The only monument of the list of the 7 wonders of the ancient world to have survived almost intact until today is also by far the oldest and the most gigantic of the list: it is the great pyramid built for Khufu (Hellenized name of the pharaoh Khufu, belonging to the IVth dynasty of the Old Kingdom) around 2560 BC, on the Giza plateau near Cairo, built on the site of the ancient Memphis.
Already described with wonder by the historian Herodotus during his trip to Egypt around 450 B.C., the pyramid of Cheops has been explored by many visitors, looters and archaeologists since its construction. One of the very first Egyptologists to attempt to unlock the secrets of the site by conducting a scientific and meticulous excavation at the foot of the pyramid was Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), one of the pioneers of modern archaeology.
The discovery of the “Trial passage
He discovered a network of underground galleries dug into the rock 85 meters from the eastern face of the monument, which appeared to be a miniature model of the pyramid’s internal structure. Petrie made numerous surveys, photographs and measurements and came to the conclusion that the “trial passage” was probably made before the pyramid was built, to serve as a template for the architects. The descending gallery, the ascending gallery and the beginning of the Great Gallery are represented with proportions and angles quite similar to those found inside the pyramid. On the other hand, there is the representation of a vertical shaft at the junction of the galleries which does not exist in the monument. Petrie’s discovery shows that the design of the various galleries was not developed as the work progressed but was already clearly established before the work began, even if some modifications were made (the shaft).
Page of the notebook of expedition of Thomas Richard Duncan (1925) showing the structure of the “trial passage” according to Flinders Petrie and that of the internal structure of the pyramid of Cheops in Giza.
Source of the photograph:
Harvard University-Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition