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Building the Great Pyramid Year 1: Six Letters from Hemienu

After choosing a building site for Khufu’s Pyramid. ,Six letters from Hemienu is a work of epistolary historical fiction, with a very heavy emphasis on historical, which explores the sort of details that would have required his attention immediately .

The purpose of these Letters of the Overseer of All the King’s Works is to give the reader an idea of the amount of planning, materials, and manpower involved not only in building the Great Pyramid, but in preparation for the work itself.  There were mines and quarries to be opened, a fully functional workers’ city to be constructed, and an entire nation to be mobilized. ,

Letter 1:  The Selection of the Building Site

From the Greatest of the Five of the House of Thoth, Chief Justice, Grand Vizier and Overseer of All the King’s Works, Hemienu, Holder of the King’s Seal, to the overseers, administrators, and nomarchs of the Two Lands:  Life, Prosperity, Health!
All of Upper and Lower Egypt Rejoice!  A place has been chosen for the pyramid complex of our pharaoh, Khufu, May He Live!  May He Prosper!  May He Be Healthy!  The pyramid where our king shall rest in body will be called Akhet Khufu—Khufu on the Horizon.

Many of you have travelled with me the length of the Nile and have surveyed numerous sites, providing good counsel.  Many days and nights have we held court on the land and on my barge, and many passionate cases have been tendered.  Your service to our king will be remembered by all people, for all time.
I have decided against Saqqara and Dashur and have chosen instead the site in the north, at Rostau. 
I have good reasons for this choice.  First, there is a vast quantity of good yellow limestone there from which to build the inner structures of the pyramid and temples.  Second, there is a gentle slope which begins in the low area, suitable for a quay, and which connects the best location for the main quarry to the top of the plateau.  A donkey released at the summit will follow this same natural ramp down to an easy path to the Nile.  Donkeys have uncanny judgment in these matters and we should heed his guidance.

 Of equal consideration are the plateau’s qualities of expanse and orientation.  It is an elevated plane with room enough for at least three, possibly more, large pyramids and numerous precincts for cemeteries.  Its elevation and orientation will make these monuments visible from Saqqara and Dashur and provide a desirable view when approached from the capital at Memphis.  In particular, I have decided upon the site that we identified as the lesser quarry, on the northeast extreme of the plateau.  This location is not the highest, but I have good reasons for this choice as well.
By constructing the first pyramid at the northeast corner, the natural ramp formed by the slope is left open to allow future building projects on the plateau.  Building on the highest point first would block access to the northeast corner.  To make the best use of the space, the plateau should be developed in the northeast first, with successive pharaohs building their pyramids along a southwest trajectory.  This will assure that the natural ramp remains open to future construction on the summit.
 Building the pyramid within the lesser quarry is advantageous in other ways as well, not the least of which is 147 setat of limestone that needn’t be transported once cut.  Another advantage is the lay of the land, which slopes upward to the west.  When the outline of the pyramid is leveled, the elevated section inside the perimeter will be left intact.  By shaping this hill to fit within the construction, one tenth of the pyramid’s core will already be complete.
The main quarry at the bottom of the slope holds another 176 setat of good limestone, which together with the northeast quarry will provide more than enough blocks to construct the greatest pyramid complex ever built.
All of Upper and Lower Egypt:  Unite for our pharaoh, Son of Re, Khufu, May He Live!  May He Prosper!  May He Be Healthy!


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