation, made available through our partnership with Pyramidales and Dassault Systèmes.  Over the next few weeks I will be publishing, in addition to Part Two of this interview, translations of additional material that is being very kindly provided by Marc, Jean-Pierre, and the Project Khufu team at Dassault Systèmes.  This will allow me some time to get caught up and reoriented after having to take one of my infamous sabbaticals (sometimes life just shows up with a bag full of challenges, but all is well, Gentle Reader!).

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labelJean-Pierre Houdin’s theory of how the Great Pyramid of Khufu was built is unique not only in that he explains how this engineering marvel was accomplished, he shows how the architecture itself gives up these secrets.  Nowhere is this more evident than in his explanation of how the Grand Gallery served as the mechanism for constructing the King’s Chamber.

The burial room of Pharaoh Khufu required that his Overseer of Royal Projects, the great architect and engineer Hemiunu, transport massive beams of granite, some of which weighed in excess of 60 tons, more than 60 meters above the pyramid’s foundation.  With each successive course of blocks his workspace became more confined, the uphill drag became longer, and the placement became more precise.  Where did the energy required for this undertaking come from?

In Phase One we looked at how two thirds of the pyramid and all of its internal structures below the King’s Chamber were constructed with a ramp that reached less than one third of its height.  In Phase Two we will look at how the King’s Chamber and its related architecture were built using this same ramp, as well as some innovations in design and methodology that included scaffolding, an elevator, and a powerful tractor, all of which were integrated into the architecture itself, and all of which used tools and principles known to be in existence during Hemiunu’s time.

We will devote this current article to explaining exactly what it was Hemiunu was building in Phase Two.

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With the exception of the King’s Chamber, Pharaoh Khufu’s Master Builder Hemiunu strategically located all of the known internal structures of the Great Pyramid either in the lower third of the architecture or cut into the underlying bedrock of the Giza Plateau.  So far we have looked at how the superstructure of the pyramid was built—now it is time to look at the internal details.

In preparation for what Jean-Pierre Houdin calls “Episode 2,” a comprehensive update and expansion of his work with the Great Pyramid in particular and the funerary architecture of the Pyramid Age of the Old Kingdom in general, Em Hotep has embarked on this mission to lay out his theory to-date in a simple but detailed format that will allow the specialist and layperson alike to evaluate the theory as well as mark its progress in Episode 2.

In Phase One, Parts A and B, we looked at Jean-Pierre’s detailed explanation of how Hemiunu could have built two thirds of the Great Pyramid with an external ramp that only reached one third of the pyramid’s final height, and how this ramp could have used an alternating-lanes strategy to avoid work stoppages, even while the ramp was built up from layer to layer.  Now we will lay the foundation—literally and figuratively—for Phase B by looking at how Hemiunu designed the floor plan of the Great Pyramid on the vertical rather than horizontal plane.

Hemiunu to Houdin presents the opening statement and theories.  Soon the counselor himself will present the evidence and closing arguments.  My goal is to provide the transcript for the deliberations of you, the jury.

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In Hemiunu to Houdin:  Phase One, Part A, we looked at how Jean-Pierre Houdin proposes Hemiunu could have built two thirds of the Great Pyramid with a straight, external ramp that only reached one third of the total height of the pyramid.  We also outlined how the ramp would have been three ramps in one, or rather, a ramp of three lanes, two of which alternated from level to level.

In Phase One, Part B, we will be taking a detailed look at how the alternating lanes functioned, and how Jean-Pierre thinks Hemiunu would have changed his strategy once the ramp became too narrow to accommodate two lanes, while still maintaining uninterrupted work from level to level.  We will examine what “building from the inside out” means and why it is the only way Jean-Pierre believes the Great Pyramid could have been constructed.  Again, our goal is a clear and visual understanding of Jean-Pierre’s theory in preparation for the coming update and expansion based on his more recent work.

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Most theories of how the Great Pyramid of Khufu was built agree that some sort of external ramp was required, even if an external ramp alone would not have been sufficient.  But what kind of ramp?  What would it have looked like and been made of?  Where would it have been built?

Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin has put forth a comprehensive theory of how Khufu’s architect, Hemiunu, could have built the pyramid using only the tools, methods, and materials that we know would have been available at the time.  Now, just weeks before M. Houdin is to release an avalanche of new work and material that will greatly update and solidify his theory, Em Hotep has endeavored to get a detailed and thorough description of his work to-date online and available for reference.

Picking up where I left off over a year ago with the Hemiunu to Houdin series, I admittedly have my work for the coming month cut out for me.  Wish me luck!  But with the generous oversight of the theory’s author himself, I can promise that the forthcoming will be the best precursor you can find on-line for what Jean-Pierre mysteriously refers to as “Episode 2.”

In this current article we will examine how Jean-Pierre’s theory describes the external ramp that was used to build the bottom third of the Great Pyramid.  In particular we will see how Hemiunu could have built two thirds of the pyramid with a ramp that only reached one third of its final height; we will see how the Great Builder overcame the limits imposed by the terrain and turned many of them to his advantage; and we will begin looking at how this deceptively simple structure solved some rather complex issues confronting Khufu’s Chief Architect.

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If the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, what were the first steps Hemiunu took when starting the construction of the Great Pyramid?  Six letters from Hemiunu is a work of epistolary historical fiction, with a very heavy emphasis on historical, which explores the sort of details that would have required his attention immediately after choosing a building site for Khufu’s Pyramid.

The purpose of these imaginary missives from the desk of the Overseer of All the King’s Works is to give the reader an idea of the amount of planning, materials, and manpower involved not only in building the Great Pyramid, but in preparation for the work itself.  There were mines and quarries to be opened, a fully functional workers’ city to be constructed, and an entire nation to be mobilized.

In many ways this is a re-introduction to the Hemiunu to Houdin series, but it is also intended to be a stand-alone monologic narrative (fancy-speak for letters from just one person that tell a story) of how Hemiunu initiated the project that would occupy all of Egypt for more than two decades.  Methods and materials, labor and logistics, tools and tasks, they are all here for your evaluation, along with a short annotated bibliography at the end.

Note:  The names used, with the exception of the Grand Vizier himself, are invented but not without some forethought (the Overseer of the Expedition to the Sinai to open the copper mines, for instance, is named Biah-Ahky, which translates to copper miner), and the titles and positions they hold do have their historical counterparts.

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Can’t make it to Egypt this summer?  Never fear, Peter Der Manuelian and Mehdi Tayoubi are combining Fourth Dynasty architecture, Twentieth (and 21st) Century archaeology, and Generation Wow technology to take you places that would be off limits even if you were in Egypt.

From scanning the landscape to crawling down into ancient tombs, you are there, dude.

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riddles of the sphinx-tabWho built the Great Sphinx?  Why did they build it?  How did they build it?  These questions and more are addressed in Riddles of the Sphinx, by the PBS series NOVA.

Featuring Mark Lehner, Zahi Hawass, Rick Brown, Gunter Dreyer, Richard Redding, Rainer Stadelman, and Fathi Mohamed.

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