Eliminating the Impossible

Egyptologists usually maintain that they have come to understand almost everything about the project of the great geometrical pyramids and about their structural elements. Some minor details need to be studied further, but otherwise they feel that it is clear that the Great Pyramid was nothing but a messy, makeshift building site, where architects decided to change their minds from time to time. Further, one day Khufu came along and decided he wanted to be buried in another chamber while, amid all the confusion, his men were building shafts as wide as handkerchiefs and scores of meters long, set diagonally in relation to the building's plane, just to let in air for the laborers.

So the book ends here. The sacred landscape and all the other things I've tortured you with for 15 chapters have nothing to do with the Old Kingdom. As for astronomy, forget it. And if in the Pyramid Age there were no howling barbarians, well, we weren't far off it.

I'm exhausted, as the main character in Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose would say, my thumb aches (even though I'm writing with a computer): dreaming up nonsense is exhausting. "Nonsense" is in fact the only word to define the way most Egyptologists have interpreted the Great Pyramid in the last 100 years - as I took pains to show you in the last chapter. Why?

It is generally taken for granted that the subterranean chamber is unfinished. Yet if you abandon an underground room at an incomplete stage, logically you would simply stop excavating down any further, not meticulously carve out the whole room at half-height, creating a sort of womb-like space.

G. Magli, Mysteries and Discoveries of Archaeoastronomy, DOI: 10.1007/978-0-387-76566-2_17, 343 © Praxis Publishing, Ltd. 2009

Figure 17.1: Exit of the upper southern shaft

Many people also think that the queen's chamber is unfinished, on the totally unfounded grounds that the pyramid could not possibly have rooms that did not have anything to do with entombing the mummy of the pharaoh.

Moreover, the idea that the great gallery, one of the most stunning architectural achievements ever, should be built only for the purpose of storing granite plugs sounds bizarre. Why was it over 8 meters high when the blocks, no wider than the shafts themselves, do not even reach a meter and a half? Would it not have been easier to place the plug-stones directly in the conduit, ready to be slid up and down, and create a wide area alongside the plugs themselves that they could be passed through?

The relieving chambers also raise considerable doubt. It is necessary only to have a basic grasp of statics, and reflect for a moment with the guide of the bookshelf example in Chapter 16, to realize that the only room that functions in relieving the weight above is the last one, which is covered with an inverted-V vault. It is clear that the builders were well aware of this information, since they used the same weight distribution technique in making the entrance to the passageway descending from the north face and the ceiling of the queen's chamber, even though these ceilings had to support a greater weight than that of the king's chamber, without feeling the need for extra "relieving chambers.''

Finally, the service shaft itself is puzzling. Why construct a well that is connected with the descending passageway deep in the bedrock, if it would have been sufficient to make a "softer" one that linked up inside the structure? And how did the laborers manage to connect the well with the part dug into the rock?

In any case, the most compelling doubts come from the "ventilation shafts'' in the king's chamber. Even admitting that:

1. There was not enough air to breathe. (This assertion is debatable, given that up to the 1990s there was no air-conditioning system and the shafts were obstructed, and yet the room received air flowing in through the ascending passageway).

2. The workers did paintings and inscriptions. (No evidence remains of this).

3. The architect was so concerned about his workers' welfare that he devised, not a horizontal shaft in a single layer of blocks (which would have been too simple), but a shaft lengthened in the course of the work and thus initially shorter, to allow more air to pass.

4. The same architect decided at this juncture not to create a vertical ventilation shaft (which would have been too simple), but to work diagonally (for some obscure reason of his own, which we can never hope to fathom).

Well, can anyone explain why the architect designed two shafts?

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