The Purpose of Airshafts in the Pyramids at Giza

You might want to the read pyramid node first as a little background. There isn't much about airshafts but it might prove helpful.

You might have seen drawings of the layout out of the pyramids before but most of them are inaccurate. One common mistake is that the airshafts lead into the grand gallery when they really lead into the directly into the king's tomb. The airshafts did have a physically practical purpose. They gave air to the workers that built the inner workings of the pyramid. But the workers did have other air holes, such as the entrance, the airshafts were angled upwards diagonally, and only into the king's tomb. He didn't need much after he was mummified. Now that we've posed the question, let's step back a bit now.

The king's death was a very public thing, at first. The ancient Egyptians believed that the sun was carried across the sky in a specific type of boat used on the Nile, and the king used the same kind of boat to the afterlife. The king would be in a reed-boat like those when he was going to his pyramid/grave. There were many steps involved after the king died: being taken to the burial site, mummified, various rituals, etc. Each step of the process would have less and less people involved in it until the king was alone in his tomb.

The ancient Egyptians also believed that when the pharaoh died, he was "merged" with the god of death and the underworld, Osiris. Well it turns out that the airshafts had more than one purpose: the "air" one, leaving a path for the king to merge with Osiris, and leaving a path for the pharaoh's ka to roam freely. One has a "ba" and a "ka", the "ba" being your physical body and your "ka" the spiritual one. When your ba dies, your ka needs a place to go. So several "ka images" are built such as paintings, carvings, and sculptures that are supposed to be an image of the king and a place where he can reside after his ba has died. All the images were basically identical and they did not exactly represent the true image of the king, but the ideal one. He is shown eternally youthful, unblemished, and physically fit perfectly matching the time's ideal of masculine beauty; broad shoulders, flat stomach, and toned muscles.

There were a minimum of 28 images for a king. That's the number king Khafre had. There were so many because, if one was broken or stolen then there was another that fit the king and it was more likely that the king would last for eternity. Now back to the airshafts. Many ka images weren't even located inside the pyramid, many for Khafre were out in the courtyard of his palace or in one of his many valley temples. He needed a path to get to these images after all the entrances were sealed off! Remember, that they believed gods could see through the eyes in their ka images, and Khafre oversaw all festivals after his death.

All images had the pharaoh's name and title inscribed upon them so the king could know for sure that he was possessing the right image.

Now, the even more amazing purpose. If you look at the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure (the three great pyramids at Giza) you can see that they are in descending order (chronologically). There is nothing that says the Khufu was greater than either other king or that Menkaure was the weakest or poorest of the three. But you can see that the diagonal angles of Khufu and Khafre line up. Not only are all their sides parallel but the two diagonals form one line. Menkaure is not on this line and he is much smaller.

Remember that the ancient Egyptians had a great respect for the stars. People (at least the commoners) didn't have much entertainment so what could they do? They would sit around and tell stories about and look in awe at the stars. The pharoah did the same, but he gave them the impression that he caused all of it to occur. The farmers that made the majority of the population relied on the stars to tell them the season and the optimum time to plant and collect and all sorts of things. So the farmers were greatly in debt to them.

Well, you can't see it to day, but the airshafts in the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure all pointed to the constellation of Osiris at the time they were built. Scientist have recreated what the sky would look like at the time. They didn't have a north star to build or travel by, the used the all-important constellation of Osiris. Not only did they point to that constellation, but if you look at other pyramids' location all along the Nile, they actually form the constellation of Osiris to make a big cosmic map! The pharaohs were using there power to make a mirror image of the heavens on earth. How many people can say they've done that on such a great proportion.

Also, on the equinoxes, the setting sun lines up the corner of the pyramid Khafre with the shoulder of the Sphinx. It was supposedly built for him.

So anyway, it was originally thought that the pyramids Khufu and Khafre were built the way they were because there had been many accidents and cave-ins on the pyramid of Khufu, trying to perfect the smooth-sided pyramid, and they didn't want to make the same mistakes on Khafre. It would have been a very nice template to follow. It's true that this alignment may have helped in the construction of Khafre, but it simply isn't true that it's the reason why it was built the way it was. The were looking to the stars...