Extracts from a new book,
"The Pyramid Builder's Handbook"
Derek K Hitchins©
Full copyright and intellectual property rights retained
Above the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid of Khufu are the so-called Relieving Chambers
The picture shows a simulation of the Relieving Chambers. At the bottom, semi-transparent, is the King's Chamber, with the sarcophagus visible at the far end - the view is looking west, on top of the part-built pyramid. Above the King's Chamber are shown five layers of roughly-finished granite beams, with the lowest set of beams forming the roof of the King's Chamber. Each beam has a mass of up to 75 tonnes, and the whole super structure has a mass of up to 2,500 tonnes.
Successive layers are separated by spacers. In each case, the undersides of the beams are dressed, presumably to aid handling and sliding, but the sides and top are left rough. As far as we know, this is uncharacterisitic of work on the Great Pyramid; but then, the vast bulk of the masonry remains hidden from view.
At the top is a large pitched roof made of limestone slabs which do not bear down on the layer beneath, but instead are supported by the surrounding masonry - not shown. This roof does serve to divert down thrust from the superstructure above the King's Chamber.
A side-on view shows the ends of the individual beams showing that the numbers of beams are not the same in every row.
Overall, the reason for the structure is difficult to explain. Excluding the pitched roof, the layers of granite beams bear directly down on the walls of the King's Chamber beneath. Far from relieving, the superstructure places a very large load on those walls.
The purpose of the chambers, then, does not appear to be structural, so it may be ritual, to do with the King's burial. One possibility arises from the abandonment of the underground chamber, left unfinished. Khufu may have intended originally to be buried deep underground, with the various strata of plateau rock over him either to protect him or to place him deep in the the Underworld. Having been denied that underground security, is it possible that the layers of granite in the so-called Relieving Chambers were a substitute for the layers of limestone over the underground chamber? We may never know...