The exterior details of these tombs are very striking, and each stand out in their own way. The pyramid of Giza does this on a very grand scale, using ‘casing stones’, which caused the monument to shine brightly in the sun and even the moonlight. This beacon was able to be seen up to three hundred kilometres away, and it served as a reminder of who was buried there and their importance. The tomb of Agamemnon has similarities with both Egyptian and Roman tombs.
It is similar to the pyramid, as its detail is also on a huge scale. But it has even more similarities to Stilicho’s sarcophagus. This is because it shows stone carvings which go from simple motifs, like that of spirals, to huge depictions of war or hunting scenes. These depictions are very Homeric as they contain visual similes like those used by Homer in the Odyssey. For example a warrior is depicted in the pursuit of an enemy, while beneath him a lion is seen stalking a deer. One interpretation of these designs is that the dead are taking part in their own funeral games. This then reflects the culture at the time, as it is showing how the ancient Mycenaeans (the forerunners of the Greeks) believed in honouring and respecting the dead through games.
The detail on the tomb of Stilicho is not on such a huge scale but it also reflects the culture at the time of his death. The stone carved details on his tomb depict scenes from the bible, but they have a pagan slant to them. A good example of this is the central image of Jesus teaching his disciples, as while it is Jesus, he is sculpted in the earlier pagan image of the wise philosopher teaching his elders. This shows the transference from paganism to early Christianity in the Roman world. The sarcophagus also shows simple Greco-Roman motifs such as the swastika, supposedly symbolising the sun.
Unlike the other tombs, the pyramid at Giza is precisely located to be in line with the position of the stars. The pyramid is in alignment with the position of the stars b-Ursae minoris and z-Ursae majoris around three thousand years ago. This is because of the ancient Egyptians’ belief that the stars were directly linked to the afterlife. Also the whole structure is said to be perfectly orientated to the points on a compass. This shows the most workmanship and skill out of all the tombs.
A comparison of the interior
The pyramid at Giza is different from many others from that time, in terms of internal arrangement. It has more chambers than usual, with three known ones, and the decoration is very simplistic, with bare and un-inscribed walls apart from some graffiti put there by the workers. The three known chambers inside the pyramid are the King’s chamber, the Queen’s chamber and the ‘unfinished’ chamber. The unfinished chamber is the largest of the three, which is strange as the king’s chamber was usually the largest. It is also the lowest one and was cut into the bedrock, just like the grave of Agamemnon, it was believed that this was supposed to be the King’s final resting place, until Khufu changed his mind and wanted to be higher up in the tomb. Another strange feature of this chamber is a square pit which was measured to be 12 feet deep; no one knows its purpose. Mystery also surrounds the king’s chamber. The actual room is made from granite, along with the sarcophagus.
However, unlike other pyramids, the sarcophagus is the only thing that was found in the king’s chamber, not even the body of the King was placed there. Also, unlike that of Stilicho’s, the sarcophagus is un-inscribed, in keeping with the bare design of the rest of the pyramid. It is uncertain whether the sarcophagus was ever meant for the king as no lid was ever found, and it is too short to accommodate a medium sized individual without the bending of the knees, which was a custom not practised in Egyptian ritual. The Queen’s chamber is the smallest of the three. It is now believed that the name Queen’s chamber is a misnomer and she was never going to be buried there; therefore the nature of this chamber just like the ‘unfinished’ chamber remains unknown. The eastern wall of this chamber contains a niche which Egyptologists believe would have held a statue of the interred. This statue was used as a back up of the Ka (see ancient beliefs below), in case the mummified body was destroyed.
As well as the chambers the pyramid contains both ascending and descending passage ways and the Grand Gallery. Both the ascending and descending passages are angled at 26 degrees, which shows a great deal of workmanship rarely seen in other pyramids. The Grand Gallery is at the end of the ascending passage and it is here where you can decide to go to the king’s or the Queen’s chamber. Unlike the rest of the pyramid, the Grand Gallery is the only place where decoration is found in the form of polished corbelled limestone.
Both the King’s chamber and the Queen’s chamber have air shafts with the ones in the king’s chamber leading to the outside. This connects with the Egyptian belief that the soul of the Pharaoh would travel up these to the stars, as, just like the actual structure of the pyramid, these air shafts in the king’s chamber are in alignment with the stars of Orion, believed by the Egyptians to be their god Osiris. The shafts in the Queen’s chamber remain more elusive as they do not lead to the outside, but to a small doorway which, Egyptologists believe, remains unopened. This could lead to the genuine resting place of the king. This ties in with what was found by two French Egyptologists, who, using radar and architectural analysis, claimed they had found a previously unknown chamber under the Queen’s chamber.
The Pyramid at Giza is by far the most different in terms of internal structure as it is far more complicated than the others. Due to this, the pyramid is the tomb which holds the most secrets and mysteries about how and why it was built in this way.