Khufu: one of the greatest mysteries of history revealed
Located on the Giza Plateau in Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Khufu was commissioned by the Pharaoh Khufu, ruler of Egypt around 2547-2524 BC. Its original height was 481 feet (146.61 meters), but it has eroded over the years and now stands at about 449 feet (136.85 meters). It comprises an estimated 2 million stone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. Details of how it was constructed, however, have eluded archeologists and scientists for centuries.
From the ancient Greeks who spoke of “machines” used to raise the blocks, to the hypothesis of a single external ramp used to pull the blocks to the top of the pyramid, many theories have been proposed and discarded as unfeasible, both technically and realistically.
A layman proposes a startling theory
Jean-Pierre Houdin had a different idea. Based on years of research and architectural know-how, he proposed a revolutionary theory, suggesting that in addition to a short exterior ramp, the builders used an internal ramp that spiraled inside the pyramid to move the blocks to the top using a system of counterweights.
The theory offered promise, but needed more scientific testing, which 3D technology from DS enabled him to simulate virtually.
The DS team helped Houdin to digitally model a complete virtual pyramid with all of its geometric and physical attributes. The simulation proved that Houdin’s theory was possible, providing a more plausible explanation of how the pyramid was built than any previous researcher had suggested. It is, to this day, the only theory scientifically validated.
According to Houdin’s theory, the first ramp was a straight external ramp. With a slope of 7%, it was used to build the bottom third of the pyramid. When the bottom of the pyramid was completed, a second internal ramp, which spiraled up the walls inside the pyramid, was used to complete construction.
Building the King’s Chamber
Another puzzling mystery was how the King’s Chamber was built. Khufu commanded that his architects build him a funerary chamber with a flat ceiling. Only extremely heavy granite stone beams were suitable for the ceiling, requiring a system of counterweights, such as a modern crane, to pull them up the incline of the Great Gallery to the King’s Chamber.
Houdin theorized that small square holes in the gallery walls, and grease marks on a narrow stone molding that ran along the bottoms of both walls for the entire length of the steeply angled passage, were evidence of an internal pulley system that could have been used to raise the heavy granite blocks to the ceiling. Although this, too, seemed to support his theory of a counterweight system, he had yet to prove it to the satisfaction of skeptics.
Notches - the evidence piles up
During a visit to the Giza Plateau, Houdin noticed parallel clear lines, visible on the Great Pyramid’s outer wall, inclined at a 7% slope and located exactly where Houdin predicted the internal ramp would be found. By following these lines around the pyramid, Houdin noticed they led to a notch. He believes the notch is one location where the internal ramp turned 90°, enabling workers to turn the blocks around the pyramid’s sharp corners and continue their ascension to the top. But he needed to investigate further.
In 2008, American Egyptologist Bob Brier obtained permission from Egyptian authorities to investigate the notch. When he climbed the outside of the pyramid, he discovered the notch accessed a 3x3-meter room in the pyramid’s northeast ridge. Equipped with a camera, a tape measure and a small flashlight, Brier recorded as much information as he could, providing Houdin with additional data for analysis.
The DS team went to work again, entering the newly discovered data into their computers. The resulting room was virtually modeled in 3D and is now known as “Bob’s Room.” Brier offered a possible explanation concerning this room: “It seems unlikely that the room’s position just behind the notch is a coincidence. I believe that the room served a specific purpose in the pyramid’s construction.”
Antechambers - the latest discovery
Retracing the history of pyramid construction, Houdin noticed that these massive structures shared a certain architectural logic where subsequent architects capitalized on preceding construction techniques. It seemed, though, that this logic was not entirely followed in the Khufu Pyramid, starting with the strange way in which the corridors and the Grand Gallery were slightly misaligned in relation to the north-south axis. He established a parallel between the Khufu Pyramid and the Red Pyramid, the last pyramid by Snefru, Khufu’s father. The latter, built just before Khufu’s pyramid, included a burial chamber inside the structure, preceded by two antechambers used to store the possessions left with the deceased for the afterlife. Houdin wondered about this inconsistency with previous constructions. Why were there no antechambers found in Khufu’s pyramid for his burial possessions?
Houdin had the intuition to superpose the plans of the two pyramids and traced the route through the corridor and the antechambers of the Red Pyramid using the DS solutions so that they became those of the Khufu chamber. The placement of one on top of the other in 3D was perfect.
Houdin may not yet have the archeological proof required to call his theory fact, but it certainly has the advantage of basing itself on historical findings, following consistent logic, being geometrically accurate and providing an explanation for a number of unusual features in the pyramid’s layout, thanks to 3D modeling and simulation.