It is not surprising that there have been many myths and legends
about the purpose of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Even though we may
not be able to distinguish which ones are true and which ones are
false, it is always interesting to read about some of them. Many
times we find that there was an actual event that occurred in
history and different myths originate from this actual event. Thus
if we look at enough myths, there may be a common denominator that
we can distinguish, and find that bit of factual truth embedded
within the myths and legends.
It is interesting that no description of the Great Pyramid has come
down to us or survived from any known Egyptian text or description.
It is possible that some day we may find a papyrus or inscription
somewhere, but for now we must rely on the earliest writings and
The first eyewitness, Thales, the father of Greek Geometry in the
6th Century B.C. supposedly calculated the height of the Great
Pyramid by measuring its shadow at the same time when the length of
his shadow was equal to his height.
The earliest written record of the Great Pyramid comes from the
Greek Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century B.C. and visited the
pyramids in 440 B.C. He was the first known person to write about
the Great Pyramid. Known as the “Father of History”, he traveled
widely and visited Egypt.
He conversed with the priests who told him
about the history of Egypt and he included what he learned from
these priests in his books called the Histories. We must keep in
mind that much of his writings are not considered accurate, but are
still interesting from an historical point of view. At the time he
visited the pyramids, they were still covered in their beautiful
Regarding the construction of the Great Pyramid and
surrounding complex he writes in his Histories:
“...One hundred thousand men worked at a time and were relieved
every three months by a fresh party. It took ten years arduous toil
by the people to make the causeway for the conveyance of the stones,
a work, in my opinion, not much inferior to the Pyramid itself, for
its length is five stadia and its width ten orgyae and its height
where it is highest, eight orgyae; it is built of polished stone
with carvings of animals on it. It took ten years then to make this
causeway, the works on the eminence where the Pyramid stands and the
underground apartments which Cheops had made as a burial vault for
himself, in an island formed by drawing water from the Nile by a
The pyramid itself took twenty years to build. It is
square, each side is eight plethra and the height is the same: it is
composed of polished stones and jointed with the greatest exactness;
none of the stones are less than 30 ft. This pyramid was built thus:
in the form of steps which some call crossae, others bomides. When
they had laid the first stones in this manner, they raised the
remaining stones by machines made of short planks of wood: having
lifted them from the ground to the first range of steps, when the
stone arrived there, it was put on another machine that stood ready
on the first range; and from this it was drawn to the second range
on another machine; for the machines were equal in number to the
ranges of steps; or they removed the machine, which was only one,
and portable, to each range in succession, whenever they wished to
raise the stone higher; for I should relate it in both ways, as it
The upper portion of the Pyramid was finished first;
then the middle and finally the part that is lowest and nearest to
the ground. On the pyramid there is an inscription in Egyptian
characters which records the amount expended on radishes, onions and
garlic for the workmen: which the interpreter, as I well remember,
reading the inscription, told me amounted to one thousand six
hundred talents of silver. And if this be really true, how much more
must have been spent on iron tools, on bread and on clothes for the
workmen, since they occupied in building the work, the time which I
mentioned and in addition, no short time, I imagine, in cutting and
drawing the stones and in forming the underground excavation.”
Herodotus also wrote that Khufu was a bad King since he shut down
all the temples throughout Egypt and oppressed his people.
Next, Manetho, who lived in the 3rd century B.C. was an Egyptian
High Priest and historian who lived in Heliopolis. Contrary to what
Herodotus wrote, Manetho was more favorable and said that Khufu:
“built the largest Pyramid… was translated to the Gods and wrote the
Other classical writers like Diodorus Siculus,
Strabo, and Pliny
mention the Great Pyramid in passing.
Diodorus Siculus, who lived in the 1st Century B.C., was born in
Sicily and wrote the history of the world in 40 books. He described
the pyramids casing stones at that time as being “complete and
without the least decay.”
This is what he said:
“Although these kings (Khufu and Chephren) intended these (pyramids)
for their sepulchers, yet it happened that neither of them was
“…The largest (Pyramid) is quadrangular; each side at its base is 7
plethra and more than 6 plethra high; it gradually contracts to the
top where each side is 6 cubits ; it is built entirely of solid
stone, of a different workmanship, but eternal duration; for in the
thousands of years said to have elapsed since their construction.
the stones have not moved from their original position, but the
whole remains uninjured. The stone is said to have been brought from
a great distance in Arabia and raised on mounds, for machines, in
those days, had not been invented.”
Strabo, the Greek Geographer, visited the Great Pyramid in 24 A.D.
He wrote 17 books called Geograhia and this is what he had to say
regarding the entrance to the Great Pyramid:
“A little way up one side, has a stone that may be taken out, which
being raised up, there is a sloping passage to the foundations.”
The location of this entrance on the
north side of the pyramid
comprised of a hinged stone which one could raise to enter the
pyramid and was indistinguishable from the surrounding limestone
blocks when closed, was lost during the first centuries A.D.
A Roman writer, Pliny the Elder, who was born in 23 A.D., describes
the Great Pyramid in his 37 books called Historia Naturalis. He
wrote that the 3 Giza pyramids were built in a span of 78 years 4
Josephus the Hebrew Historian of the 1st century A.D. gives a very
interesting account in his Antiquities.
descendants of Seth, after perfecting their study of astronomy, set
out for Egypt, and there embodied their discoveries in the building
of “two pillars” (i.e. monuments), one in stone and the other in brick,
in order that this knowledge might not be lost before these
discoveries were sufficiently known, upon Adam’s prediction that the
world was to be destroyed by a flood... and in order to exhibit them
to mankind...Now this pillar remains in the land of Siriad (the
Siriadic, or Dogstar, land of Egypt) to this day.”
Is this pillar in Egypt the Great Pyramid?
There is a similar tradition ascribed to Enoch.
“Enoch, foreseeing the destruction of the earth, inscribed the
science of astronomy upon two pillars.”
The Arab Caliph, Al Mamoun, was the first to break into the Great
Pyramid in 820 A.D. and this is discussed in Chapter 2. This event
is so important historically that I would like to quote Piazzi Smyth
in his Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid published in 1880.
“Caliph Al Mamoun directed his Mohammedan workmen to begin at the
middle of the northern side; precisely says Sir Gardner Wilkinson,
as the founders of the Great Pyramid had foreseen, when they placed
the entrance, not in the middle of that side, but twenty-four feet
and some inches away to the east, as well as many feet above the
ground level. Hard labour, therefore, was it to these masons,
quarrying with the rude instruments of that barbarous time, into
stone-work as solid almost before them as the side of a hill.
They soon indeed began to cry out,
“Open that wonderful Pyramid! It
could not possibly be done!” But the Caliph only replied, “I will
have it most certainly done.”
So his followers perforce had to
quarry on unceasingly by night and by day. Weeks after weeks, and
months too, were consumed in these toilsome exertions; the progress,
however, though slow, was so persevering that they had penetrated at
length to no less than one hundred feet in depth from the entrance.
But by that time becoming thoroughly exhausted, and beginning again
to despair of the hard and hitherto fruitless labour, some of them
ventured to remember certain improving tales of an old king, who had
found, on making the calculation, that all the wealth of Egypt in
his time would not enable him to destroy one of the Pyramids.
murmuring disciples of the Arabian prophet were thus almost becoming
openly rebellious, when one day, in the midst of their various
counsel, they heard a great stone evidently fall in some hollow
space within no more than a few feet on one side of them!
In the fall of that particular stone, there almost seems to have
been an accident that was more than an accident.
Energetically, however, they instantly pushed on in the direction of
the strange noise; hammers, and fire, and vinegar being employed
again and again, until, breaking through a wall surface, they burst
into the hollow way, “exceeding dark, dreadful to look at, and
difficult to pass,” they said at first, where the sound had
occurred. It was the same hollow way, or properly the Pyramid’s
inclined and descending entrance-passage, where the Romans of old,
and if they, also Greeks, Persians, and Egyptians, must have passed
up and down in their occasional visits to the useless, barren
subterranean chamber and its unfinished, unquarried-out, floor.
and simple used that entrance-passage to appear to those ancients
who entered in that way, and before the builder intended; but now it
not only stood before another race, and another religion, but with
something that the others never saw, viz. its chief leading secret,
for the first time since the foundation of the building, nakedly
exposed: and exhibiting the beginning of an internal arrangement in
the Great Pyramid which is not only unknown in any and every other
Pyramid in Egypt, but which the architect here, carefully finished,
scrupulously perfected, and then most remarkably sealed up before he
left the building to fulfill its prophetic destination at the end of
its appointed thousands of years.
A large angular-fitting stone that
had made for ages, with its lower flat side, a smooth and polished
portion of the ceiling of the inclined and narrow entrance-passage,
quite undistinguishable from any other part of the whole of its
line, had now dropped on to the floor before their eyes; and
revealed that there was just behind it, or at and in that point of
the ceiling which it had covered, the end of another passage,
clearly ascending there from and towards the south, out of this also
southward going but descending one!
But that ascending passage itself was still closed a little further
up, by an adamantine portcullis, or rather stopper, formed by a
series of huge granite plugs of square wedge-like shape dropped, or
slided down, and then jammed in immovably, from above.
To break them
in pieces within the confined entrance-passage space, and pullout
the fragments there, was entirely out of the question; so the grim
crew of Saracen Mussulmans broke away sideways or round about to the
west through the smaller, ordinary masonry, and so up again (by a
huge chasm still to be seen, and indeed still used by all would-be
entrants into the further interior) to the newly discovered
ascending passage, at a point past the terrific hardness of its
lower granite obstruction.
They did up there, or at an elevation
above, and a position beyond the portcullis, find the passage-way
still blocked, but the filling material at that part was only
lime-stone; so, making themselves a very great hole in the masonry
along the western side, they there wielded their tools with energy
on the long fair blocks which presented themselves to their view.
But as fast as they broke up and pulled out the pieces of one of the
blocks in this strange ascending passage, other blocks above it,
also of a bore just to fill its full dimensions, slided down from
above, and still what should be the passage for human locomotion was
solid stone filling. No help, however, for the workmen.
Commander of the Faithful is present, and insists that, whatever the
number of stone plugs still to come down from the mysterious
reservoir, his men shall hammer and hammer them, one after the
other, and bit by bit to little pieces at the only opening where
they can get at them, until they do at last come to the end of all.
So the people tire, but the work goes on; and at last, yes! at last!
the ascending passage, beginning just above the granite portcullis,
and leading thence upward and to the south, is announced to be free
from obstruction and ready for essay.
Then, by Allah, they shouted,
the treasures of the Great Pyramid, sealed up from the fabulous
times of the mighty Ibn Salhouk, and undesecrated, as it was long
supposed, by mortal eye during all the intervening thousands of
years, lay full in their grasp before them.
On they rushed, that bearded crew, thirsting for the promised
wealth. Up no less than 110 feet of the steep incline, crouched
hands and knees and chin together, through a passage of royally
polished white lime-stone, but only 47 inches in height and 41 in
breadth, they had painfully to crawl, with their torches burning
low. Then suddenly they emerge into a long tall gallery, of seven
times the passage height, but all black as night and in a death-like
calm; still ascending though at the strange steep angle, and leading
them away farther and still more far into the very inmost heart of
darkness of this imprisoning mountain of stone.
In front of them, at
first entering into this part of the now termed “Grand Gallery,” and
on the level, see another low passage; on their right hand a black,
ominous-looking well’s mouth, more than 140 feet deep, and not
reaching water, but only lower darkness, even then; while onwards
and above them, a continuation of the glorious gallery or upward
rising hall of seven times, leading them on, as they expected, to
the possession of all the treasures of the great ones of
antediluvian times. Narrow, certainly, was the way - only 6 feet
broad anywhere, and contracted to 3 feet at the floor - but 28 feet
high, or almost above the power of their smoky lights to illuminate;
and of polished, glistering, marble-like, cyclopean stone
That must surely, thought they, be the high road to fortune and
wealth. Up and up its long-ascending floor line, therefore,
ascending at an angle of 26°, these determined marauders, with their
lurid fire-lights, had to push their dangerous and slippery way for
150 feet of distance more; then an obstructing three-foot step to
climb over (what could the architect have meant by making a step so
tall as that?); next a low doorway to bow their heads most humbly
beneath; then a hanging portcullis to pass, almost to creep, under,
most submissively; then another low doorway, in awful blocks of
frowning red granite both on either side, and above and below.
after that, they leaped without further let or hindrance at once
into the grand chamber, which was, and is still, the conclusion of
everything forming the Great Pyramid’s interior; the chamber to
which, and for which, and towards which, according to every
subsequent writer (for no older ones knew any fragment of a thing
about it), in whatever other theoretical point he may differ from
his modern fellows, - the whole Great Pyramid was originally built.
And what find they there, those maddened Muslim in Caliph Al Mamoun’s train? A right noble apartment, now called the King’s
Chamber, roughly 34 feet long, 17 broad, and 19 high, of polished
red granite throughout, both walls, floor, and ceiling; in blocks
squared and true, and put together with such exquisite skill that no
autocrat Emperor of recent times could desire anything more solidly
noble and at the same time beautifully refined.
Ay, ay, no doubt a well-built room, and a handsome one too; but what
does it contain? Where is the treasure?
The treasure! yes, indeed,
where are the promised silver and gold, the jewels and the arms?
plundering fanatics look wildly around them, but can see nothing,
not a single dirhem anywhere. They trim their torches, and carry
them again and again to every part of that red-walled, flinty hall,
but without any better success.
Naught but pure, polished red
granite, in mighty slabs, looks calmly upon them from every side.
The room is clean, garnished too, as it were; and, according to the
ideas of its founders, complete and perfectly ready for its
visitors, so long expected, and not arrived yet; for the gross minds
who occupy it now, find it all barren; and declare that there is
nothing whatever of value there, in the whole extent of the
apartment from one end to another; nothing, except an empty stone
chest without a lid.
The Caliph Al Mamoun was thunderstruck. He had arrived at the very
ultimate part of the interior of the Great Pyramid he had so long
desired to take possession of; and had now, on at last carrying it
by storm, found absolutely nothing that he could make any use of, or
saw the smallest value in. So being signally defeated, though a
Commander of the Faithful, his people began plotting against him.
But Al Mamoun was a Caliph of the able day of Eastern rulers for
managing mankind; so he had a large sum of money secretly brought
from his treasury, and buried by night in a certain spot near the
end of his own quarried entrance-hole. Next day he caused the men to
dig precisely there, and behold! although they were only digging in
the Pyramid masonry just as they had been doing during so many
previous days, yet on this day they found a treasure of gold; “and
the Caliph ordered it to be counted, and lo! it amounted to the
exact sum that had been incurred in the works, neither more nor
And the Caliph was astonished, and said he could not
understand how the kings of the Pyramid of old, actually before the
Deluge, could have known exactly how much money he would have
expended in his undertaking; and he was lost in surprise.
the workmen got paid for their labour, and cared not whose gold they
were paid with so long as they did get their wage, they ceased their
complaints, and dispersed; while as for the Caliph, he returned to
the city, El Fostat, notably subdued, musing on the wonderful events
that had happened; and both the Grand Gallery, the King’s Chamber,
and the “stone chest without a lid” were troubled by him no more.
In 850 A.D., the first written version of the Arabian Nights was
translated into Arabic. This was a book of Persian tales called
Hazar Afsanah (A Thousand Legends). In these tales, the Great
Pyramid was imputed to have magical powers and contain magnificent
The Arab writers of the Middle Ages, Abd Al Hokim, Masourdi,
Latif (1220 A.D.) and Makrizi told of fanatical stories about the
pyramids. These have been reprinted in Resource C at the back of the
book but some of the more interesting statements from Arab legends
are recounted here.
Arab historian, Masoudi (died A.D. 967) wrote that the three
pyramids were built as a result of a dream that appeared to King Surid, in which the flood was foretold 300 years before it occurred.
It is told that he ordered the priests to deposit within the
pyramids written accounts of their wisdom and acquirements in the
different arts and sciences... and of arithmetic and geometry that
they might remain as records for the benefit of those who would
afterwards be able to comprehend them.
One of the earliest legends about the Great Pyramid came from an
early Arab writer, Ben Mohammed Balki, who stated that the pyramids
(the three Giza pyramids) were built as a refuge against an
approaching destruction of mankind either by fire or by water.
Arab writer, Ibn Abd-al-Latif, said that the Second Pyramid was,
“filled with a store of riches and utensils... with arms which rust
not, and with glass which might be bended and yet not broken”.
interesting to note that Masoudi also stated,
“the Great Pyramid was
inscribed with the heavenly spheres, and figures representing the
stars and planets in the forms in which they were worshiped. Also
the position of the stars and their cycles, together with the
history and chronicles of time past, of that which is to come, and
of every future event which would take place in Egypt.”
source says that written upon the walls of the pyramid were,
mysteries of science, astronomy, physics, and such useful knowledge
which any person understanding our writing can read.”
Is there any evidence that confirms the Great Pyramid was once
covered with the above writings?
Since the original casing stones were destroyed and removed for the
building of mosques after an earthquake in 1301 AD, we do not know
if there was any original writing upon them. It does not seem likely
since there still remains some casing stones at the pyramids lowest
level and they do not have any inscriptions on them.
There is another possibility to explain this. The legend of the
writings on the exterior of the Great Pyramid got confused with the
writings in the
Book of the Dead. That is they wrote the above not
on the pyramid, but on papyrus to preserve it, which became the Book
of the Dead.
Is the Book of the Dead what remains of this writing in
a corrupt fashion?
Basil Stewart states,
“We know that it (the Great
Pyramid) contains no such hieroglyphic inscriptions or
representations of the heavenly stars and planets such as these
traditions infer. It is only when we turn to the Book of the Dead
that we find the passages and chambers of its “Secret House”
inscribed with such hieroglyphic texts and formulae, and adorned
with mythical figures and stars. That is to say, Coptic and Arab
traditions have erroneously identified the inscribed passages of the
allegorical Pyramid of the Book of the Dead with the actual passages
and chambers of the Great Pyramid itself.”
There is an interesting story as told by
Murtadi in 992 AD at Tihe,
“There was a king named Saurid, the son of Sahaloe, 300 years before
the Deluge, who dreamed one night that he saw the earth overturned
with its inhabitants, the men cast down on their faces, the stars
falling out of the heavens, and striking one against the other, and
making horrid and dreadful cries as they fell. He thereupon awoke
much troubled. A year after he dreamed again that he saw the fixed
stars come down to the earth in the form of white birds, which
carried men away, and cast them between two great mountains, which
almost joined together and covered them; and then the bright,
shining stars became dark and were eclipsed. Next morning he ordered
all the princes of the priests, and magicians of all the provinces
of Egypt, to meet together; which they did to the number of 130
priest and soothsayers, with whom he went and related to them his
“Among others, the priest Aclimon, who was the greatest of all, and
resided chiefly in the king’s Court, said thus to him: - I myself
had a dream about a year ago which frightened me very much, and
which I have not revealed to any one. I dreamed, said the priest,
that I was with your Majesty on the top of the mountain of fire,
which is in the midst of Emosos, and that I saw the heaven sink down
below its ordinary situation, so that it was near the crown of our
heads, covering and surrounding us, like a great basin turned upside
down; that the stars were intermingled among men in diverse figures;
that the people implored your Majesty’s succor, and ran to you in
multitudes as their refuge; that you lifted up your hands above your
head, and endeavored to thrust back the heaven, and keep it from
coming down so low; and that I, seeing what your Majesty did, did
also the same.
While we were in that posture, extremely affrighted,
I thought we saw a certain part of heaven opening, and a bright
light coming out of it; that afterwards the sun rose out of the same
place, and we began to implore his assistance; whereupon he said
thus to us:
“The heaven will return to its ordinary situation when I
shall have performed three hundred courses”. I thereupon awaked
“The priest having thus spoken, the king commanded them to take the
height of the stars, and to consider what accident they portended.
Whereupon they declared that they promised first the Deluge, and
after that fire. Then he commanded pyramids should be built, that
they might remove and secure in them what was of most esteem in
their treasuries, with the bodies of the kings, and their wealth,
and the aromatic roots which served them, and that they should write
their wisdom upon them, that the violence of the water might not
Another early Arab historian adds to the story:
“And he filled them (the pyramids) with talismans, and with strange
things, and with riches and treasures and the like. He engraved in
them all things that were told him by wise men, as, also, all
profound sciences. The names of alakakirs, the uses and hurts of
them, the science of astrology and of arithmetic, of geometry and
physics. All these may be interpreted by him who knows their
characters and language. ...”
Cyriacus, in 1440 A.D. visited the Great Pyramid and climbed to the
Breydenback, who in 1484 visited the Great Pyramid stated that it
was built by the Biblical personage, Joseph, who built them for the
purpose to store grain for the 7 years of coming famine.
Martin Baumgarten, a German, in
1507 visited the Great Pyramid and
“For the magnificence and art that is displayed upon them, they may
justly be reckoned one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and
irresistibly breed admiration in all that behold them … the greatest
of these pyramids (Great Pyramid) is so large still, that the
strongest man that is, standing and throwing a dart straight
forwards can scarcely reach the middle of it; which experiment has
been oftentimes tried.”
Dr. Pierre Belon, a Frenchman visited the Great Pyramid in
reported seeing inside “a vast tomb of black marble” which most
likely he was referring to the coffer in the King’s Chamber.
Jean Chesneau, also in 1546, who was secretary to the French
Ambassador, climbed to the top of the Great Pyramid. He said that
“near it (Great Pyramid) are two others, not so large, and not thus
made in degrees (steps) and they are without openings.” Thus it
appears at this date the Great Pyramid was the only one of the 3
stripped of its casing stones.
In 1549, Andre Thevet Chaplian, cartographer to the King of France,
reported seeing “a great stone of marble carved in the manner of a
sepulcher”. He was obviously referring to the coffer in the King’s
In 1565, Johannes Helferich, said that the courses of the stones
were very high and it was accessible only on one of the corner
angles and there was a very welcome resting place half-way up where
he climbed. It is interesting that almost everyone who has climbed
to the top mentions this resting place or chasm half way up. He is
probably referring to the Northeast side of the Great Pyramid.
In 1581, Jean Palerme, who was the brother of Henry III of France,
wrote of his visit and said “the Great pyramid surpasses the others
in magnificence and is superior to the antiquities of ancient Rome.”
He climbed to the summit and claimed to have a caught a white bird
on the top (known as Pharaoh’s hens). He also mentions the numerous
bats in the Grand Gallery and observed the coffer had no lid and was
composed of the same stone (red granite) and it sounded like a bell
when struck. He took a piece away with him and this may be partially
the cause of the damage at the corner of the coffer.
In 1586, Laurence Aldersey visited the Great Pyramid and said “The
monuments bee high and in forme four-square and every one of the
squares as long as a man may shoote a roving arrowe, and as high as
In 1591, Proper Alpin, a physician from Venice, stated that the well
shaft in the subterranean chamber did not contain any water. He went
down for a distance of 70 feet. He also observed that the coffer in
the King’s Chamber “upon being struck, it sounded like a bell.”
In 1605, Francois Savary, Seigneur de Breves Ambassador of France,
visited the pyramids. On entering the King’s Chamber, he remarked
that “the joints between the huge stones are so marvelously trimmed
that one could not insert the point of a needle without difficulty.”
In 1610, the famous traveler,
George Sandys visited the Great
Pyramid. Noted for his writings Sandy’s Travells, he wrote:
“The name (Pyramid) is derived from a flame of fire, in regard to
their shape; broad below, and sharp above, like a pointed diamond.
By such the ancients did express the original of things; and that
formless form-making substance. For as a Pyramid beginning at a
point, and the principal height by little and little dilateth into
all parts; so Nature proceeding from one undividable fountain (even
God the Sovereign Essence), receiveth diversity of forms; effused
into several kinds and multitudes of figures; uniting all in the
Supreme Head, from whence all excellencies issue.”
He climbed to the top and he also recorded that “During a great part
of the day, it casteth no shadow on the earth, but is at once
illuminated on all sides.”
In 1616 Pietro della Valle from Italy visited the Great Pyramid and
remarked that the sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber was made of so
hard a stone that he tried in vain to break it with a hatchet and
that it sounded like a bell and had not any cover.
He also observed
some Turks shot several arrows from the top of the pyramid but none
reached the ground beyond the base.
In 1618, M. de Villamont climbed to the top of the pyramid and also
reported that his guide “could not shoot an arrow beyond the base.”
He observed that the sarcophagus was made of “black marble” which he
believed had been built into the chamber.
He was told an interesting
story. It seemed that a man who had been condemned to death was
given the opportunity by the Pasha in Cairo to be let down into the
Well Shaft to look for treasure. As he was nearing the bottom, the
rope broke and his light went out. The next day, he crawled out and
made his way up the descending passage and received the Pasha’s
The first scientific work to be written on the pyramids was that by
John Greaves. He first visited the Pyramids in 1638. He was
Professor of Astronomy at Oxford and his book was published under
the title Pyramidographia in 1646. He believed that the Great
Pyramid was built during the reign of Khufu and was built as a tomb
for the pharaoh.
In 1647, when M.De Monconys visited the pyramid, he observed that
the Well Shaft was very deep and had no other opening than the top.
He believed it was meant to connect to the Sphinx.
In 1650, Sieru de la Boullaye-le-Gouz of Angers visited the pyramid
and claims to have measured it “inside and out, down to the nearest
In 1655, M. Trevenot brought ropes with him and describes the
experience of a Scotsman who was lowered down the Well Shaft. He
“The Well was not entirely perpendicular; it went down about
sixty-seven feet to a grotto, from whence it again descended to a
depth of one hundred and twenty-three feet, when it was filled up
with sand. It contained an immense quantity of bats, so that the
Scotsman was afraid of being eaten up by them, and was obliged to
guard the candle with his hands”
In 1661, the British traveler
Melton visited the pyramids and said
that the Arabs called the pyramids “The Mountains of Pharaoh”. He
climbed to the summit and also explored the interior. At that time,
when anyone had decided to enter the pyramid, they shot their gun
into the entrance to drive away snakes and other creatures, like
bats, before entering. There were many bats inhabiting the pyramid
at that time.
Melton also attempted to break off a piece of the
coffer using a hammer he specially brought for that purpose. He was
not able to break even a small piece off since he said the stone was
so hard. He could not even make an impression. He did note that when
he struck it, it gave out “a sound like a bell which could be heard
at a great distance.”
In 1664 Vausleb remarked that the Grand Gallery was lofty and well
built, but so dark. He observed a small aperture in one of the walls
of the King’s chamber (the southern airshaft) and said he could not
understand what its purpose was.
In 1666, Kircher visited the Great Pyramid. He believed that
obelisks and pyramids have mystical and hidden significances. He was
the first, as far as we know, to propose this view of the hidden or
symbolic significance of the Great Pyramid.
The Frenchman Benoit de Maillet, Consul-General in Egypt from
1692-1708, was one of the first to make a serious study of the Great
Pyramid. He believed that the Pharaoh was interred in the King’s
Chamber and passages were sealed up and the workman than left
through the well shaft.
In 1693, De Careri visited the Great Pyramid and was one of the
first to suggest that the Great Pyramid in addition to being used as
a tomb was used for astronomical purposes.
In 1699, Paul Lucas traveled to the pyramids a treasure hunter. He
voyaged “to collect gems, coins and curios for sale.” As far as we
know, he found nothing.
In 1701, Veryard a Medical Doctor from London, climbed the Great
Pyramid and describes his adventure as thus. “The exterior was in
the form of steps, by which we ascended, but not without some
difficulty and danger, from the irregularity and decayed state of
the stones. At about half of the ascent, we found a place, which
seemed expressly made for a resting place for travelers, capable of
holding nine or ten persons.
After remaining here for some time, we
proceeded to the top; which, although when viewed from below, it
appears to end in a point, can nevertheless contain forty persons
with great ease. From thence, we had a prospect on one side of the
barren sandy deserts of Africa; and on the other, or Cairo, the
Nile, and the adjoining country, with all the towers and villages.”
In 1709, Egmont climbed the pyramid and called the half way resting
chasm an “inn”.
In 1711, Perizonius in his History of Egypt, wrote about the
traditions and legends of who built the Great Pyramid.
In 1714, Paul Lucas proposed that the pyramid was a giant sundial
and would indicate the solstices.
In 1715, a Roman Catholic,
Pere Claude Sicard visited the Great
Pyramid. His account is interesting in that he describes an unusual
feature of the empty coffin in the King’s chamber. He states:”It was
formed out of a single block of granite, had no cover, and when
struck, sounded like a bell.” He also notes and describes the ramps
on each side of the Grand Gallery.
In 1721, Thomas Shaw observed that the core masonry contained fossil
shells and is the first to record that the blocks are composed of nummulitic limestone. He believed that interior passages and
chambers were intended for mystical worship of Osiris. Thus the
Great Pyramid was essentially a temple used for initiation into the
In 1737, the famous Dane traveler,
Frederick Lewis Norden, went to
Egypt for the purpose of making drawings and sketches of the
In 1737, Richard Pococke visited Egypt and in 1743 published his
famous works Pococke’s Travels which had an account of his visit to
the Giza Plateau.
In 1743, Dr Perry visited the Great Pyramid and also believed that
the pyramid was built to be used in religious rites and mysteries.
In 1753, Abbe Claude-Louis Fourmont, published in his book his
account of his visit to the Great Pyramid. He described the Grand
Gallery as “very magnificent both in workmanship and materials…There
were ramps on each side and quadrangular holes over them and it was
constructed with slabs of marble (limestone) so finely put together
that the joints could scarcely be perceived and the walls became
gradually narrower towards the top by the overlapping of the courses
of masonry.” He also
remarked that the coffer gave off a sonorous sound and did not have
any inscription on it.
In 1761, Niebuhr observed that the Great Pyramid was oriented to the
four cardinal directions (North-South-East-West).
Between 1763-65, Nathaniel Davison, British Consul at Algiers
explored the Great Pyramid and was the first to discover the 1st
relieving chamber above the King’s Chamber, which was named
“Davison’s Chamber” after him.
The French invaded Egypt in 1798 under General Napoleon Bonaparte
and there was a large battle at Embaba, located about 10 miles from
the Great Pyramid, which he won. Historians refer to this as “The
Battle of the Pyramids.” General Napoleon addressing his troops
before the big battle said, “Soldiers, from the height of these
pyramids forty centuries are watching us”.
He took with him a group of 175 civilians, known as “savants”, who
were archaeologists, engineers, surveyors, artists, scholars, etc.
and they remained in Egypt until 1801. They studied and surveyed the
pyramids and archeological monuments in detail recorded their
Eventually large volumes were published of their research about
Egypt from 1809 to 1822 by order of the than Emperor, Napoleon
Bonaparte. One of the main savants, Edme-Francois Jomard wrote,
“Above all, in the First Pyramid (Great) the funereal purpose is far
from being the primary object and it has not even been proved that
any king was ever placed therein after his death.”
Dominique Vivant Denon also said that neither Cheops nor Chephren
were actually interred in their pyramids.
It should be mentioned that the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1798
by an officer of the Engineers of the French Military.
In 1801, Dr. Clarke, M. Hamilton, and Dr. Whitman from England
climbed to the summit and recorded it to be 32 square feet, and that
it was comprised of 9 stones, each weighing about a ton. Dr. Clark
thought that the pyramid was the repository for the bones of Jospeh
and were removed at the time of the Exodus.
In 1817, an Italian seaman, Giovanni Battista Caviglia cleared the
Well Shaft of the Great Pyramid. He demonstrated that the end of the
Well Shaft ended in the subterranean section of the descending
At the same time Caviglia was in Egypt, another Italian, Giovanni
Belzoni, famous for his adventures and archeology, focused his
attention on the second pyramid. He discovered the lost entrance on
the northern side. Caviglia cleaned out the bat dung from Davison’s
Chamber and turned it into an apartment in which he resided.
In 1833, Thomas Yeates said,
“The Great Pyramid soon followed the
Tower of Babel, and had the same common origin. Whether it was not a
copy of the original Tower of Babel? And, moreover, whether the
dimensions of these structures were not originally taken from the
Ark of Noah? The measures of the Great Pyramid at the base do so
approximate to the measures of the Ark of Noah in ancient cubit
measure, that I cannot scruple, however novel the idea, to draw a
In 1837, the famous Colonel Howard Vyse began his work at the
pyramids. He used drastic means to explore the pyramids and this can
be seen today in the large gash on the southern face of the Great
Pyramid, which was caused by blasting with gunpowder. Colonel Vyse
is most famous for his 3 volume work Operations carried on at the
pyramids of Gizeh in 1837. Unfortunately this is very rare and very
expensive to come by. Colonel Vyse also worked with the civil
engineer, John Perring. Perring eventually wrote a 2 volume
Pyramids of Gizeh published in 1839-40. They discovered the
remaining 4 upper relieving chambers above the King’s Chamber.
In 1842, Mr. Wathen said, “The offerings of the Queen of Sheba are
now beheld in the indestructible masses of the pyramids.”
Thus they were the Queen of Sheba’s gifts.
In 1845, M. Fialin de Persigngy expressed the opinion that the
purpose of the pyramids was to act as barriers against the sandy
eruptions of the dessert in Egypt and Nubia. Thus its purpose was a
barrier against the desert sands.
Here are some other novel ideas from individuals around the mid
A Swedish philosopher thought that the pyramids were simply
contrivances for purifying the water of the muddy Nile, which would
pass through their passages.
This one is really unique.
A Mr. Gable said that,
“it appears not
that the founders of them had any such laudable design of
transmitting to posterity specimens, as some had supposed; hence
they appear to have been erected for no geometrical purpose. They
were erected by those, who after their intermarriages with the
daughters of men, became, not only degenerate despisers of useful
knowledge, but altogether abandoned to luxury”.
Thus he felt they
were built to please these women, who had requested that the sons of
God employ their leisure after that fashion.
Rev. E. B. Zincke had a practical suggestion.
“In those days, labor
could not be bottled up. Egypt was so fertile, and men’s wants were
then so few, that surplus labor was available, and much food, from
taxes in kind, accumulated in royal hands.”
So, the pyramid was
built to employ workers who had no job and to use up the excess
money in the treasury.
In the 1840’s, the famous Egyptologist, Sir Gardner
the first to question and dispute the tomb theory of the Great
In 1859, John Taylor of London published the first book on what we
know call “Pyramidology” and marks the beginning of that study. He
was the first person to discover that the ratio of the height of the
Great Pyramid to the perimeter of its bases equals the value of PI,
just like the ratio of the radius of a circle to its circumference.
He believed that the Great Pyramid was built under divine
inspiration and this idea was carried through by Rober Menzies and
Robert Menzies in 1865 was the first to propose the chronological
significance of the passages, which later Piazzi Smyth took up.
In 1864-5, the Edinburgh Professor, Piazzi Smyth explored and
measured the Great Pyramid in great detail. His books were very
popular brought much attention to the Great Pyramid at this time. He
first published Life and Work at the Great Pyramid in 3 volumes and
than Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid. He is credited to taking
the first photographs ever in 1865 inside the Great Pyramid. He also
believed the Great Pyramid was divine and a gift from God.
He believed that the Coffer in the King’s Chamber was a standard of
linear and cubic measurement and it remained at a constant
temperature and barometric pressure. Smyth also confirmed Taylor’s
measurements that the value of Pi was built into the pyramids
dimensions. Smyth measurements showed that the perimeter of the
pyramid was 36524.2 Pyramid inches and this value corresponds to a
year of 365.2 days. Thus, the number of days in a year was built
into the Great Pyramid
Smyth and Menzies both believed that the passageway system in the
Great Pyramid was a chronological representation of religious and
secular events in human history.
These dates also supported the
Bible and Menzies felt that the Pyramid was in fact, a bible in
stone. The basis of this is that the various passages were
constructed according to a chronological scale of a geometric inch
to a year. For example, if you start at a certain point in the
descending passage and this is represented by a certain year, then
every inch you move represents one year forward. Major landmarks in
the pyramid seemed to correlate with major historical dates. For
example, let us start in the descending passage at the location the
scored lines. (These lines were carved in the walls in the upper
part of the descending passageway and were placed there
intentionally. No one knows their purpose.)
We will assign this
location a date of 2141 BC (we will explain later why this date was
arbitrarily chosen) and move down the passage. For every inch we
move we move forward in time one year (one inch equals one year
theory). When we get to where the ascending passage intersects with
us, we are at the year 1453 BC, which is thought to be the date of
the exodus. If we move up the ascending passage, we finally come to
a place where it opens up into the grand gallery. At this juncture,
the date is 33AD, the assumed date for the crucifixion of Jesus.
Thus Pyramiologists have correlated major locations in the pyramids
passageways with important biblical and secular dates.
In order to have a chronology, you must have a starting point. Let
us see how this was determined in the Great Pyramid. If we start
from the outside of the north entrance and move down the descending
passage about 40 feet, we come to series of so-called “scored
lines”. These are straight knife-edge lines cut into the blocks from
roof to floor. They are on each side of the passage and directly
opposite each other. Also the descending passage is in exact
alignment to true north. It can be shown that in the last 5,000
years, only at one time did the north star line up exactly with the
descending passage and shine directly down.
This occurred in 2141 BC
and the North Star at that time was Draconis, also called the
star. The North star changes gradually over long periods of time
because of the precession of the earth on its axis (like a spinning
top). Also only at that time, the star cluster known as the Pleiades
in the constellation Taurus was in alignment with the scored lines.
Thus this is the date that pyramidologists accept as the starting
date at the scored lines. Measurements in inches from the scored
lines represent chronology in years. Thus we count one year for
every inch we move from the scored lines, starting at 2141 BC.
Now, if we move down the descending passage to the beginning of the
ascending passage, we have moved a distance of 688 inches. If each
inch represents one year we are at (2141 BC – 688 = 1453 BC). This
year 1453 BC is accepted as the date of the exodus of the Israelites
from Egypt. It symbolizes now the ascent of man towards god. If we
move up the descending passage to a distance of 1485 inches, we come
to the opening of the grand gallery.
This year, 33 AD (1453 BC –
1485 = 33 AD) is considered to be the date of the crucifixion of
Jesus Christ. If we move up the grand gallery to its end, we move
1881 inches. This year 1914 ad (33 AD – 1881 = 1914 AD) was the date
of the beginning of the First World War. We can continue moving in
the different passages and come up with different dates. Some of the
Pyramidologists attempted to predict future events, like the second
coming of Jesus, the millennium, etc. But these events did not come
Why did the pyramidologist choose the inch as the standard unit of
measurement? The pyramidologists believe the linear unit used in the
design of the great pyramid is the sacred cubic of 25.0265 British
inches. The sacred cubit divided into 25 equal parts results in the
sacred inch (also called pyramid inch), which equals 1.00106 British
inches. Thus the pyramid inch is very close to our standard
The derivation of this unit comes from measurements
in the high central section of the King’s chamber passage, called
the “antechamber”. It has been found that the length of the
antechamber is equal to the diameter of a circle having a
circumference, which measures as many pyramid inches as there are
days in the solar year, 365.242.
Pyramidologists also have discovered many other scientific values in
the pyramid. They include the mean density of the earth, the weight
of the earth, mean temperature of the earth, the values of the
solar, sidereal, and anomalistic years, and many others.
The Study of Pyramidology continues to this day and one of the most
famous of all is Adam Rutherford who we will be discussing later in
As mentioned in Chapter 1, in 1874, astronomers Gill and
erected a steel mast on the summit of the Great Pyramid to indicate
where the apex would have been if completed.
In 1881, Flinders Petrie did a complete survey of the pyramids. He
measured all 203 courses (see Resource B). His work was published in
1883 in a book called The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh.
In 1883, British astronomer, Richard Proctor, put forth his theory
that the Great Pyramid was used as an observatory before its
completion. Proctor goes into a detailed analysis on how the Great
Pyramid was used as an observatory. We will see this idea pop up
again and again in recent times. It is interesting that one of
Bonaparte’s scientists said that,
“It is very remarkable that the opening of pyramids are all to the
north. The passage seemed fitted for an observatory, as it formed a
true tube, at the mouth of which it would be possible, to see the
stars during the day.”
In 1895, Marsham Adams first proposed that the Great Pyramid of Giza
is the Egyptian “Book of the Dead” symbolized in stone.. He said
that the Egyptian Book of the Dead refers to an “ideal structure and
to the passages and chambers therein, and that these passages and
chambers followed precisely the order and description of those of
the Great Pyramid “.
In 1909, two brothers, John and Morton Edgar explored in detail the
Great Pyramid and published their work with excellent black and
white photographs in their well known books, Great Pyramid Passages
in 2 volumes. The Edgar brothers also supported the idea of Pyramidology and that the Pyramid was of divine inspiration.
An interesting event occurred in 1939 when an American Egyptologist,
George Reisner, made the first radio broadcast from inside the
Adam Rutherford, one of the most famous explorers and writers of the
Great Pyramid of the 20th century, visited the Great Pyramid for his
first time in 1925 and made subsequent visits in 1950 and1963-5. His
four volume set Pyramidology, which was published between 1957-1972
is considered a classic with tons of reference materials and
photographs. It is one of the best reference sources available. He
probably did more to promote the study of Pyramidology than anyone
else in the 20th century. He explored the pyramid in detail, made
some of the most accurate measurements, and also took some of the
best photographs ever of the interior of the Great Pyramid.
Another famous Pyramidologist of the 20th century was a Scottish
engineer, David Davidson. In 1924 he published his monumental volume
The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. His book concentrated on
chronological prophecy and the detailed mathematics of the Great
In 1936, the founder of the American Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) and
Grand Imperator, H. Spencer Lewis, published a book The Symbolic
Prophecy of the Great Pyramid. He proposed that there were numerous
underground chambers throughout the Giza Plateau. He believed in the
symbolic and ritual importance of the Great Pyramid. He had traveled
to Egypt and performed rituals in the King’s Chamber of the Great
An interesting not well-known story is that on one of his
visits to the Great Pyramid in the 1920’s with a group of
Rosicrucian’s from all over the world, he performed some
supernatural phenomena. I have tried to find out what this was from
other Rosicrucian’s but no one seems to know, but it had been known
that this event did indeed occur. The symbolism of the Great Pyramid
plays an important role in Rosicrucian studies and principles.
In the mid 20th century, Edgar Cayce, the well known psychic and
sleeping prophet, stated that there was a Hall of Records located
somewhere on the Giza Plateau and this would be found by the end of
It should be interesting to note some of the famous people who have
visited the Great Pyramid during the 20th Century include
Churchill, Chiang Kai-Shek, Mao Tse-tung and even
Pyramidology, Rutherford, Adam, 4 Volumes 1957-1972
Pyramid Facts and Fancies, James Bonwick, 1877
Giza: The Truth, Lawton, Ian and Ogilvie-Herald, Chris, 1999
History and Significance of the Great Pyramid, Basil Stewart, 1935
Pyramidographia, Greaves, John, 1646, 1736
Pyramid Passages, Edgar, John and Morton, 1912-13
The Great Pyramid: Its Secrets and Mysteries Revealed, Smyth,
Charles Piazzi, 1978
Secrets of the Great Pyramid, Tompkins, Peter, 1971