Great Pyramid Lopsided, But Only A Very Tiny Bit

The Great Pyramid is slightly lopsided. A study on the original size of the Great Pyramid’s footprint, by Glen Dash Research Foundation and the Ancient Egypt Research Associates has revealed that the west side of the Great Pyramid of Giza is marginally longer than the right side.

Architectural marvels which stand as an enduring testament to ancient Egyptians’ building skills, the three largest pyramids of Giza, on the outskirts of the country’s capital, Cairo, are nearly 4,500 years old. The Great Pyramid, which is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops, is the largest of the three and the oldest. It is also, apparently, a tiny bit lopsided.

Great pyramid lopsided
The Great Pyramid peeks out behind the village of El Saman [Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images]
While the perfection in the dimensions of the pyramids is still a source of wonder, a calculation of the dimensions of the Great Pyramid and its base has revealed that the foundation is not a perfect square. In its original form, the Pyramid was encased in a sheath of white limestone. The casing stone, however, gradually wore off to leave the stones naked, as they are today. Dash’s report in the AERA’s newsletter, Aeragram, identifies that the initial challenge for them was to find traces of the original baseline.

“[Archeologist Mark Lehner] found the casing stone’s leading edge worn back, so he looked for an etched or cut line in front of the casing stone to locate its original edge. Lehner also looked for telltale markings on the platform, including places where the surface of the platform had been subtly worn or eroded by the now missing casing stones. In total, Lehner identifi ed 84 points along 155 meters (508 feet) of the pyramid’s 920-meter (3,018-foot) periphery…No direct evidence of the original corners remains.”

Great Pyramid lopsided
A 1924 photograph of Mr and Mrs John Chatworth-Musters on a camel trip to see the Sphinx and pyramids [Photo by Jacques Cohen/Hulton Archive/Getty Images]
These 84 points of the Great Pyramid were then plotted on a grid and with the help of a technique called linear regression, it was discovered that the west side of the Pyramid is off by about 14.1 centimetres (5.55 inches). However, although the pyramid is not built on a precise square, it remains an undoubtedly remarkable expression of masonry, especially considering that it is still in some ways a mystery as to how such an architecturally sound structure came to be built in ancient times.

“The data show that the Egyptians possessed quite remarkable skills for their time,” says Dash. “We hope to eventually figure out how the Egyptians laid out the pyramid with such precision, and in doing so hope to learn much about the tools and technology they had at their disposal.”

With spacious interiors that boast of a King’s Chamber, a Queen’s Chamber, and an enormous Grand Gallery, the Great Pyramid has long held the imagination of the curious traveller, prompting many a pseudoscientific theory on its mysteries. From Agatha Christie’s crime stories to Hergé’s comics on Tintin; from historical dramas like Cleopatra to animated television series, the pyramids have played muse to the arts with flair. Studies such as the one conducted by Dash and his crew point to the fact that even thought the pyramids were not perfect, they came close to mathematical infallibility.

Great Pyramid lopsided
President Barack Obama in front of the Pyramid of Khafre in 2009 [Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images]
In 2011, when Egypt’s autocratic President Hosni Mubarak was removed in a countrywide protest that spiralled into a clamour for change, tourist interest in the pyramids remained unflagging. Through the times when they were closed to their eventual reopening, the skyline of Giza has forever been a reminder that lopsided or not, the Great Pyramid is a true marvel of human achievement.

[Photo by Emilio Morenatti/AP Images]

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