There are not many documentaries on Pharaoh Khufu. We fail to realize that he is the brain behind the Pyramid of Giza’s construction, one of the world’s seven wonders. This article will talk about Khufu and his most significant achievement (building the Pyramid of Giza).
Who is Pharaoh Khufu?
Khufu, or rather Khum Khufu, was a prominent ancient monarch of Egypt’s fourth dynasty. He became the King after succeeding his father, Sneferu. During his period in the Old and New Kingdom, he preserved the cultural heritage of the Egyptians. However, many aspects of Khufu’s reign are poorly documented.
The only portrait of Khufu that exists is a three-inch figurine. The rest were reduced to untraceable fragments. Ancient historians: Manetho, Herodotus, and Diodorus wrote controversial information on Khufu, and since then, a skeptical picture of Khufu persists.
The Origin of Khufu’s Name
Khufu was named after the Egyptian god Khnum. The latter refers to the god of creation and growth. When Khufu was born, many Egyptian pharaohs accentuated their divine origin and status by dedicating their official names to specific deities. For Khufu, being named after god Khnum made him view himself as a divine creator.
Birth of Khufu
Khufu was born to both Sneferu and Hetepheres. It was only natural for him to descend to the throne, being the eldest son of Sneferu. Back then, kingship ties were hereditary. However, some literature works contradicted whether Khufu was Sneferu’s biological son, more so as the royal family of Khufu was large. But the presence of queen Hetephere’s throne next to Khufu’s Pyramid only confirmed that she was her mother.
Nevertheless, some have doubted the above theory, alleging that at no time did Hetephere bear the title Hemet-nesut, meaning mother of King. As such, researchers conclude Khufu may not have been Seneferu’s biological son, though instead, Sneferu legitimized Khufu’s rank and familial position by marriage.
Khufu got married to two wives, who sired him fourteen children; five daughters and nine sons. His first wife was called Meritites I while his second Henutsen. Moreover, he was blessed with five grandchildren: Duaenhor, Kaemsekhem, Mindjedef, Djaty, and Iunmin.
Khufu’s Period in Power
Not much light has been shed on Khufu’s exact time in power. Only historical documents have information regarding his reign, although they happen to conflict. The Royal Canon of Turin from the 19th Dynasty provides 23 years of leadership; the Ancient Historian Herodotus gives 50 years. And the ancient historian Manetho says 63 years, as many considered these figures a misinterpretation and exaggeration.
In an attempt to solve the riddle around Khufu’s exact period in power, the contemporary society put to point to Sneferu’s reign, when the cattle count was held amid every second year of the King’s leadership. A newer evaluation of contemporary documents and Palermo stone inscriptions strengthened the theory that cattle counts under Khufu were performed biennially, not annually. Hence Khufu might have ruled for possibly 26, 27, 34, or even 46 years.
Khufu and Political Activities
There is limited information on Khufu’s political activities within and outside Egypt. Most of Khufu’s documentation is encrypted in several buildings and statues. His name appears in Elkab, Elephantine, and in local querries at Hatnub and Wadi Hammamat. Also, two terracotta figures of goddess Bastet, bearing the name Khufu at the base, were found at Saqqara. The figurines were disposed of in Saqqara during the Middle Kingdom, although their creation dates back to when Khufu was the King.
Khufu’s Greatest Achievement: The Pyramid of Giza
The Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops, happens to be his most significant accomplishment. It was constructed in the northeastern section of the plateau of Giza. It is the oldest and the largest of the three pyramids of the Giza Pyramid complex. Egyptologists believe that the Pyramid was built as a tomb for the Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. For more than 3800 years, Giza’s Great Pyramid was globally the tallest human-made structure, standing at 146.5 meters.
The Construction of the Pyramid
The Pyramid has an estimated weight of six million tonnes, including 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite. Initially, the builders covered the smooth outer surface using limestone casing stones. The stones were keenly cut into required dimensions to give a face slope. The Pyramid was constructed by extracting huge rocks from a quarry and lifting them into place. The Tura limestone, which the builders used for casing the stones, came from a nearby river. The most extensive material used was the granite stones, which were found in the King’s chamber. They weighed about 25 to 80 tonnes and were transported from Aswan.
How did the builders cut the huge stones? They would cut stones into rough blocks by hammering grooves into natural stone faces, inserting wedges, then soaking with water. As the water gets absorbed, the wedges expanded, breaking off workable chunks.
Sir Flinders Petrie, an Egyptologist, designed the first measurements of the Pyramid. Most of the stone casings and inner Chamber blocks of the Pyramid fit perfectly together with high precision. The artistry behind the Pyramid construction is entirely accurate, such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimeters in length. The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points.
To date, all that remains is the underlying core structure. In 1303AD, a massive occurred, loosening most of the outer casing stones. Many more portions of the casing stones got removed from the site by Muhammad Ali Pasha during the early 19th century to build Alabaster Mosque in Cairo.
Sections of the Pyramid
The original entrance of the Pyramid lies on the northern side. Inside the Pyramid, there are three chambers. At the top lies the burial chamber of the King, also called the King’s room. The burial chamber is distinguishable from the other partitions as it has a large sarcophagus made of granite. In the middle, there is the statue chamber, which some call the queen’s chamber. Under the queen’s room is an unfinished subterranean chamber, referred to as the underworld chamber.
Many regards this chamber as a mysterious one, for it was left unfinished. A tight corridor that heads south at the western end of the chamber and an unfinished shaft at the eastern middle indicates that the underground chamber was the oldest of the three sections. There is not much light on why the underground room was left unfinished, and two other chambers were completed instead.
Around the Pyramid of Giza lain, an enclosed wall of segments each ten meters in the distance from it. On the eastern side, directly in front of the Pyramid, lain Khufu’s mortuary Temple. The foundation of the Temple comprised of black basalt, and it still stands to date. Its pillars and portals were made of red granite, while the ceiling stones, white limestone.
Unfortunately, today all that is non-existent. From the mortuary, Temple leads a causeway, which is 0.43 miles long, to the valley temple. The builders used similar stones as the mortuary Temple to construct the valley temple. However, since not even the foundation exists, the original form and size of the valley temple remain unknown.
On the eastern side of the Pyramid lies the East Cemetry of Khufu graveyard, which contains princes and princesses’ mastabas. There are also three small satellite pyramids belonging to queens Hetepheres, Meritites, and Henutsen next to Khufu’s Pyramid. Then on the Pyramid’s western side lies the west cemetery where the highest officials and priests were buried.
Meanwhile, there is a part of Khufu’s funerary complex that is quite famous, i.e., Giza’s Great Sphinx. It is 241 feet by 66.6 feet large limestone statue, which is in the shape of a recumbent lion with a human’s head, decorated with a royal Nemes headdress. The Sphinx was cut down from Giza’s plateau and painted red, ocher, green and black. To date, many have disputed over who gave the order to construct it. Some have alleged that it was Khufu, while others his elder son Djedefra and younger son Khaefra.
While the faces of Djedefre and Khaefra seem to resemble that of the Sphinx, there are not many figurines of their father. It is hard to comprehend that there is no perfectly preserved portrait in honor of Khufu. Most of them are disintegrated pieces.
Theories on Construction of the Pyramid
Many conflicting theories have arisen regarding the construction of the Pyramid. The Greeks, for instance, believed that Khufu used slave labor for the construction of the Pyramid. Meanwhile, contemporary discoveries made by nearby workers’ camps associated with buildings at Giza state that thousands of conscript laborers built it.
Nevertheless, others argue that the Pyramid was never a project of forced labor. Its construction, in fact, contributed to uniting different Egyptian communities. More so as amid those times, people were striving to overcome hardships.