Archive for the ‘The Giza Plateau’ Category

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 Hemienu 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.  Hemienu 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 Hemienu, 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 Hemienu’s time.

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

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With the exception of the King’s Chamber, Pharaoh Khufu’s Master Builder Hemienu 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 Hemienu 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 Hemienu designed the floor plan of the Great Pyramid on the vertical rather than horizontal plane. 

Hemienu 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 Hemienu to Houdin:  Phase One, Part A, we looked at how Jean-Pierre Houdin proposes Hemienu 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 Hemienu 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, Hemienu, 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 Hemienu 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 Hemienu 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 Hemienu took when starting the construction of the Great Pyramid?  Six letters from Hemienu 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 Hemienu 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 Hemienu 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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Mark Rose, the Archaeological Institute of America’s online editor, has written a well-timed editorial in Beyond Stone & Bone, Archaeology Magazine’s blog, regarding Jean-Pierre Houdin’s work with Khufu’s Pyramid.

If we can take physical samples from some of the most important and fragile “artifacts” in all of Egypt—royal mummies—then why can’t we allow Jean Pierre to conduct completely non-invasive work which may unravel one of humankind’s most abiding riddles:  How was the Great Pyramid built?

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In the first part of January the media began breaking the news that the old yarn about slaves having built the pyramids had finally been dispelled.  Dr. Zahi Hawass of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities announced that three large tombs had been newly discovered very close to the pyramid itself.  As the final resting place of some of the overseers of the workforce, both the structure and location of the tombs made it clear that these were no slaves.

Dr. Hawass’ statement that “These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves” (source) was widely repeated in the press under headlines announcing that the belief that slaves had built the pyramids could now be retired.  But Egyptologists have long known that the Slave Hypothesis was pure Hollywood. 

Along with Hawass, Egyptologist Mark Lehner began uncovering the truth of the pyramid builders more than 20 years ago.  Lehner was consumed with the question of where such a large workforce could have lived.  After conducting the first detailed “to scale” survey of the Giza Plateau, he narrowed his focus to the area around the enigmatic Wall of the Crow, a colossal wall with no apparent related structures.

Lehner hit pay dirt, and his dogged pursuit of these ancient builders led to the excavation of the very city where they lived and worked—a large complex of barracks and permanent housing, distribution centers, industrial sites, and scribal workshops.  The recently discovered tombs tell us something of the status of the workers, but the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders gives us the everyday details of their lives.

Most of Em Hotep’s readers will be familiar with Dr. Lehner and his work.  But if you are not, then his total absence from the recent news stories may have left you with an incomplete picture of just how strong the case against the Slavery Hypothesis really is.  In this three-part series we will take a look at what Lehner discovered about the pyramid builders.  We will examine the evidence that the workforce had a surprisingly modern division of labor, followed by a tour of the city itself.

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jean-pierre-tabThe Great Pyramid of Khufu has baffled professional Egyptologists and everyday people for millennia, but architect Jean-Pierre Houdin has proposed what many feel is the most likely, and certainly the most sensible, theory about the construction of Khufu’s Pyramid to date.  This week France-5 of France Télévision aired a new documentary on Jean-Pierre Houdin’s work called Khéops Révélé.

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spx-tabAlmost everybody knows what the Great Sphinx of Giza is, but how much do we really know about it? In this article we will be looking at the role of sphinxes in Egyptian mythology—what they are, what they mean, and what they did. We will also be taking an in depth look at the history of the Great Sphinx. Who may have built it and why? When was it built? Do we really know?

We will also look at how the Great Sphinx’s significance in both religion and politics has changed over the many centuries of its known lifetime. From the ancient days of early Egypt, when little is really said about the Sphinx and its existence seems to be taken for granted, to the height of Egyptian culture, when the Sphinx was synonymous with the great solar deities and had the power to legitimize a king’s reign, the more we learn about the Sphinx, the more we know about Egypt.

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There is no shortage of theories about how the Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu was constructed, but so far they have all failed in various respects.  From ramps that are as large and difficult to construct as the pyramid itself, to ramps that by their nature would make its construction even more difficult, we can’t even really explain how the blocks were moved into place. 

But a French architect by the name of Jean-Pierre Houdin may be changing that.  He has put forth the first comprehensive explanation of how the Great Pyramid was built that stands the tests of physics and common sense, and his work continues to gain support from prominent architects, engineers, and Egyptologists.  

Jean-Pierre has kindly agreed to work with Em Hotep! to put his theory into terms that are accessible to those of us who may not be professional architects or engineers, but who may be amateur and professional Egyptologists of varying degrees.  In Part One we take a close look at the evolution of ramp theories, how they work and fail to work, and what was involved with building the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World. 

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