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That generally ended the debate, especially when accompanied by a demonstration with the rhinoceros-hide whip, the modern equivalent of Osiris's scourge of authority as seen in the monuments.
Turn we now to a consideration of these monstrous pyramids of Ghizeh. The world needs not to be reminded that they were tombs erected by monarchs early in the recorded history of Egypt - in the Fourth Dynasty, to be specific. But there are many interesting things about them which the world does not know so well, and of which a layman may venture to speak. For example, it is not generally realized that these pyramids, the greatest of all, were not the fruit of a long experience in pyramid building, but were among the very earliest to be erected. King Zoser developed his Step Pyramid from the original low mastaba tomb, let us say, about 2900 B.C. In 2850, or thereabouts, Snofru of the Fourth Dynasty erected the first “real” pyramid at Medun— for the Step Pyramid is not held to be a real pyramid at all. The succeeding monarchs, Cheops (Khufu), Khephrên, and Mycerinus (Menkewre), erected the hugest of all the pyramids in the years between, say, 2800 and 2700 B.C. After their time, although many more of the regal pyramids were built, none approached these older monuments in
magnitude — and even the Third Pyramid, that of Mycerinus, is greatly inferior to its two enormous neighbors.
Various theories have been advanced to account for the extraordinary magnitude of the Fourth Dynasty pyramids as contrasted with those of later times. Most interesting of all, though probably fallacious, is the one which holds that these pyramids were matters of accretion — that is to say, that each king began his monument on a modest scale and added to it year after year, so that the resulting pyramid would be directly proportionate to the length of his reign. The trouble with this is that several kings, whose reigns were of respectable length and fairly comparable to those of Cheops and Khephrên, did not leave pyramids as large as theirs. And moreover, as will be seen by referring to the drawing of the Great Pyramid in section, such an hypothesis seems irreconcilable with the arrangement of the interior passages. True it is that alterations were made in the internal design as the work advanced, but so far as appears, even the original plans called for a pyramid but little smaller than that which was finally built. The point at which the tomb-passage enters the rock of the plateau appears to fix the lower limit of size in the case of the pyramid of Cheops — and it is no modest pile, even then. Therefore, while the
accretion theory is by no means dead and still finds a degree of favor among students, it seems highly improbable that it can be relied on to explain the case. From the indications it seems necessary to assume that Cheops from the first planned a structure very nearly as large as the one he actually com
(After Patrio) SECTION OF GREAT PYRAMID Showing Lower Limit of Original Plan. (A-A) |
pleted; and plausible to account for the subsequent falling-off in size in the other monuments as due to excessive costs or possibly a failure of engineering skill.
The latter factor in the time of Cheops was indeed marvelous, as is revealed by the nicety of measure
ment and accuracy of orientation. The error in attempting to make the front of the tomb face the true north is practically negligible, and the same is said to be true of the slight errors in placing the four corners. Considering the primitive tools and the configuration of the land, which precluded direct sighting, the results attained were extraordinary, and could not be bettered, even if they could be equaled, by modern engineers. As for the fitted blocks of the exterior casing, while few remain, it is possible to see that their joints were of amazing accuracy, and the work in the casing of the inner hall is frequently compared for minuteness of exactitude to the best work of modern opticians.
As for the cost, it must have been great, even though the labor employed on the actual building was forced and probably unremunerated by anything save food. Quarrying, which doubtless went on all the year in the cliffs on the other side of the Nile, must have entailed an enormous expense. But the building on the spot, which was mainly carried on while the Nile was in high flood, can hardly have been as costly, since at that period of the year a vast body of the fellaheen would have no other work, owing to the flooding of their fields, and would be free to labor on the royal tomb.
Herodotus relates that at such seasons 100,000 men
were employed and that the work on the actual pyramid occupied twenty years. Professor Petrie avers that this account is entirely consistent with the task involved in conveying this enormous volume of cut stone from the quarries of Turra and raising it into position with the crude engines of that day. Besides this, Herodotus relates that ten years more were spent in preparing the platform of rock and in building the causeway up which the stone was carried after it had been floated across the flooded river. In round numbers, 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each containing about forty cubic feet, were put into the monument. Archæologists deny that the engineers of the period knew anything of the pulley, and there is a division of opinion as to whether they even knew the roller. But surely it is incredible that the latter was not employed, and, I take it, the better and more sensible view is that it certainly was. Levers, of course, were indispensable.
The sides of the pyramids are almost invariably canted at the canonical angle of approximately) fifty-two degrees. In their best estate, before the hand of the spoiler was laid upon them, all were coated with a smooth casing of polished stone. A little of this is left in situ at the top of the pyramid of Khephrên. That it was common to cover the polished casement with inscriptions, as Herodotus alleges, is