The Great Pyramid Temple
4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom
Flinders Petrie, Hakim Abou-Seif, Selim Hassan, Jean Phillip Lauer
The Great Pyramid Temple, reconstructed walls in brown.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the largest pyramid ever built and the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world still standing. Though it is one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, until our recent work here few of its visitors realized that a magnificent stone temple rose on its east side and was once the central focus of the Great Pyramid Complex. As tourists, horses, camels, and carriages traversed across the remnants of this once grand monument, they threatened to eventually obliterate its scant remains.
In fall 2020, thanks to a grant from the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE), we began work with Zahi Hawass and the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities to protect, conserve, and fully document the remains of the Great Pyramid Temple. Since the temple lies mostly in ruins, we are also working to make the site more comprehensible to visitors with new signage explaining the site’s history and a walkway that follows the outline of the temple’s original monumental outer walls.
While conserving the remnants of Khufu’s pyramid temple, we found new evidence of the how the temple was built and uncovered fragments of courtyard wall reliefs. These fragments were decorated with relief-carved and painted scenes of the king’s 30-year jubilee and suggest that the temple was used as part of a rejuvenation festival for the king. Find out more about this discovery in the AERAGRAM article Khufu’s 30-Year Jubilee: Newly Discovered Pieces of a Puzzle.
In the fall of 2022, we returned to the Great Pyramid Temple. In this second phase of work, our primary focus was documenting, conserving, and replacing parts of the 1940’s restoration of the temple’s black basalt pavement floor. This helps to protect the temple’s ruins, while still allowing people to walk onto and appreciate the complex geometrical jigsaw joins of the original giant pavement tiles―just as Khufu’s masons set them 4,600 years ago!
This project is still underway and we look forward to returning to the site in 2023. Find out more about the project on the ARCE website.
Great Pyramid Temple Photogallery
2021. Lehner, Mark. “Sculpting Bedrock on the Scale of Acres.” AERAGRAM vol 22 no 1-2, pages 11-19.
2021. “Great Pyramid Temple Project 2020.” AERA Annual Report 2020–2021, pages 4–7.
2021. Lehner, Mark. “Giza Plateau Mapping Project.” Oriental Institute 2020-2021 Annual Report, ed. Theo van den Hou. Oriental Institute, University of Chicago, pages 51–54.
2021. Hawass, Zahi, Mark Lehner, and Daniel Jones. “The Great Pyramid Temple Project.” AERAGRAM vol 21 no 1&2, pages 10–15.
2021. Lehner, Mark. “Khufu’s 30-Year Jubilee: Newly Discovered Pieces of a Puzzle.” AERAGRAM vol 21 no 1&2, pages 16–17.
2020. “Great Pyramid Temple Conservation Project.” American Research Center in Egypt website.