Chamber Construction

Extracts from a new book,
"The Pyramid Builder's Handbook"
Derek K Hitchins©

Full copyright and intellectual property rights retained

The graphic shows the process for constructing a typical pyramid chamber of the later Old Kingdom taken from separate frames in an animation

Constructing Burial Chambers

The top left picture shows the starting point, which - in this type of chamber - occurs before the pyramid proper is constructed.

  • Two interconnected chambers are dug out of the rock, one for the sarcophagus, the other as an annex.
  • A passageway into the annex is also dug, and fitted with runners for (usually) 3 portcullis doors, which would be recessed into the yet-to-be-built masonry until the King's mummy had been interred.
  • The main chamber would then be filled with sand, while the annex was blocked off.
  • The sarcophagus would then be slid over the sand above the chamber (bottom left) and the sand removed via the annex and passage until the sarcophagus rested on the ground
  • The chambers would then be refilled and the sand would be piled into a ridge so that limestone slabs could be dragged into place to form a pitched roof. for later Old Kingdom pyramids double slabs were used as shown.
  • These slabs would be set in place by laying more masonry against their base, bottom right, to prevent them sliding sideway
  • The sand would be removed for a second and final time through the passage, and the building of the pyramid over the top of the roofed chamber could proceed
  • The walls would then be carved with spells and incantations from the Pyramid Texts to guarantee safe passage for the King to his afterlife
  • The ceiling would also be carved with stars, to represent the view through the ceiling and the pyramid, looking upwards

Chambers within the masonry were dealt with differently, usually by employing a corbelled roof. The King's Chamber in Khufu's Pyramid is unusual in having a flat roof of beams, while the Queen's chamber is pitched. The Grand Gallery, however, is a truly .magnificent example of a corbelled roof, rising at 26.5 degrees to the horizontal

© D K Hitchins 2015