Archaeology Magazine Archive

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Special Introductory Offer!
Building the Great Pyramid, Giza Volume 61 Number 1, January/February 2008
by Mark Rose

Great Pyramid • Giza Plateau, Egypt

(Dassault Systemes)

Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, only the Great Pyramid of Giza remains. An estimated 2 million stone blocks weighing an average of 2 1/2 tons went into its construction. When completed, the 481-foot-tall pyramid was the world's tallest structure, a record it held for more than 3,800 years. We know who built the Great Pyramid: the pharaoh Khufu, who ruled Egypt about 2547-2524 B.C. And we know who supervised its construction: Khufu's brother, Hemienu. The pharaoh's right-hand man, Hemienu was "overseer of all construction projects of the king" and his tomb is one of the largest in a cemetery adjacent to the pyramid. What we don't know is exactly how it was built, a question that has been debated for millennia.

In April this year, a radical new idea was presented by Jean-Pierre Houdin, a French architect who has devoted the last seven years of his life to making detailed computer models of the Great Pyramid. Houdin has concluded that a ramp was indeed used to raise the blocks to the top, and that the ramp still exists--inside the pyramid! (See "How to Build a Pyramid") There's some evidence to support the idea, enough to make a non-invasive study of the Great Pyramid a reasonable next step.

More Top Discoveries of 2007

© 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of America