The Grand Gallery

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

Full copyright and intellectual property rights retained


The Grand Gallery of the Great Pyramid is some 8.5m high, 47m long, rising at 26.5 degrees (14-seked)

It is a masterpiece of the stone mason's art in this, or any other, age.

On the face of it, it was used to store the stone plugs needed to fill rising entrance passage, once the king had been interred. However, it makes you wonder if such magnificent size, workmanship and finishing would have been given to such a temporary purpose.

The photograph shows the gallery, looking upwards from the entrance to the Queen's Chamber - not shown. The handrails and steps in the middle are modern of course, but the two flat section against either wall are original, including the curious slots which are clearly visible at intervals against the wall. You can also see successive stones forming the walls, each stone set just slightly inwards towards the centre compared with the one beneath.

Grand Gallery

As well as its purpose, the Grand Gallery raises a number of questions about its construction:

  • How were the stone walls raised into place?
  • How did the architects manage the complex 3-D geometry at the base of the Grand Gallery, with the entrance to the Queen's chamber, the rising shaft from the queen's Chamber which curls around the underside of the Gallery, and the escape tunnel
  • What happens on the outside of the Grand Gallery? We cannot see, because there is masonry in the way, but are the horizontal courses of stone shaped to fit the rising corbels?
  • etc.
Simulation of Grand Gallery

The last question above is illustrated in this graphic. You see a simulation of the Grand Gallery suspended in mid air, and you can see both inside and outside. The corbelling is evident, and - if we assume that the stone beams of which the walls are constructed are of equal width, it creates ledges on the outside of the Grand Gallery, rising at 26.5 degrees.

So, either the stone beams increase in width to give a smooth vertical external wall, or the beams are indented as shown. So, how do the horizontal courses of stone, from which the rest of the pyramid is built, interface with the outside of the Grand Gallery?

The following movie clip suggests how the Grand Gallery might have been built. The movie opens with a view of the upper surface of the pyramid, in the process of being built. At the left, you can just see a hole in the surface - this is the passage rising through the masonry from the entrance below.

You can see the Queen's Chamber, with its entrance passage and one of its shafts. This is shown already built, simply to see how the Grand Gallery might fit around it: in practice they would probably have been built together. On the far side of the entrance passage, a ramp has been started, built in limestone, sloping upwards at 26.5 degrees.

The clip shows the ramps being extended, the corbel beams being raised on walls also raised beside the ramps, and then slid down into place. Finally, the whole Grand Gallery is roofed. If you now look back at the first photograph above, you can see that those two ledges at either side are the ramps shown being built at the start of the clip.

So, it is possible to simulate the construction of the Grand Gallery, but, does that prove anything? Well, not exactly. Consider the magician who performs amazing tricks, making an elephant disappear before your eyes for instance. You can simply gasp in wonder at the incredible feat, or you can work out how he might have done it. If you come up with any rationale solution which fits the observed facts, you are well on your way to solving the illusion. It is the same with amazing feats of construction like the Grand Gallery. If, instead of just gasping in awe, we try to work out how we would have done it, then we might - just might - solve the riddle. I cannot be sure that Hemon the architect built the Grand Gallery as in the animation, but it would have to be something very like that. You see, in trying to make the animation sequence work, you simply have to observe rational rules, and you have to envisage logical sequences, else the 3-D model will not work sensibly.

I certainly have a much better feel for the 3-D jigsaw puzzle that Hemon/Hemiunu had to put together in creating the Grand Gallery. He must have been an amazing man, working with a highly professional and dedicated team of builders.

© D K Hitchins 2015