2. The Terrace Stones of the Great Pyramid
Nothing about the Great Pyramid’s construction is ordinary. Think about the practical ways of building using stone, concepts such as cutting uniform blocks for speed and precision for example, and nothing in the pyramid’s construction was done with this in mind. Just as with the interior blocks and casing, so with the terrace stones, do we find absolutely unique and complex designs in stone cutting and placement. I was first made aware of the terrace stone by John Anthony West. He described them as having a “crazy” pattern, the purpose for which was still a matter of conjecture. Thanks to John this was definitely a feature that I was on the lookout for during my days on the plateau.
What are the Terrace Stones?
Originally the Great Pyramid was surrounded by an 8 meter high enclosure wall. Between this wall and the base of the Pyramid itself, terrace stones were laid. While the wall is entirely gone, we are extremely fortunate to still have examples of the terrace stones. These exist primarily around the base of the north and west sides of the pyramid.
When one thinks of a terrace being laid these days, even stones 10 cm in depth would seem the very limit of thickness needed for a strong and lasting terrace. The terrace stones of the Great Pyramid are anywhere from 30 – 60 cm thick and some may have been much thicker though they are now missing. Likewise their lengths and width are astonishing, some having lengths of 2 m or more and widths that nearly match.
Of those which remain, as with the blocks of the pyramid, no two terrace stones are of the same size and shape. Many have sides cut to quite odd angles. All are fitted into each other with absolute perfection. And all are set into the bedrock upon which they rest. Yet while their upper surfaces all line up level to create a perfect plane, thus creating a perfect terrace, no two are of exactly the same depth. This last fact means that the bedrock on which they were placed was cut to receive the unique and individual depths of each stone. The only way this work could have been made more complex would have been to design the stones like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. As they stand they are almost that, save that no curves were employed in their shapes.
Here we are looking South along the West side of the Great Pyramid. Some of the terrace stones still remaining are seen both to the left and right of the open bedrock of the plateau. Originally the terrace would have covered this and filled the entire area extending right around all four sides of the pyramid. The road to the left delineates in approximate terms where the enclosure wall would have stood.
While many of the cuts made to receive the terrace stones are relatively subtle perhaps a centimeter, sometimes less, this in no way simplifies how one cuts the bedrock evenly or the work involved. Here, however, even at quite a distance, one can see cuts which are quite visible, the terrace stones which would have fitted into them long since removed.
Here one can see how the terrace stones butted up perfectly level with the baseline stones of the pyramid’s West side. Though some of their surfaces have become rough and chipped away, others can still be seen that hold their original smooth flat surfaces.
Having moved north along the West side I noticed that the bedrock of the plateau descends then rises before dipping again forming a gentle wave in its surface. To the left one can see the level at which the terrace stones extended out toward the wall which would have been located near the road.
Not only can one see some of the more dramatic cuts made to accept the terrace stones but the stones themselves were obviously cut at angles of depth to match the waves of the bedrock surface while remaining absolutely true to the level terrace which they formed.
A good of a deep cut into the bedrock made to receive a terrace stone. All the stones I saw were four sided. Therefore the pointed corner of this stone would have continued along its straight side, while another stone set almost to the same depth would have butted up next to it. The surrounding stones would have had less depth.
One can see here the complexity of cuts and depths. Stones in close proximity are set at three different depths, moreover the surface of these depths is at times off level reflecting the fact that the bottom of the stone set into it would have been off level!
While the precision and sharpness of the original cuts can be still seen in the cuts of the upper right hand side here the other cuts are quite erroded. I would suspect this would be because the stones of the upper right had been kept in place for considerably longer, thus protecting their cuts while those the left had been removed much earlier.
Here is another superb shot detailing the different angles, subtleties of depth and odd rectalinear shapes of the terrace stones as they were fitted into the bedrock.
The subtlety and precision of the bedrock cuts are astounding as seen in this shot. My foot gives some context of the size of the area captured.
Here lines have been added to show the exotic angles found in the terraces stones were fitted into each other.
From subtle cuts to the dramatic. What may not be obvious is the slope of the bedrock away from the pyramid in this location. The point being made in the caption that whatever the incongruencies of the surfaces below, the terrace stones were shaped to create a perfectly level surface above.
Another excellent shot showing how the bedrock was cut to accept the oddsize stones and patterns.
This shot show precisely how an existing terrace stone was fitted into the bedrock.
While a fissure, sand and a lose rock obscure the precision of how these terrace stones are positioned on the bedrock, one can certainly see here the tremendous precision in which they were fitted and the level surface they created.
Typical odd angles and stunning precision of the terrace stones fit.
At this point on the North side one can see the terrace stones are at least 50 cm thick and superbly fitted. Notice the cut edge into the bedrock bottom left which lines up with the stone dropped into it.
The size of a large terrace stone at approximately 2 meters long and 1 m wide. Note here that the left side is not straight yet the surrounding stones fit perfectly.
Here is a very good shot showing the completely irregular sizes, and shapes of the terrace stones. The loving and painstaking perfection which went into fitting this vast terrace which surrounded the pyramid absolutely takes one’s breath away. The combined surface area must be tens of acres in total. The work required to do this by ordinary means really is beyond human comprehension.
One final shot of perfectly undamaged terrace stones. Here we can see that the stone at bottom right had at least 5 sides. The joints hold no spaces. Can anyone really imagine cutting stones to such perfection using nothing but copper chisels?