Dans son ouvrage A History of the world from the earliest records to the present time, vol 1, (1865), Philip Smith reprend, en se référant à Hérodote, la théorie selon laquelle les grandes pyramides égyptiennes furent construites par étapes, en fonction de la durée du règne des souverains pour lesquels elles étaient édifiées.Il s’attarde également sur “l’un des problèmes de la Grande Pyramide”, à savoir à quel moment le sarcophage fut introduit dans le monument, compte tenu de l’exiguïté des passages à l’intérieur de la pyramide. La solution proposée : le sarcophage fut mis en place au moment de la construction de la pyramide, prêt à recevoir, le moment venu, la dépouille mortelle du pharaon, dans son coffre en bois.
Quoi qu’il en soit, les données du “problème” ont été simplifiées, du fait que Khéops ne fut pas enseveli dans sa pyramide !
“It has been supposed that the lateral extension of the larger pyramids, and the number of their stages, bore a definite relation to the length of their intended occupant's reign ; that the chamber designed for this sarcophagus was first excavated in the solid rock, with a passage down to it just large enough to admit the sarcophagus, and inclined at a convenient angle to aid its descent ; that a cubical block of masonry was then built over the chamber, forming the first stage of the pyramid ; that fresh stages were added for each year of the king's reign, and those below extended proportionally ; and that the final process of finishing off the surface was performed after his death. In that final process, the angles of the stages were built up with masonry, the outer courses of which formed steps more numerous and smaller than the original stages ; and the surface was then finished with blocks of stone, the outer faces of which had already been quarried to the required slope, and these were finally brought to a fine polish.
It is no doubt to this last process that Herodotus refers, when he says that the pyramid was finished from the top downwards. In the upper part of the Second Pyramid these casing-stones are still perfect. In the Great Pyramid their loss has converted each face into a series of 203 rough steps, whose height varies from 4 feet 10 inches at the bottom to 2 feet 2 inches at the top, their breadth being 6 feet 6 inches. Some of the lowest casing-stones were discovered in their places by General Howard Vyse. They were 4 feet 11 inches high, and 6 feet 3 inches on the sloping face, 4 feet 3 inches wide at the top, and 8 feet 3 inches at the base. They were united by the hardest cement, with joints no thicker than silver paper ; and their angles were so accurately formed, that a calculation based on them gave the actual height of the pyramid. Like the bulk of the masonry, they are of the calcareous stone from the quarries of Tourah in the eastern hills. As thus finished, the whole edifice formed a " right pyramid " on a square base, herein differing from the Chaldaean towers, in which the stages are not placed concentrically over each other. The faces are a little less in altitude than equilateral triangles ; in other words, the edges are somewhat shorter than the base.These proportions, however, are not the same in all the other pyramids. (...)
What might be the chambers and passages constructed, and what the objects deposited, within this enormous mass of masonry, were questions perhaps forbidden to the Egyptians by religious reverence, but which foreign travellers and rulers have always tried to solve. (...)
It is one of the problems of the Great Pyramid, whether this sarcophagus was introduced after its completion. We have seen that the first passage was only just large enough to let it pass, and the same is true of the first part of the upward passage and its horizontal prolongation ; and it is not easy to see how it could be got past the first bend and up the slope. The last is the only difficulty offered by the great gallery ; but the entrance to the vestibule is so small that if the sarcophagus ever passed through it, it must have been contracted since. The absence of any sarcophagus from the subterranean and "Queen's" chambers favours the opinion that each was in turn destined for the royal tomb, and afterwards abandoned. When the position of the King's Chamber was finally settled, what is now nearly the centre of the pyramid may have been its summit. The sarcophagus may have been raised along the upward passage before it was covered in, and the pyramid afterwards finished, leaving the mummy to be brought in in its wooden coffin. That the chamber was not finally closed when first constructed, is clear from the elaborate provision for its ventilation. Two air channels, about 9 inches square, are carried from it to the north and south faces of the pyramid, perpendicular to the outer surface ; they were evidently constructed as the building proceeded. When these channels were opened by Mr. Perring, in 1837, the ventilation of the chamber was completely restored. The jealous care with which the pyramid was finally closed is proved by a huge block of granite, which so effectually shuts the mouth of the upward passage, that explorers have had to force their way round it through the solid masonry, as well as by the granite portcullis which as effectually blocks the horizontal vestibule to the King's Chamber. This closing of the passages is an argument against the truth of the tradition, that by the judgment after his death, Cheops was refused burial in his intended sepulchre.
Two very interesting points still require notice. Above the King's Chamber is a series of five low chambers, of somewhat larger area, and from 6 ft. 4 in. to 8 ft. 7 in. in height. Their floors and roof are of the red granite of Syene, the former being rough hewn, the latter flat, except the uppermost, the slabs of which form an angle to support the superincumbent weight. This roof is 69 ft. 3 in. above that of the King's Chamber. They were evidently designed to lighten the pressure on the flat roof of that chamber. The lowest of the five was discovered by Davison in 1764, the rest in 1837, by General Howard Vyse, who named them after Wellington, Nelson, Sir Robert Arbuthnot, and Colonel Campbell. It was on the blocks of these chambers that General Howard Vyse made his grand discovery of the names of Khufu and Num-Khufu, scrawled in large linear hieroglyphics, which are evidently quarry marks, for some of them have been cat through in sawing the blocks. Thus the tradition was confirmed, and Cheops proved to be the builder of the pyramid.
The remaining point relates to the so-called "well". This is a shaft, 2 ft. 4 in. square, cut down through the solid masonry, from the point where the horizontal passage to the "Queen's Chamber" branches off from the upward inclined passage. It descends perpendicularly 26 ft. 1 in., then more irregularly for 32 ft. 5 in. to a recess called the "Grotto", not far from the base of the pyramid, and thence into the lower inclined passage, a little above the subterranean chamber. Its total length is about 155 feet. It is supposed to have been made as an exit for the workmen after they had closed the two ends of the great passage. Some explorers have sought in it the explanation of what Herodotus and Pliny say about a subterraneous communication with the Nile ; but no such communication has been found, and the story seems most improbable.”