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51 EGYPT-CIVIL AND MILITARY ANNALS.

 

spicuous objects in a group of ten similar structures, the other seven in the neighborhood being of less magnitude and importance.

The largest and most ancient of these three great piles is the pyramid of Khufu, founder of Dynasty IV. It was originally four hundred and eighty feet in height; but the apex has been broken away, until it now measures only four hundred and fifty feet. Each side of the base is seven hundred and sixteen feet in length, the slant being five hundred and seventy-four feet. The structure contains nearly ninety million cubic feet of masonry. It stands precisely on the thirtieth parallel of latitude, and the four sides face the four cardinal points of the compass with geometric exactitude. On the north side, precisely in the middle, and fifty-two feet above the original ground-level of the pyramid, a rectangular opening is cut, being the door of a descending passage three feet broad and four feet high. This passage leads downwards at an angle to a chamber hewn in the rock of the foundation, more than a hundred feet below the ground-level of the base. The chamber lies in a perpendicular line six hundred feet directly under the apex of the pyramid and thirty-six feet above the level of the Nile. At certain points in the main passage to this chamber diverging ways are cut, leading to two other chambers, which also lie in the axis of the pyramid immediately above the first.

It was in the solemn stillness of these chambers that the stone coffins containing the royal mummies were laid to their final rest. Upon the walls round about was sculptured the story of the dead king's deeds. The door of the passage was sealed with a stone, and the name of the deceased monarch added to the lists of gods in the temple. It is said that three hundred and sixty thousand men were employed for twenty years in the building of the monument of Khufu.

The second of the three great pyramids in this group was built by Khafra, brother and successor of Khufu. It is on a level slightly above that of the first, and was originally four hundred and fifty-seven feet in altitude. The masonry is somewhat inferior to that exhibited in the monument of Khufu. The general proportion is the same, and the arrangement of the chambers within identical with that in the larger structure.

The third pyramid on the ridge of Gizeh was built by Menkera,1 a successor of Khafra and fourth or fifth king of Dynasty IV. This structure is but two hundred and thirty-three feet at the base, and the slant height two hundred and sixty-two feet. The Menkera pyramid stands on looser soil than its more ambitious sisters, and the substructure is consequently of greater relative proportions. Part of the exterior consists of polished slabs of granite. The sepulchral chamber within is double, one apartment being behind the other. In the innermost vault the mummy-box of Menkera himself was found in recent times by General Howard Vyse, and the hieroglyphic legend written on the case, containing, in addition to the name of the king, the myth of the God Osiris, has been deciphered and rendered into English.2 Until recently no other of the royal mummies had been recovered.

The pyramids are built of successive layers of stone varying from two to six feet in thickness, according to the size of the structure. Each layer is less in area than the one on which it rests, and thus the structure is made to present on either side the appearance of a series of stone steps narrowing and receding to the top. It is stated by Diodorus on the

1 In Greek: Mencheres, or Mycerinus. The sarcophagus in which the mummy lies is blue basalt, and bears the following inscription: "O Osiris, King Menkera, ever living one; begotten of the sky, carried in the bosom of Nut, scion of Seb. Thy mother Nut is outstretched over thee; in her name of the mystery of the sky may she deify thee, and destroy thy enemies. King Menkera, ever-living one."