Although the Great Pyramid had underground rooms, they were never finished, and Khufu's coffin now sits in the King's Chamber, deep within the Great Pyramid, where Napoleon is claimed to have sojourned. The Great Pyramid, like its neighbors, has relatively little open space inside its enormous mass. Almost all the interior volume is taken up by large, square chambers that reach far below ground level. In the early 20th century, archaeologists made some interesting discoveries about the Great Pyramid that offer new insights into how it was built.
In 1872, French archaeologist Édouard de Nebelsie discovered ancient writing on the walls of a chamber within the Great Pyramid. The text described a project to build a giant ship, which scholars believe may be evidence that the Egyptians knew how to build boats. Then, in 1913, Italian archaeologists found more evidence of boat building when they made another discovery inside the Great Pyramid: parts of a wooden platform, which must have been used for woodworking tools. They also found two pieces of linen cloth with written instructions about building ships, which helps date the finds to the time of Khufu.
In addition to the writings on the walls of the chambers, other researchers have suggested that an underground system of passages might exist beneath the Great Pyramid. In 2001, American engineer Bob Bauval published a book called The Orion Mystery: How An Expedition To Egypt's Great Pyramids Changed Our Understanding Of History.
The pharaoh's ultimate resting place was generally under the pyramid in a subterranean burial chamber.
The walls of the burial chamber are covered with beautiful carvings depicting Khufu and his family. They also include some of the oldest paintings in existence, which date back about 5,000 years. The Egyptians painted over old scenes with new ones, but many of these have survived multiple renovations.
Khufu's body was removed from its original location and moved to a different chamber within the pyramid. His remains were then put back into their original tomb for eternal preservation through mummification. During this process, his organs were removed and preserved separately in other containers filled with sand. His heart was placed in a stone box that was buried with him. It was covered with gold and precious stones, including an emerald called the "heart of Khufu."
After mummification, the body was washed and dressed in fine linen clothes. The king was given a beautiful wooden sarcophagus to be used as his burial site. Inside the sarcophagus were more expensive materials such as copper and silver, as well as some granite from Egypt's south desert. This was probably carried by caravan across the Sinai Peninsula to the north of Egypt.
Unlike other pyramids from this time period, which lie above underground burial chambers, Khufu's Pyramid features numerous enormous rooms within the construction itself. These include the King's room, which still houses a stone tomb, the smaller Queen's chamber, and the Grand Gallery, a sloping walkway. In addition, three large pits may have been intended for sacrificial offerings.
The Great Pyramid was built for Khufu, who took the throne in 2590 B.C. He was the son of Chephren, the first ruler of the third dynasty, and his wife Hetty I. The pyramid is said to be the largest single structure ever built with wood, bone, and stone (although modern estimates put its size closer to that of Giza's Great Pyramid). It would remain the largest pyramid for more than 150 years.
Khufu died in 2184 B.C., but his body was not found until 1801 B.C. When it was discovered, scientists knew it by a name given to it by ancient Egyptians: "the king whose eyes are in the heavens." It is now in Cairo's Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.
The name "Great" Pyramid has been applied to several other pyramids at Giza, some of which were probably meant to be larger than Khufu's.