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The relief chambers in the Great Pyramid

In the Pyramid of Cheops at Giza, there is a structure that overhangs the King's Chamber and is referred to as the "relief chambers". I would like to demonstrate how, in my opinion, this designation is entirely inaccurate.

Pharaoh's profile picture
Published in 
 · 4 Apr 2024
Image depicting the relief chambers inside the Great Pyramid
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Image depicting the relief chambers inside the Great Pyramid

Starting from the top, there is first a truss formed by large stones arranged obliquely, and beneath this, four series of large horizontal slabs, interspersed with empty spaces, the last of which forms the ceiling of the King's Chamber. These spaces are purportedly the so-called "relief chambers".

The laws of static physics are not a matter of opinion, and they tell us that in the presence of a truss, the force exerted by the overlying weight is distributed almost entirely along the vertical elements supporting it, and to a lesser extent outward where it continues to degrade when it encounters other vertical elements. The weight of the horizontal slabs, supported only at the ends, exerts force solely in the vertical direction and therefore does not affect the stability of the walls of the chamber below.

If we hypothesize that, instead of this structure, the weight of a solid mass without empty spaces would be such as to cause the chamber's ceiling to collapse, it is unclear why the truss was placed above the full structure and not in direct contact with the ceiling. If the intention was to lighten the load on the truss, the combination of horizontal slabs/empty spaces should have been positioned above the truss itself rather than below, where it has no structural/static rationale.

The relief chambers in the Great Pyramid
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An hypothesis could be that, laterally to this structure, there could exist spaces, not yet discovered, filled with composite material different from the stones that constitute the visible part of the pyramid, such as sand, debris, or other material which, as one can observe when filling a plastic bag with sugar, distributes its weight both downward and laterally. This could exert lateral pressure towards the walls of the complex, causing them to collapse inwards.

In this case, the horizontal slabs could serve as buttresses. In order to fulfill their function, they would need to be supported by vertical containment pillars, otherwise they would serve no purpose. Of these containment pillars no traces were found, so the hypothesis does not seem plausible.

Furthermore these horizontal slabs have variable thicknesses – from 90 to 180 cm – and are smoothed only on the underside, not on the walking surface, without any apparent reason. Perhaps only to make them easier to drag during installation.

In conclusion, it is evident that the entire structure has nothing to do with problems of structural statics and, therefore, does not "discharge" anything.

On the other hand, the Egyptian builders were extremely skilled and certainly did not do things randomly. Just think of the "re-entry" along the apothems of the facades of the three pyramids of Giza, which gives them greater stability. In these three pyramids, there is no inclination of the courses of stones inward. This construction technique, used in the double-inclined pyramid of Snefru at Dashur, was not adopted in subsequent works, and already in the "Red" pyramid, the blocks' courses are perfectly horizontal.

Therefore, if the great pyramid was built like this, the structure above the King's chamber certainly had a reason. But this cannot be found in the field of static physics.

Perhaps, the reason is simply symbolic, religious, or ritualistic realm. Who knows!

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guest's profile picture

engeneering without a degree!

4 Apr 2024
Pharaoh's profile picture

You are right! The ancient Egyptians did not go to school, or at least not like us and did not have modern tools such as computers. However, they managed to create one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and certainly also of the modern world.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is one of the most fascinating monuments ever and even today it still unknown how was built :)

24 May 2024
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