Digging Up the Past

Chapter 1 - Land of the Pyramids

Tomb robbers

Just when the pyramid was broken into and relieved of its contents
is not known. According to Muslim tradition, the Caliph Ma'mum in
the ninth century AD, believing that the pyramid contained fabulous
treasures, ordered his workmen to burrow into it. Very logically, they
started chiselling a passage into the centre of its north face, but as
Khufu had the foresight to make his entrance off-centre, Ma'mum's
men may have gone clean through the pyramid and out the other
side without reward, had it not been for a stroke of good fortune.
Their violent hammering dislodged the slab of stone that concealed
the lower end of the ascending corridor, and it collapsed with a thud.
The workmen, hearing this and accurately estimating the direction
from which the noise came, changed direction and linked up with
the ascending corridor. It is through this rough passage of Ma'mum
that tourists enter the pyramid today.

Just to the east of Khufu's pyramid, were buried two huge funerary
boats, no doubt intended to ferry the king's soul to the after-life.
Nearby are some small pyramids called the Queen's pyramids. Just
to the north of these small pyramids, archaeologist Gearge Reisner
in 1925 found the only undisturbed tomb of the old kingdom ever
discovered. It lay at the bottom of a shaft 30 metres deep, and it
belonged to Queen Hetepheres, the mother of King Khufu. The rich
funerary equipment of this tomb is now in the Cairo Museum.

Khufu's pyramid

Entrance to Khufu's pyramid

Khufu's funerary boat


Sign in front of small pyramid


Queen Hetepheres' small pyramid


Ramp to shaft leading to Queen Hetepheres' tomb