from la Description de l'Egyptefrom la Description de l'Egypte

Building the Pyramids

Eye of Horus. This pendant is for sale. Click photo for info The first really large scale building projects seen in Ancient Egypt occured during the reign of Pharaoh Khasekhemwy whose rule extended until 2686 BCE. Khasekhemwy is known for a large mud brick structure at Hierakonpolis, a larger one at Abydos (also mud brick) and the Gisr el Mudir at Saqqara, which has a huge wall of roughly dressed stone.

Little is known about the next two rulers, Sanakhte and Nebka, even their existence as Pharaohs is uncertain. No major building projects are attributed to them.

With Pharaoh Djoser (Zoser) the Pyramid age began. Djoser ruled from 2668 to 2649 BCE. During that time the high priest of Heliopolis was a man named Imhotep. Perhaps Imhotep gained access to secret writings from an earlier, now unknown, civilization. What is sure is that he introduced the Egyptians to building with dressed stone (and many other innovations), which had only been used in small special locations previously.

The only structure known for certain to be built by Imhotep is Djoser's Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Perhaps Imhotep also designed the unfinished Pyramid complex of Sekhemkhet, the intricate stonework of the walls certainly shows his influence. The Djoser complex includes a number of buildings, a beautifully finished enclosure wall, and the Pyramid: 121 X 109 meters (397 X 358 feet), with a height of 60 meters (197 feet) - all of dressed stone.

Imhotep was later revered as the greatest architect, physician, scientist and wizard in Egyptian history. The tomb of Imhotep has not been found. It likely is located not far from Djoser's at Saqqara. This tomb may hold many answers regarding the origins of Egyptian science.

Here we have to pause. If we put aside the "earlier civilization" theory for a moment, we are asked by archaeology to believe that in two decades Egyptian architecture shifted from piles of mud brick to the astounding achievement, both in size and concept, that is the Step Pyramid Complex. This gap in understanding Egyptian history is comparable to the "Missing Mass" in Astronomy. {A large percentage of the mass of the Universe is not accounted for in current theories}. Yet while astronomers are putting a lot of effort into resolving the missing mass problem, archaeologists rarely consider the source of Imhotep's knowledge. And yet it could be argued, without much hyperbole, that the origin of modern civilization stems from what he revealed.

One part of the puzzle has likely been found in the megalithic stone ruins of Malta. The Maltese temple building culture has recently been dated to begin c.3700 BCE, a full thousand years before Djoser. While as far as is known, the people of Malta built nothing on the scale of the Pyramids, nor with the superb accuracy of the Egyptians, their temples used roughly dressed stones as large as 10 X 4 feet (3 X 1 meters). The building of megalithic Maltese temples ceased about 2500 BCE, curiously about the same time as giant stone works began to be erected in Egypt. (The stone work of Stonehenge in England is estimated to have been built c.2300-2400 BCE, slightly later than the Pyramids, also with roughly dressed stones and less precision.)
Gobekli Tepe info

After Djoser, the next 36 years saw little major Pyramid construction, until Sneferu became Pharaoh in 2613 BCE. Sneferu built three huge Pyramids, perhaps refining the design as archeologists believe, although other explanations are possible. And then, in 2589 BCE, Cheops (Khufu) began his rule and, soon after, his Pyramid, a structure built with optician's precision on an immense scale, now known worldwide as the "Great" Pyramid. Yet, strangely, very little stonework is known from this time other than the Pyramids.

From Djoser to Cheops - 2668 until 2589 - was 79 years - with the admitted inaccuracy of Old Kingdom dating it was somewhere between 50 and 100 years. In this short period there was the development of a technology that created a Pyramid that in size, alignment and precision far outshines any other structure yet built by man.

And then came decline. Subsequent fourth dynasty Pyramids were smaller, less accurate. Later dynasties built even smaller Pyramids with a stone outer casing, and a stone framework inside filled with sand and loose stones (the last known Egyptian Pyramid was built around 1750 BCE, in the 13th Dynasty). The technology that appeared so suddenly was available no longer.

Were the Pyramids tombs? Many who reject mainstream archeology's explanations have advanced various theories, but it seems likely to this writer that they were intended as the final abode of the Pharaohs. The Gisa plateau is a huge cemetery, the Great Pyramid is surrounded with hundreds of burials from the time of Cheops. Coffers were found in all three principal Giza Pyramids that certainly resemble those used in burial. And most significantly, if the Pyramids are not tombs then where were the fourth dynasty Pharaohs buried? No other structures of Pharaoic proportions have been found from this time.

Yes they were tombs, but they were more as well. The Pharaoh was the intermediary between the spiritual and the physical, bringing life force and thus fertility and abundance to Egypt. His tomb, and the continuing service of the priests who daily offered ritual for him, were intended to perpetuate this flow of life force to the land. That goal would be sufficient to motivate the population for the vast building projects that were the Pyramids.

And so they remain, as they have throughout all mankind's recorded history, enigmas in dressed stone, far too large to ignore, far too precise to dismiss. And yet we somehow have convinced ourselves that they are curious relics of the past, interesting, but of no importance in our busy lives. Unlocking the secrets of the Pyramid age could restore to us our forgotten past. This lost perspective could allow us to redefine what it is to be human. Perhaps the key has been before us all along.

Here the reader has an option. The remainder of this page, after a chart of the principal Egyptian Pyramids, covers some of the truly extraordinary mathematical facts about the Great Pyramid and Egyptian science. For those to whom the beauty and spiritual power of Ancient Egypt are more interesting we have another large website full of stories and pictures of the range of Egyptian history. features a directory of websites that challenge conventional Egyptology, a library of first hand accounts of many of the important sites of Ancient Egypt and a vast collection of 19th century engravings that, like the ones on this site, evoke the magic of Ancient Egypt more fully than modern photographs.

It is hard to imagine how big the Giza Pyramids really are.
The Pyramids of Chephren and Cheops
by David Roberts, 1839.

Pyramid Builders
of Old Kingdom Egypt

Second Dynasty
Last Pharaoh of Second Dynasty
Probably built theGisr el Mudir at Saqqara - A large enclosure of roughly dressed stone, precursor to the Pyramids.
?-2686 BCE
Third Dynasty
SanakhteNo Pyramid known2686-2668 BCE
No Pyramid known
Djoser (Zoser)
Commissioned the Step Pyramid at Saqqara designed by Imhotep, considered the first Pyramid.
Pyramid size: 121 X 109 meters (397 X 358 feet),
Height: 60 meters (197 feet)
Oldest known large structure built entirely of dressed stone.
2668-2649 BCE
(Djoser Tati)
Unfinished pyramid at Saqqara.
Pyramid size: 120 meters square (394 feet),
Height: only 7 meters (23 feet) when construction was abandoned.
2649-2643 BCE
Omitted on some lists.
No known Pyramid.
KhabaProbable owner of step Pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan.
Pyramid size: 84 meters (275 feet) square. Unfinished.
2643-2637 BCE
HuniSome believe he began the Pyramid at Meidum.
Possible builder of a mud brick pyramid at Abu Roash, 215 meters (705 feet) square. (Condition is much deteriorated so height is uncertain.)
Probable builder of a series of 10-17 meter tall mud brick Pyramids throughout Egypt.
2637-2613 BCE
Fourth Dynasty
Commissioned three large pyramids:2613-2589 BCE
Meidum (Maidum)
The "Broken Pyramid"
Pyramid size: 144 meters square (472 feet),
Height: 92 meters (302 feet),
Angle: 51 degrees, 50 minutes 35 seconds.
Structure is partly collapsed.
The "Bent Pyramid"
Pyramid size: 188 meters (617 feet) square,
Height: 105 meters (344 feet),
Angle (lower): 55 degrees, 0 min 30 sec,
Angle (upper): 43 degrees, 01 min 30 sec.
One subsidiary Pyramid.
Limestone casing is mostly intact.
The "Red Pyramid"
Pyramid size: 220 meters (722 feet) square,
Height: 105 meters (344 feet),
Angle: 43 degrees, 22 minutes.
Khufu Greek form: Cheops
The "Great Pyramid" at Giza.
Pyramid size: 230 meters square (755 feet),
Height: 146 meters (479 feet),
Angle: 51 degrees, 30 minutes 35 seconds.
One subsidiary and three "Queens'" Pyramids.
Five boat pits, two contained large cedar boats, one boat has been restored.
2589-2566 BCE
Unfinished Pyramid at Abu Roasch (Rawash)
Pyramid size: 105 meters (344 feet) square,
Height: (intended) 92 meters (302 feet),
only about ten meters was built.
Angle: 60 degrees.
One subsidiary Pyramid.
Partial red granite casing remains.
2566-2558 BCE
Khafre Greek form: Chephren
Commissioned the second largest Pyramid at Giza
Pyramid size: 214.5 meters (704 feet) square,
Height: 143.5 meters (471 feet),
Angle: 53 degrees, 7 minutes, 48 seconds.
One subsidiary Pyramid.
First course of casing is granite.
Limestone casing remains intact near summit.
2558-2532 BCE
Bikherisuncertain, listed by Manetho.
May have an unfinished pyramid at Zawyet el-Aryan.
Pyramid size: 200 meters (656 feet) square.
Menkaure Greek form: Mycerinus
The third Giza Pyramid
Pyramid size: 105 meters (344 feet) square,
Height: 65.5 meters (215 feet),
Angle: 51 degrees, 20 minutes, 25 seconds.
Three "Queens'" Pyramids.
Lowest 16 courses of casing are granite.
2532-2503 BCE
ShepseskareUnfinished mastaba at Saqqara
Mastaba size: 99 X 74 meters (325 X 243 feet),
Height: (unknown).
2503-2498 BCE

Note: There is much disagreement concerning this period of Ancient Egyptian history,
in particular the dates of rule of the kings.
sources: Pharaohs and dates - (mostly) Wikipedia
Pyramid information - "Cultural Atlas of Ancient Egypt"
by John Baines and Jaromir Malek

A long trail through the tombs leads to a shining Pyramid
Pathway to the Great Pyramid.
by Ernst Weidenbach, 1840's

Precision of
the Great Pyramid at Giza

Eye of Horus. This pendant is for sale. Click photo for info The Great Pyramid occupies a land area of 13 acres (5.3 hectare). The builders used about 2.3 million stone blocks, most are limestone from quarries across the Nile weighing on the average about 2 1/2 tons each (2200 kilograms), placed in 203 courses. Granite blocks of 70 tons each (64,000 kilograms) were brought 500 miles (800 kilometers) down the Nile from Aswan for the King's chamber.

Fine white limestone casing stones 5 feet (1 1/2 meter) high, 12 feet (3 1/3 meters) long and 8 feet (2.4 meters) wide, some weighing 15 tons (13,000 kilograms), were fitted to enclose the entire structure, a surface area of about 22 acres (8.9 hectare). The sides of the casing stones where they abut their neighbors are filled with a mortar, the composition of which is still uncertain. These sides are so straight and square that the gap between them is 1/50 of an inch (.01 cm).

The mean variation of the surface of the casing stones from perfectly straight is 1/100 inch over 75 inches (.004 cm over almost 2 meters) as determined by W.F. Petrie from the few examples found at its' base. It is unknown but probable that this precision was continued through-out the 22 acres of Pyramid surface. (Sir William Flinders Petrie is considered the founder of modern scientific archeology. Mainstream archeology has a high regard for his results.)

The Great Pyramid's foundation of fine limestone blocks is within 7/8 inch (2 cm) of true level, and even that small inaccuracy could be the result of subsidence of a portion of the plateau due to the weight of the Pyramid or earthquakes.

There is a slight hollowing of all four sides of the Great Pyramid, which escaped notice until Petrie found it in his survey of 1881. The indentation is at its greatest on the northern side where the center of the face is set back 37 inches (94 cm). This perhaps was to make the monument stronger, to improve its' appearance, or perhaps some more esoteric reason. One certainty - if the hollowing was carried to the casing stones the difficulty of maintaining the extreme precision with which they were faced increases still further.

The first 150 feet (46 meters) of the descending passage, where it goes through the masonry of the Pyramid, is within 1/50 of an inch (.01 cm) of perfectly straight and the remaining 200 feet (60 meters), which is cut into natural rock, deviates only 1/4 inch (.4 cm). (Petrie)

Petrie determined that stone was cut by saws with blades about 9 feet (2.7 meters) long, with hard jewels such as diamond or corundum on the cutting tips. To drill out the interior of the sarcophagus (which is a single piece of very hard granite) a drill was used with a pressure of two tons, an extraordinary amount of pressure.

The Sphinx does not seem concerned with the ambitions of Napoleon.
Napoleon and the Sphinx.
by Jean Gerome, 1862

The Mathematics of the Great Pyramid

Many relationships between the Great Pyramid and various factors have been theorized. Some may be intentional, others may be coincidence. Even pared down to the few correlations specified by ancient authors and verified by modern measurement, it is clear that the Pyramid represents a unique geometric figure attainable only by a highly evolved mathematics.

The height to perimeter ratio is pi ( "π" ) (Smyth: 3.14159+) (Petrie: 3.1428+). This relationship is basic to this particular Pyramid form and no other. It establishes a direct relationship between the Pyramid and a half sphere - and thus with the Northern Hemisphere of our planet.

Agatharchides of Cnidus was a guardian and philosopher in the court of the king of Egypt at the end of the second century BCE. From sources available to him he reported that the base of the Great Pyramid was 1/8 minute of latitude. This has been proven correct by modern measurement to within a tenth of a percent.

The Faces of all Pyramids are aligned to North, East, South and West. The alignment of the Great Pyramid deviates from true on two corners by three minutes, on one by thirty seconds and the fourth by only two seconds. While there are theories that account for the variance as intentional, as it stands the Great Pyramid is extraordinarily precise in its alignment.

Precession of the Equinoxes

The tilt of the earth is not fixed but rotates relative to the stars at the very slow pace of about one turn every 26,000 years. This creates the great ages of Astrology, each constellation in turn taking its place on the horizon at dawn. Currently we are entering the Age of Aquarius (there is no agreement of the exact date of change, indeed it is a gradual transition). We are leaving the age of Pisces.

The cult of the bull (Apis) was prominent in early Egyptian history, to be largely replaced by that of the ram (Amun) as the constellation Aries moved to the equinoctial position on the horizon following Taurus.

One degree of movement in the precession takes about 72 years. Knowledge of such a slow movement of the heavens shows a highly developed mathematical astronomy at the earliest stages of known Egyptian history.

More Sacred Geometry
for the mathematics minded

The triangle formed by the Great Pyramid's height, apothem (linear height of one face) and half the width of the base - in other words a cross section of half the Pyramid - shows that the Egyptians incorporated Phi ("φ" - the golden section - considered the most harmonious relationship in art and of great mystical significance) into the design. If the half base is considered to have the length of one unit then the apothem has a length of φ and the height is the square root of φ. This modern measurement, correct to at least 4 digits, proves the information given to Herodotus who was told by Egyptian priests that the area of each face was equal to the square of the Pyramid's height. (Height: square root of φ squared = φ X 1/2 base [defined as 1] = φ)

The Great Pyramid does not stand in historical isolation. While the Great Pyramid is the largest, and by most accounts the most accurate, there has been little study of the geometry and accuracy of the other fourth dynasty Pyramids. It is likely that the other Pyramids of this era also contain mathematical principles and intentional relationships, perhaps including some important ideas that modern science is currently unaware of. Egyptian temples were reflections of the gods that they served, using sacred geometry to evoke specific energies. Perhaps eventual research will find very specific explanations for the positions, size and angles of the other major Pyramids.

Much of the information on this page comes from "Secrets of the Great Pyramid" by Peter Tompkins, appendix by Livio Catullo Stecchini.

From across the Nile the tips of the Pyramids glow brightly, while the remainder is veiled in mist.
The Giza Pyramids at sunrise.
by Jean Gerome, 1895

wings of the Sun.

The Greatest Mystery
of the Egyptian Pyramids

For Beautiful Jewelry of Nepal and Tibet

The Pyramids of Gisa are surrounded by thousands of smaller tombs.
Map of Gisa and the Pyramids,
by Prisse de l'Avennes, 1878.

Ancient Egypt's Age of the Pyramids
Please click the chapters:

Home Page
Climbing the Great Pyramid
The Great Pyramid of Cheops
The Second Greatest Pyramid - Chephren
The Pyramid of Menkaure
The Great Sphinx
More About Giza
Before Giza:
The Pyramids at Saqqara
The Pyramids of Sneferu
The Greatest Mystery of All. (you are here)

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