:: Earth Largest Great Pyramid ::
Khufu, son of Snefru and second ruler
of the 4th dynasty (time line) moved
the royal necropolis to Giza, north
of modern-day Cairo. According to ancient
Greek historian Herodotus, Khufu (aka
Cheops) enslaved his people to build
his pyramid. But archaeologists have
since disproved his account (see "Who
Built the Pyramids?").
On the Giza Plateau, Khufu's builders
oriented his pyramid almost perfectly
north. The largest pyramid ever built,
it incorporates about 2.3 million stone
blocks, weighing an average of 2.5 to
15 tons each. It is estimated that the
workers would have had to set a block
every two and a half minutes.
The pyramid has three burial chambers.
The first is underground, carved into
bedrock. The second, aboveground chamber
was called the queen's chamber by early
explorers. We now know it was never
intended to house one of Khufu's wives
but perhaps a sacred statue of the king
himself. The third is the king's chamber,
which held a red granite sarcophagus
placed almost exactly at the center
of the pyramid.
The king's chamber is accessed via the
26-foot-high (8-meter-high) Grand Gallery,
which was sealed off from thieves by
sliding granite blocking systems.
The Great Pyramid was the centerpiece
of an elaborate complex, which included
several small pyramids, five boat pits,
a mortuary temple, a causeway, a valley
temple, and many flat-roofed tombs for
officials and some members of the royal
CLASSIC FACT: Several mystery
shafts extend from the king's and queen's
chambers. Neither airshafts (they were
sealed) nor hallways (they are too narrow),
they may have been designed to allow
Khufu to travel to the stars in his
afterlife. A blocked shaft from the
queen's chamber was penetrated in 2002.
Archaeologists discovered another stone
blocking their way (read more in National