The pyramid of Chopes is an exceptional building. Considered since antiquity as the first of the Seven Wonders of the World, it has never ceased to fascinate. One of the greatest mysteries of the pyramid lies in its construction, whose researchers have not yet discovered all its secrets.
It is without doubt one of the most beautiful pyramids in the world. The pyramid of Cheops was erected around 2650 BC on the Giza plateau, a few kilometres south of Cairo. Built by the vizier Hemiounou, it is the presumed tomb of Cheops, pharaoh of the Iv th dynasty and son of Snufu.
The only marvel of the ancient world to have come down to us, it is the largest pyramid in Egypt and was, until the beginning of the 20th century, the highest building ever constructed by man. A construction as fascinating as mysterious.
A pyramid with astonishing dimensions
Before looking at the way the pyramid of Cheops was built, and the mysteries still unsolved around its erection, let us first look at its exceptional dimensions.
a pyramid of Cheops forms with the pyramids of Khephren and Mykerinos, the pyramid complex of Giza. In total, these three pyramids represent more than 10 million tons of stones.
The pyramid of Cheops is the highest, culminating at 146 meters height. Its structure is the result of the assembly of more than 2 million blocks of limestone, each stone weighing one and a half tons.
Who built the pyramid of Cheops? The craziest theories
The construction of the pyramid of Cheops was the subject of the craziest theories throughout the decades. Faced with this colossal undertaking, and considering the means of the time, some have suggested that the builders of the pyramids could have received help … of the extraterrestrials. A theory moreover taken up last year by Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla and Space X. The businessman even went so far as to assert that the great pharaoh Ramses II was himself an alien. A hypothesis that obviously lends itself to smiles but that illustrates well the madness around the construction of the pyramid of Cheops.
Another astonishing theory emanating from the conspiracy spheres, the pyramids would have been built by the people of Atlantis, the mythical island evoked by Plato, men and women endowed with an extraordinary technology.
The transport of the stone blocks, a feat in itself
In 2013, a Franco-Egyptian archaeological mission (French Institute of Oriental Archaeology (IFAO), unit 8167 of the CNRS) led by Pierre Tallet uncovered 250 km from the pyramid several fragments of papyrus signed by a certain Merer. As the archaeologist explained to the Figaro at the time of the discovery, the latter was “one of the foremen of the pyramid, dependent on Kankal, the half-brother of the pharaoh”.
Among other things, this logbook revealed that the foreman had a real team of forty people who managed 160 skilled workers. Archaeologists have also understood thanks to these documents how Merer and his team transported the blocks from the quarry in Tourah (south of Cairo) to the construction site of the pyramids on the Giza plateau. A method of a crazy ingenuity since the engineers used at the same time systems of hauling on the banks of the Nile and the transport on the river itself when it was in flood.
Construction of the pyramid of Cheops: the last discoveries
It is impossible to look at the pyramid of Cheops without falling in admiration. If it is no longer the highest building in the world, largely dethroned by the Burj Khalifa tower, it remains no less fascinating. How did men living more than 4500 years ago manage to complete this masterpiece of engineering? Archaeologists have not stopped thinking about it and successive discoveries in the last ten years have allowed us to know more.
In 2018, the French-English Hatnoub mission (French Institute of Oriental Archaeology and the University of Liverpool), led by Yannis Gourdon and Roland Enmarch, has precisely pierced part of the mystery… without even working on the pyramids! “We are conducting excavations in the alabaster quarries on the site of Hatnoub in Middle Egypt. But while digging, we discovered a ramp that has all the characteristics to explain the construction of the pyramids,” explained Yannis Gourdon to Le Figaro.
“The ramp that we discovered has a slope of 20% and is 3 meters wide. It is flanked by two stairs and there is a system of holes in the ground at regular intervals that allows to fix trunks,” he detailed. A very steep slope that allows you to climb 20 meters by advancing horizontally 100 meters. If the alabaster was not used to build the pyramids, its weight is similar to that of the limestone used in Giza. Such ramps could therefore have been built on the site of Cheops for the erection of the pyramid, especially since two inscriptions with the name of the pharaoh were discovered on the ramp uncovered at Hatnoub.
It is obviously not the first time that this hypothesis of a straight ramp is evoked but it finds here a new light. For the researchers, it is possible that several ramps were used simultaneously, one on each side of the pyramid. However, archaeologists have no certainty about the system actually used by the Egyptians to build Cheops. The first Wonder of the World keeps its mystery.