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THE HORIZON OF KHUFU

The Giza pyramids as geometric religious art

While many admire the technical achievement, most people today consider pyramids as the ultimately useless products of an autocratic state - tombs for vainglorious kings. (Some scholars propose that their building was essentially a means of keeping 'idle' workers busy during the annual Nile inundation). Egypt was a highly organised theocracy where all things in heaven and on earth were imbued with religious significance and this was most particularly true of funerary architecture. Pyramid tombs were seemingly designed to launch kings to an afterlife among the stars. The Pyramid Texts on the walls of later pyramids have been analysed to show that they were inscribed for the benefit of the king, to guide him in passing through various challenges on his way to immortality. (The sarcophagus was Nut , the sky, his mother). So pyramid designs may represent the expression of the death and rebirth narrative in architectonic form.

However, it remains difficult to define the functions of pyramid features because no two are alike, and some contain complex passage and chamber systems whose meaning can only be guessed at -

 

Old Kingdom pyramids

 

Does this multiplicity of design reflect royal whim, as the popular account has it? This is rather unlikely - powerful priesthoods administered the state and all religious matters - including the designs for huge and complex tombs. Kings, assuming their piety exceeded their vainglory, will have relied on priestly advice in the creation and design of monuments. But whatever the priests were trying to say they expressed it in the language of geometrical form which may thus be analysed and perhaps reveal something of the principles of design employed by the builders.

This website presents a series of analyses of the Giza pyramids for consideration. I argue for a multi-generational plan - that is a plan conceived by Khufu's architects to include not only his own 'Great' pyramid but to define the positions of two other pyramids on the plateau. This would have to imply the co-operation of later generations of kings.

 

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DESCRIPTION. Description of the site and its monuments.

ANALYSIS. Site geometry.

RELIGION. A discussion of Egyptian religion and astronomy.

RESOURCES. More information on Giza.

UPDATES. This site is now undergoing a major update.

 

 

 

The painting above was made many years ago, using various excavation reports. Consequently it contains a few errors - for example Khufu causeway, with an offset of 1 to 4 (the same as Khafre causeway to the south), probably made a bend to the north after leaving the plateau. Also, at the time the site was built, the geography would have been less arid. I have shown the indentation of the limestone core masonry of Khufu and Menkaure although it seems this indentation did not extend to the finished casing. Its meaning remains unknown. Khafre core masonry shows no such indentation.

The title of this website is the generally accepted translation of Ahket Khufu, the name the Egyptians gave to Giza.