According to Napoleonic legend, the future emperor of France emerged from Egypt’s Great Pyramid pale and shaken, having spent hours alone in the King’s Chamber. He never revealed what had rattled him, but supposedly the episode changed his life. Whether or not the story is true, it certainly attests to the power of the Great Pyramid to rouse a great leader’s imagination as well as our own: What could Napoleon possibly have seen to provoke such a reaction? What exactly is inside the Great Pyramid?
The Great Pyramid, or the Pyramid of Khufu, is the oldest and the tallest of the three pyramids towering over Giza. Constructed c. 2551–2528 BCE, it originally stood at 481.4 feet (147 meters), or about 45 stories. Its immense size makes it a marvel to behold, but the Great Pyramid, and its neighbors, the Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, are mostly just solid masses of stone—2.3 million blocks of cut limestone, to be more precise, which is the approximate number making up the Great Pyramid. All three pyramids would originally have had an outer casing of lighter limestone, as seen on the cap of Khafre’s pyramid. We can only imagine how the gleaming white limestone would have made the pyramids an even more dazzling spectacle than they are now.
Burial Chamber or King’s Chamber – Looking inside the Great Pyramid The burial chamber consists of an empty sarcophagus (7.3 ft by 3.75 ft) with smooth walls and a polished ceiling. The floor is made with blocks of pink granite, which cover 60 square meters. This chamber is almost six meters tall, and was built by solid blocks of granite that weigh about 50 tons. The blocks were transported from Aswan from the south. Egyptologists conclude the sarcophagus was built inside the pyramid during construction. It would have been almost impossible to transport such a heavy stone structure in such a confined and narrow passage.
Egyptians designed this chamber to withstand tons of pressure from the top of the pyramid by building five low-roof chambers that are covered by impressive blocks of stone. This brilliant idea helped contain the room from crumbling inward and keeping it upright.