“Ten miles south-west of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile, and about five miles from the river, lie the ever-memorable pyramids of Gizeh, or Jizeh. They are built on a bed of rock, one hundred and fifty feet above the level of the surrounding desert, being a projection of the Libyan chain of mountains. This elevation, their immense size, and the clearness of the atmosphere, render them visible at a great distance.
The purpose of such massive piles of almost solid masonry is scarcely yet satisfactorily discovered, it being difficult to conceive of them only as the burying-places of the kings. Many various conjectures have been entertained respecting them, but this is after all the only one supported by evidence.
The principal pyramids are three in number, that of Cheops, or Suphis, being the largest. The ascent of this on the eastern side is easy, and there is a space at the top of thirty-two feet. The stones that formed the apex have been removed, and also the outer casing of the pyramid, in order to build the numerous mosques of Cairo. (...)
A hundred thousand men are said to have been employed for twenty years in the erection, and it is reckoned to have required six million of tons of stone. The pyramids are built due north and south, and were erected in steps and terraces for the convenience of the builders, who advanced from stage to stage by scaffolding, and smoothed the face with an outside casing as they descended. For the most part, the pyramids are solid masonry.
Caliph Mamoon, A.d. 820, first opened the great pyramid. The entrance is on the sixteenth step on the northern side, and, to deceive the seeker, it is placed twenty-eight feet from the centre. The caliph expected to find treasure, and for fear of disappointing and exasperating his workmen when no gold was found, sufficient was taken into the pyramid to cover the expenses of opening, and was then reported to be found in it. The Arabs tell a story of a statue being found in a sarcophagus, and with the statue a body, having a breastplate of gold and jewels, and an inscription in characters which no one could decipher.
There are passages and small chambers inside the pyramid, and in one of the latter the sarcophagus yet remains. When struck, it emits a sound like a bell, and from the fragments broken off by Europeans, it will very soon become transported piecemeal to Europe. It is found in one of the chambers called the king's chamber. No hieroglyphics have been discovered on it, but colonel Vyse found the name of the king from whom this pyramid is called in the stones of the upper chamber. There is space enough in the pyramid for 3,700 rooms of the size of the king's chamber, leaving the contents of every second chamber solid by way of separation.
The second pyramid, that of Cephrenes, is very similar to the first. It was opened by Belzoni, in 1816, and a sarcophagus was found sunk in the floor, containing the bones of an ox. Both pyramids, however, had probably been long ago visited by the Arabs, and despoiled of any contents which might appear valuable.
The third pyramid was opened by colonel Vyse. It contains a chamber, with a pointed roof, in which was a stone sarcophagus, which was lost at sea by the wreck of the vessel which transported it. The wooden coffin, with the name of the king inscribed on it, is one of the most valuable antiquities deposited in the British Museum. The name of the king is Mykerinus. Although this pyramid was only about half the size of the other two, yet it was the most beautiful, as its outer casing was of granite.
Besides these three pyramids, there are several others in the same neighbourhood, of inferior dimensions, and also many tombs. In one of these tombs, probably as old as the great pyramid, are representations of persons engaged in various trades, carpenters, boatmakers, etc., and persons eating, drinking, and dancing. (...)
The fourth dynasty is one in which we begin to emerge into the light afforded by existing monuments. It is remarkable for the number of the princes of which it is composed, and for the length of their reigns. The first three kings of this dynasty were the builders of the pyramids of Gizeh, and around these stupendous structures, which served as their own tombs, are to be found the burying-places of their descendants and companions. The names of the builders, in harmony with Manetho's list, have been discovered on the three pyramids by colonel Vyse. At this early age of the world's history, the arts of building and of design seem to have been as fully understood and as skilfully practised as in later ages.”