Great Pyramid was built inside out, Frenchman says

"... that the people of the time were architects of genius and that  
Khufu was a genius to order the pyramid's construction."  -- Jean- 
Pierre Houdin

By Tim HepherFri Mar 30, 12:12 PM ET

A French architect said on Friday he had cracked a 4,500-year-old  
mystery surrounding Egypt's Great Pyramid, saying it was built from  
the inside out.

Previous theories have suggested Pharaoh Khufu's tomb, the last  
surviving example of the seven great wonders of antiquity, was built  
using either a vast frontal ramp or a ramp in a corkscrew shape  
around the exterior to haul up the stonework.

But flouting previous wisdom, Jean-Pierre Houdin said advanced 3D  
technology had shown the main ramp which was used to haul the massive  
stones to the apex was contained 10-15 meters beneath the outer skin,  
tracing a pyramid within a pyramid.

"This is better than the other theories, because it is the only  
theory that works," Houdin told Reuters after unveiling his  
hypothesis in a lavish ceremony using 3D computer simulation.

To prove his case, Houdin teamed up with a French company that builds  
3D models for auto and airplane design, Dassault Systemes, which put  
14 engineers for 2 years on the project.

Now, an international team is being assembled to probe the pyramid  
using radars and heat detecting cameras supplied by a French defense  
firm, as long as Egyptian authorities agree.

"This goes against both main existing theories. I've been teaching  
them myself for 20 years but deep down I know they're wrong,"  
Egyptologist Bob Brier told Reuters at the unveiling.

"Houdin's vision is credible, but right now this is just a theory.  
Everybody thinks it has got to be taken seriously," said Brier, a  
senior research fellow at Long Island University.

Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities was not immediately available  
for comment. Dassault said Brier and other Egyptologists attending  
the ceremony were supporters of Houdin's theory but had no financial  
links to him or the firm.


Houdin began working full-time on the riddle eight years ago after a  
flash of intuition passed to him by his engineer father, and five  
years before actually visiting the site.

He found that a frontal, mile-long ramp would have used up as much  
stone as the pyramid, while being too steep near the top. He believes  
an external ramp was used only to supply the base.

An external corkscrew ramp would have blocked the sight lines needed  
to build an accurate pyramid and been difficult to fix to the  
surface, while leaving little room to work.

"What characterized the Egyptians was their sense of perfection and  
economy. We talk of durable development now, but it was the Egyptians  
who invented it. They didn't waste a single stone. They relied purely  
on intelligence," Houdin said.

Houdin also claimed to have shed light on a second enigma surrounding  
the purpose of a Grand Gallery inside the pyramid.

The Frenchman believes its tall, narrow shape suggests it  
accommodated a giant counter-weight to help haul five 60-ton granite  
beams to their position above the King's Chamber.

He thinks that no more than 4,000 people could have built the pyramid  
using these techniques rather than the 100,000 or so assigned by past  
historians to the task of burying the pharaoh.

Houdin, 56, brushed aside concerns about the popular curse which is  
supposed to punish those who penetrate the secrets of the pyramids,  
dating back to the opening of Tutankhamun tomb.

"Why should I be worried? I'm just explaining that the people of the  
time were architects of genius and that Khufu was a genius to order  
the pyramid's construction. What could happen to me, except that  
Khufu would thank me?," he told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Lucien Libert of Reuters Television)

Copyright  2007 Reuters Limited.

s. e. anderson (author of "The Black Holocaust for Beginners" -  
Writers + Readers) +