Limestone cladding on the great pyramid

The pyramids look like they have smooth sides from a distance. From the remaining white limestone cap it is understood that the whole pyramid at one time was covered with a dazzling white limestone . My question is how this limestone cladding was attached to the granite blocks ? Were they thick sheets of limestone or another layer of limestone blocks ?


Seriously, it was just another layer of stones, but rather than being rectangular, they were trapezoidal. See the bottom part of the second picture here:

Pyramid casing stone.

Here’s another picture

Fascinating. Thank you :slight_smile:

Theory is they built a mud brick ramp road that spiraled the pyramid on the way up. (A straight ramp up would have needed as much or more fill that the whole pyramid, so impractical). when done, they would put the last layer of trapezoidal stone on and smooth it flat while removing the ramp on the way down. One book I read said that they think there was a nice golden cap on the very top.

Yes, the central Giza pyramid still has a lot of the original cladding near the top. AFAIK there was no mortar involved, just gravity. Those blocks are 4 to 5 feet high.

You mean no mortar for the cladding? (There are lots of online cites for the idea that something like 500,000 tonnes of mortar was using during the full construction.)

I looked closely at my pictures, and I don’t see any signs of mortar in the accessible lower layer(s) of the 3 Giza pyramids. There’s no evidence of mortar for the missing cladding visible. Of course, after 4500 years maybe the weathering has broken down the externally visible parts of any mortar. However, IIRC one of the pyramids’ claim to fame was that the blocks were carved so finely that there was barely any gap between them. Plus, with a pyramid shape mortar was not terribly necessary. Each block, being about 5 feet tall, was fairly immovable. (Unlike say, the Saqarra step pyramid, where the blocks are maybe a foot high, up to 2 feet wide, and seem to be mortared together, at least on the outer cladding. (but then, the Antiquities Dept was doing refurbishing so no guarantee that’s original construction…)

Fine job they did super gluing Tut’s beard. It was Tut’s beard right ?
I forget. All I remember is Egyptologists and Museum curators quivering like Jell O upon receiving the news.

Yep. On the gold funeral mask.

I have pictures of the Step Pyramid of Saqarra covered in scaffolding. Typical government job - 4500 years and still not complete.

I saw that in a documentary the other day. I thought the scaffolding was for some routine maintenance. So a few months old :slight_smile:
Snail’s pace Indeed.
I wonder where all the money goes ? I’ve heard of the regular, special, super special and ultimate passes to Pyramids .

Even from the pictures you can see that the blocks were not so finely fitted or shaped. No need really for most of it. But I would suspect that a lot of mortar was used for the final white cladding. That is where the fine finish would be important.
I actually got to be there and touch the magnificent thing. These exposed interior blocks are not fine fitted. No doubt some fitting was required on site to keep things aligned overall. But each stone perfect? Nope.
I recall that the white facing was ripped off to be used in another later monument to someone.

Green with envy !

It was a work trip. Lucky to have squeezed it in. But it was stunning. And enlightening as to the location. Not out in the empty desert. Right in the big city. I have been lucky in my work travels.

I think the outside exterior blocks are much weathered and that is why the gaps are so big. I had a good look at my photos, and there’s no evidence of mortar. But after so long, why would there be? I examined my telephoto shot of the remaining cladding on the center pyramid, and there are plenty of chunks missing in the middle of smooth areas, which tells me either someone went through a lot of trouble to carve off an irregular chunk, or more likely the weathering in 4,000 years has not been kind to the blocks. they are basically limestone, so even a little bit of precipitation or temperature cycle damage accumulates over time.

The interior sarcophagus room in the middle pyramid is basically fully plastered, except where some Italian in the 1800’s carver his name and the date into the wall. So it’s hard to tell whether there’s mortar involved, and I didn’t take many pictures (Many of the temples and tombs are finished with plaster over the rock or brick, and some of the finely painted reliefs are made in the plaster while it was still wet.) There is a tiny pyramid near the step pyramid, (Teti, I think) where the interior carvings are amazing, well preserved and the stone seems very tightly fitted since it did not experience temperature cycles.

Many of the lesser pyramids simply crumbled, so if they used mortar, it wasn’t that great. However, the Bent Pyramid still has a lot of it’s casing intact.

It is also unique amongst the approximately ninety pyramids to be found in Egypt, in that its original polished limestone outer casing remains largely intact. British structural engineer Peter James attributes this to larger clearances between the parts of the casing than used in later pyramids; these imperfections would work as expansion joints and prevent the successive destruction of the outer casing by thermal expansion. The ancient formal name of the Bent Pyramid is generally translated as -Southern-Shining-Pyramid, or Sneferu–Shining-in-the-South.

Leaving expansion joints, whether deliberate or not, suggests no mortar.