Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 23 >> Puvis De Chavannes to Radium Therapy >> Pyramid

Pyramid

feet, pyramids, inches, chamber, built, granite, stones, base, passage and gizeh

PYRAMID, in architecture, a structure of masonry generally having a recangular base and four triangular sides terminating in a point. According to Herodonis the Egyptians con sidered the pyramidal form as an emblem of human life; the broad base was significant of the beginning and its termination in a point of the end of our existence in the present state; for which reason they made use of this figure in their sepulchres. The most remarkable pyra mids are those of Egypt and Nubia and those of Mexico. The Egyptian pyramids have for ages been a source of interest and curiosity and are regarded as forming one of ancient wonders of the world. They are built mainly of a hard, rough-hewn but large blocks of granite are also used, especially on the outside. The four sides are so placed as to face the four cardiaal,pitints. tieing in tended both as monuments and as tombs, they contain one or more sepulchral chambers, quitle small compared with the total mass. They appear to date from about 4750 to 3000 a.c. after 'which none were built. It is believed that most pyramids were begun over a sepul chral chamber -excavated in the rock and that the work went on during the lifetime of the king for whom it was intended. A low narrow passage was kept open as the tiers of stone were added, in order that access might be obtained to the central chamber from with out, and when the monarch died the work ceased and the last layers were then finished off and the passage closed up. The angles formed by the recession of each superior layer were filled with small stones and beveled off, so as to give a smooth sloping surface to the sides. The stones used varied in diameter, two to four feet being common, but much larger, well-squared blocks were commonly used in facing. The mechanical skill requisite tio quarry these and to raise them 'to such great heights and adjust them in their proper places continues a matter of universal astonishment. No indication of the mechanical contrivances used for this purpose has been left. The fact that an almost fabulous number of laborers were engaged in erecting these pyramids did not lessen the necessity for the employment of certain machines. The pyramids nnw stand ing, all in Middle Egypt, are divided into five groups, containing in all about 40 pyra mids. The district in which the pyramids stand begins above Dashur and extends by Sakkara and Memphis along the western mar gin of the valley of the Nile for about 60 or 70 miles, the last or Gizeh group being but a few miles above Cairo. The group of Gizeh, in the neighborhood of the ancient Memphis, is the most remarkable. It consists of nine pyra mids and comprises the three most celebrated monuments of the kind in Gamely, the pyramid, of Cheops called Ithufu or the Great. Pyramid; that oi Cephren and that of Mycerinus-- the last much smaller than either of the others. According to Herodotus Pyramid was built by Cheops. The tendency is to place the date earlier and earlier one large volume has bequ devoted by V. P. M to demonstrate that it is at least 50 000,years old. It is estimated that it took 10b,000 men working for 10 years to make a causeway 3,000 feet lopg, to facilitate the trans portation of the stone from the Turah quarries, and the• same, number of men for 20 years more to complete the pyramid itself. Herod outs further describes the method of build ing by' steps and raising the stones from layer to layer by machines and finally of facing the •external portion from the top down. Diodorus calls the builder of this pyramid Chembes or Chabryes and by Manetho and Eratosthenes he islealled $uphts. The latter name corresponds to • Shufu, deciphered from the hieroglyphics upon some stones discovered by Colonel Vyse in his important investigations of this pyramid in 1835. The pyramid at present covers an area of more than 12 acres. The base is about 750 feet square, but was formerly about 768 feet. The perpendicular height, which before the disappearance of the apex was about 482 feet,• is now 451 feet. The area at the top is about 12 yards square. The outer casing of 'small stones has been removed and the appear ance the sides now present is that of a series of ascending steps. By these steps, which number 203, the ascent is made comparatively easy, though the lower ones are 4 feet 10 inches high. The content of solid masonry has been estimated at 82,111,000 cubic feet. The only en trance is on the north face, 49 feet above the base, though the masonry about it has been so much broken away that the debris reaches nearly up to it. A passage 3 feet 11 inches high

and 3 feet 5% inches wide conducts from the entrance down a slope at an angle of 41', a distance of 320 feet 10 inches, to the original sepulchral chamber, commonly known as the subterranean apartment; it is carried, reduced in dimensions, beyond this a distance of 52 feet 9 inches into the rock, though for what purpose remains a matter of conjecture. The sepulchral chamber is 46 feet long by 27 feet wide and 144 feet high. From the en trance passage another branches off and leads to several other passages and chambers. One of the latter, known as the queen's chamber, is situated about the centre of the pyramid, 67 feet above the base; it has a groined roof and measures 17 feet broad by 18 feet 9 inches long and 20 feet 3 inches high. The other, called the king's chamber, is reached by an offshoot from the queen's passage, 150 feet long. Its dimensions are 34 feet 3 inches long by 17 feet 1 inch wide and 19 feet 1 inch high. The chamber is lined with red granite highly polished, single stones reaching from the floor to the ceiling and the ceiling itself is formed of nine large slabs of polished granite extending from wall to wall. The only contents of the apartment are a sarcophagus of red granite, which, judging by its dimensions, must have been introduced when the building was pro ceeding. It is supposed to have contained a wooden coffin with the mummy of the king and that these long since disappeared when the pyramids were first opened and plundered. The second pyramid, built by Suphis II or Cephren, stands on a higher elevation than the Great Pyramid. Its original dimensions were i07 feet 9 inches square and 454 feet 3 inches high, but these now stand 690 feet 9 inches and 447 feet 6 inches, respectively, with an angle for its slope of 52° 20'. Part of the outer cas ing of the pyramid is still preserved. This pyramid has two entrances and the passages to which they respectively give access lead to the same sepulchral chamber, in which is deposited a granite sarcophagus. It was reached with great difficulty by Belzoni in 1818. Belzoni found in it a Cufic inscription recording the visit of the Caliph Alaziz Othman Ben-Yusuf and the opening by him of the pyramid in 11% A.D. The only remains met with were those of a bull. The third pyramid, built by Menkare or Men-kau-Ra or Mycerinus, is only 354 feet 6 inches square and 203 feet high. It also was explored by Colonel Vyse in 1837. He dis covered several chambers, one of which con tained a sarcophagus and a mummy case bear ing the name of Men-kau-Ra and also a body, supposed to be that of an Arab. The two lat ter are now in the British Museum, but un fortunately the sarcophagus was lost by the sinking of, the vessel in which it was being transported to this country. This pyramid is the best constructed, of the three; it was orig. inally cased half-way up with black granite. The six smaller pyramids which complete the Gizeh group are supposed to. form the tombs of some of the relatives of the kings who con structed the larger ones and are of much in ferior interest to, the three above mentioned; Of the other groups of. pyramids that at Abusir contains five; another at Sakkara contains 11, one with a doorway inlaid with porcelain tiles and having a royal name, and a third group at Dasher contains five. Other pyramids are at Meydun and Illahun and there are two at Biahmu. The pyramids of Nubia are very numerous; a single group north of Gebel Barkal comprises no fewer than 120. In Baby lonia the Birs Nimrod or Tower of Beius was a kind of a step-shaped pyramid, built of bricki of different colors. It was erected by Ne4. buchadnezzar and dedicated• to the planets. Its height was 235 feet and its circumference 2,286 feet. The Mnjellibe in Babylon, of whiCh the ruins are still to be seen, was anotherpyra midal structure of the same monarch. Ruins of pyramids are to be found at Benares in India and in other parts of the East. Certain monuments of the ancient inhabitants, found in Mexico, are also called pyramids. (See MEXICAN ARCTIZALOGY). Consult Lepsius, (Lieber den Bauder Pyramiden' ; Vyse, carried on at Gizeh in 1837' ; Petrie, The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh' (1884) ; Maspero, (L'Archeologie Egyptienne (1887) ; McCarthy, tThe Great 'Pyramid Jeeaeh' (1900); Barber, (Mechanical Triumphs of 'the Ancient trans'Egyp (1900) ; Baedecker, (1814 ed.).