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.

Khufu's pyramid

Entrance to Khufu's pyramid

Khufu's funerary boat

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. 

Sign in front of small pyramid

Queen Hetepheres' small pyramid

Ramp to shaft leading to Queen Hetepheres' tomb