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The Pharaohs

Khufu
Birth name: Khufu ("Protected by Khnum"), called "Cheops" by the Greeks
Rule: 2589 - 2566 BC (2nd king of the 4th dynasty, Old Kingdom)
Noteworthy relatives: Snefru (father), Hetepheres (mother), Djedefre (son), Khafre (son), Menkaure (grandson)

 

Like his father before him, Khufu continued Egypt's prosperity by sending military expeditions out for natural resources: to the Sinai peninsula for turquoise, and to Aswan for red granite.

However, Khufu is better known as the owner of the Great Pyramid at Giza... a structure so huge that it held the record for the world's tallest man-made building until the 1880's (that's four and a half thousand years!). It was constructed on the Giza plateau, a site that is southwest to the modern city of Cairo. You'd think that Khufu would've built his pyramid on the highest spot on the plateau to make it more prominent, but for some reason he didn't. However, his son Khafre did choose the highest spot to build a pyramid of his own, casting an optical illusion where Khafre's pyramid seemed taller than Khufu's (though it was actually 33 1/2 feet shorter!).

Some other facts about the Great Pyramid:

  • It took about 20 years to build and cost about $7.5 million by today's standards.

  • It is made from about 2,300,000 blocks with an average weight of 5000 pounds each.

  • The Great Pyramid was 481 feet high when finished, but it is now 451 feet (30 feet have been lost off the top). Even so, it is still taller than Khafre's pyramid by 3 1/2 feet. The area of the base is 13 acres and each side is 755 feet. The sides slope up at an angle of 51°52'.

  • The exterior of the pyramid was originally covered with a smooth white limestone casing, but it was stripped off during the middle ages and the stone was used to construct other buildings in Cairo.

  • The intended location of Khufu's burial chamber changed a couple times while the pyramid was being built. The first plan was to place it underground, below the bottom of the pyramid. Then a small chamber was built into the pyramid, about 50 feet above ground level. Some people call this the "Queen's Chamber" although it was never intended to be used by a queen. Finally, Khufu's "King's Chamber" was constructed about half way up the middle of the pyramid. This is where his empty sarcophagus was found.

  • Each side of the pyramid faces one of the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) nearly exactly.

  • In 1954, a funeral boat was found buried in a pit outside the pyramid on the side facing south. It is believed that this was the barge that brought Khufu's body across the Nile to the pyramid during his funeral. The boat is now on display in a specially-built museum at Giza.

  • On the east side of the pyramid are three smaller pyramids that belonged to three of Khufu's queens. Also on the east side, but farther away, is the tomb of Khufu's mother Hetepheres. Her underground tomb was discovered in 1925 at the bottom of a 99-foot deep shaft. Inside was some furniture, an empty sarcophagus, and a canopic chest that still contained her organs! Hetepheres is the oldest example of the removal of the organs during mummification.

  • On the west side of the pyramid is a necropolis of tombs of Khufu's servants.

Khufu's Pyramid (The Great Pyramid). Nina at the Norwegian bokmål language Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Transparent view of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, from the south east. By R.F.Morgan (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Khufu in Cairo Museum. By Chipdawes (transferred from the English language Wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Reconstructed funeral boat of Khufu. By Berthold Werner (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Pyramid Complex at Giza. Khufu's is in the rear on the right. By Ricardo Liberato (All Gizah Pyramids) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Watch: "The Secret of The Great Pyramid: Khufu Revealed"