The Lone Wonder

The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza

The Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, 1980

I guess that most of the people reading this have heard of the Seven Wonders of the World, even if you may not be able to name most (or even any) of them.
Of course, I am here referring to the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Apparently there were several such lists given by writers in antiquity, but the best known list is the one given by a 3rd Century BCE Greek engineer named Philo of Byzantium and the 2nd Century BCE Greek poet Antipater of  Sidon.
These seven marvels of the ancient world were the Hanging Gardens of Bablyon (modern Iraq), the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, the statue of Zeus at Olympia in Greece, the temple of Artemis at Ephesus in Asia Minor (modern Turkey), the Colossus of Rhodes (a Greek island), the tomb of Mausolus (the original “mausoleum”) at Halicarnassus in Asia Minor and the pharos (lighthouse) of Alexandria, Egypt.
(Then there is the so-called “Eighth Wonder of the World,” which I have heard described variously as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Houston Astrodome and Andre the Giant – but that, of course, is another story.)
Diagram of the Great Pyramid

Diagram of the Great Pyramid

The only one of these seven wonders which still exists today in a nearly complete state, and the one that I am writing about now, is the Great Pyramid at Giza.  Built in the 26th Century BCE for the Egyptian king Khufu, it has stood mysteriously on the Giza plateau for over 4,500 years.  As writer Mike Dash wrote about it in his 2011 story for Smithsonian.com (here):
“That the tale (of Napoleon supposedly spending a night inside the pyramid) is told at all, however, is testament to the fascination exerted by this most mysterious of monuments–and a reminder that the pyramid’s interior is at least as compelling as its exterior. Yes, it is impressive to know that Khufu’s monument was built from 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing on average more than two tons and cut using nothing more than copper tools; to realize that its sides are precisely aligned to the cardinal points of the compass and differ one from another in length by no more than two inches, and to calculate that, at 481 feet, the pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for practically 4,000 years—until the main spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in about 1400 A.D. But these superlatives do not help us to understand its airless interior.”
The Ascending Passageway

The Ascending Passageway

Ah, yes, the interior.  A lot of people may think that the Great Pyramid is a solid mass of stones, but it is not, as there are a number of chambers within.  I had the opportunity to go inside the Great Pyramid on my trip to Egypt in 1980, and while these photographs that I made inside are far from my best, I am still posting them here as the place that they depict is worth showing.
The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

 

The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

 

The Grand Gallery

The Grand Gallery

As the diagram above shows, after entering the pyramid through an initial entryway, one begins to climb up through the Ascending Passageway.  This passage is pretty small, as can be sign by this photograph of a friend who was pretty short, so tall people really need to bend over to get through.
After climbing up hunched over through this fairly long (or so it seemed) passage, things suddenly change dramatically as one enters the high ceilinged Grand Gallery.  This open space continues climbing upward for a good distance until, at the top, once must again bend low to go through a small passage that leads to the final destination – the burial chamber – where the king’s empty sarcophagus can be seen.
The king's sarcophagus

The king’s sarcophagus

On a photographic note, one clear memory I have of this chamber is that – while I did use a flash for lighting here –  it was pretty difficult to focus my camera on the great stone box as the only source of illumination in the room was one dim light bulb mounted on one of the walls.
(If you’re wondering, the Queen’s Chamber and Subterranean Chamber are normally closed, but some special tours now allow entry into them.)
Of course, as with so many other things, even the best of photographs and the best of written words can in no way convey the experience of entering the Great Pyramid at Giza.  My humble “impressionistic” photos certainly cannot, but I hope that they at least give people a tiny inkling of what it’s like to enter the dark and mysterious recesses of this last great wonder of the world.
Egypt's first pyramid: the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara

Egypt’s first pyramid: the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara, 1980

About Dave Rudin

Dave Rudin is a fine art photographer based in Brooklyn, New York. He specializes in art nude and travel photography, using black & white film and making silver gelatin prints in a darkroom.
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