The Giza Plateau is one of the world’s great mysteries. Of course the three large pyramids gain most of the attention, and rightfully so. And the more one studies them, the more amazing they become, beyond what is normally presented in textbooks. The next focus for tourists is the Sphinx, a marvel in itself. Yet few take the time to really examine the rest of the sites on the plateau. There are six remaining smaller pyramids (along with remnants of several others), mastaba tombs, shafts to underground chambers, temples around the pyramids, amazing shaping of granite stones, and several surprises.
For this article I want to take the reader-traveler’s attention to a place visited, but rarely lingered at. The Valley Temple. Located just in front of the Sphinx, this temples not only displays examples of amazing building practices with megalithic blocks placed in Peruvian-style jigsaw fashion, but presents some ideas of age of the Plateau.
First what is a Valley Temple? Short answer, each pyramid was linked on its eastern face (usually) by what is called a Mortuary Temple. Of course there is no proof anyone was every buried in an original Egyptian Pyramid, but it is the name for these temples. At Giza the second and third pyramid have semi-complete structures, while only the basalt floor is left at the side of the Great Pyramid. These temples were linked by a long covered causeway to a Valley Temple, which would have been connected to a boat dock to take arriving boats from the Nile River. Thus a Valley Temple was the starting off point for anyone’s journey to a pyramid in ancient times. The Valley Temple in front of the Sphinx, part of the Khafre Pyramid complex, is the most unique and complete valley temple in Egypt. Only one building in Egypt looks anything like it, the strange Oserion at Abydos. The reason the Valley Temple at Giza is so well preserved it that it was buried in sand for centuries. It is hard to know just how long it had been buried before excavations in the 1850’s when it was uncovered.
There are two basic construction periods to the Khafe Valley Temple. An older limestone block layer,and then a newer granite layer over top. The limestone layer have blocks cut out of the Sphinx enclosure when that statue was being carved. They cut and moved the blocks intact for the temple building. And they are not small stones by any means, some over 150 tons (300,000 pounds), and placed high up in the wall. The ability to cut, transport, and raise such large blocks are a wonder in itself. This original construction is said to be the work of the Pharaoh Khafre, to whom the second pyramid, sphinx and temples are attributed. Basically the only “evidence” for this is a famous diorite statue of Khafre with the falcon behind the head (now in the Cairo Museum) found buried upside down in the Valley Temple. This idea fits with the modern Egyptological timeline of the Old Kingdom. Of course Khafre could well have been the renovator of a much older site, or is perhaps the name of a human-figured Neter (god). See my book Power of Then for more detail on the pyramid owner’s problem.
In time, as the limestone blocks became severely weathered (indicating a long time out in the elements) they were covered over with Granite. No one is really sure exactly when this addition happened, and could have been the work done during the Old Kingdom. The covering stones are a marvel, layed similar to what can be called Inca masonry found in sites in Peru, where the stones are cut to multiple angles and placed against other stones with multiple angles. This is amazingly difficult work, especially given they are not core blocks of the wall, but a layer of stone placed against the original eroding limestone. The corners of the rooms are even more amazing, given that they do not in many cases create straight edges but rounded corners. The work that had to be done to carve blocks of granite to make a rounded corner joint is staggering, and were likely not done with simple copper and stone tools of the day (as the examination outside the temple will further verify). This was also not some sort of whimsical laying of stone, but a very carefully orchestrated design feature. The exact placement of stone blocks on one side of a walkway or room, is matched with similar blocks shaped and placed exactly opposite. This mirroring technique of placement is known as harmonizing a structure to make each sides of it resonate. This can be found all over this temple.
Recall that stone is not just stone in Ancient Egypt. Stone is a living, breathing entity to the Ancient Egyptians, and was chosen specifically for its symbolic effects, along with its inherent crystalline energetic form. But speaking of stone energy, then there is the floor. Not just a simple stone base, this temple (like most pyramid complex temples) as a very unique stone floor. Here it is made of a very translucent alabaster. Some parts of the floor were chipped away and lost, and now has modern cement placed over to even it out. When standing on the cement the energy feeling is somewhat low. When standing on a piece of the original alabaster, the upward force of energy into the body is unmistakeable.
The most known feature of this temple is the 16-pillared room (divided in two rows of five pillars, with another six crossing it making it horseshoe like feature). Around them are space for 23 statues (probably more Khafre statues). The one now in the Cairo Museum was found intact in the well, others were found but headless or otherwise destroyed, and likely hidden away at the end of the Old Kingdom during the First Intermediate Period when Egypt was overrun by a still unknown group known by the title Hyksos. Atop the giant pillars were roofing slabs (of which the cross beams remain), the only thing like it in Egypt is the Oserion, and the most similar thing with crossing beams elsewhere is Stonehenge.
The 23 statues would have been illuminated only by sunlight coming through small slits in the roof, likely timed to strike certain statues only on specific days of the year. I would like to check where the sunlight falls at sunrise and sunset on the winter and summer solstice in here. Also to note, there is not one hieroglyph or drawing on any of the walls of this temple, as found in later temples built around Luxor. This too is a clue to its age. Ancient stone building practice did not place anything ontop of the stone, as if saying that the message was the stone-energy itself, and to add “writing” on it was almost to dumb it down for the masses. Anywhere you come across plane megalithic building, is to be walking back into a very Ancient time. It is one of the reasons I most love to be in Egypt, for when on sites such as Giza or Dashur I know I am walking into the remnants of an old period of time, so ancient that it perhaps was a time when a form of sanity could be found on the earth as opposed to the ever increasing insanity of the last 3000 years. Touching this ancient time of sanity is part of the inner healing experience of just being at an ancient site.
To the left of the pillared hall is a series of three small vestibules, on top of three similar vestibules making six. They are called storage chambers, though without proof objects were stored in here. To the other side of the hall is a ramp that leads out to the Sphinx and causeway. Interestingly this ramp is at an angle of 26 degrees 34′, which Robert Temple noted was the same as the angles of the passageways in the Great Pyramid. On each side are doors that lead to further chambers within the structure. Interestingly some of the walls are not just made out of the granite blocks as the rest of the temple, but also include giant alabaster stones.
Another interesting feature within the Valley temple are oddly placed blocks in the walls, such as one of black granite in the bottom row of a red granite wall. The suggestions is that it is there to be some sort of marker, either covering over a former passage, or marking an area where a shaft in the floor can be found. Shafts and tunnels do exist here and some believe that they lead to an underground temple beneath the Valley Temple. The whole Giza Plateau is riddled with various shafts, tunnels, caves (I have gone to see several tombs some 50 feet down). What is on the surface may be just a fraction of what is below the surface.
Too many rush through this temple wanting a photo of themselves with the Sphinx. This is again where being in Egypt not on a tour, where you have the time to linger at places for at times hours pays off. Get there early, and linger. It is a magical experience. One can only imagine the vibration of this location when all was in a pristine state, statues in place- but an hour or two mostly alone in it gives one a taste of it.
However inside of this temple is not all there is to marvel at. Outside are some interesting stone objects totally ignored, and not just any stone, but the hardest granite. The granite has not just been carved,but carved into circular curves and flat straight lines. The curve surface of these curves is perfectly smooth, which is impossible with the supposed copper tools of the day, which would leave indents and chip marks. A photo really does not do justice to blocks such as this. And there is not one block, but several. Others, if one knows where to look, have cut groves into the stone that can only be said to been made by some type of machine process. Actually it is a modern mystery as to why we still get made historical documentaries on what kind of bread Tutankhamun ate, as opposed to how the ancients could possibly carve granite stone like this.
This Giza Plateau is a marvelous site. I recommend if possible to spend at least a few days properly exploring all the areas of it. This article on the Valley Temple is just meant to give you a small taste of the many parts of this site that if often missed and bypassed by tourists on their rush to “see all of Egypt in a day.” Remember when at a site like this you are touching one of the last remnants of a past so different from our own modern world that it is almost impossible for the mind to process it. To have a chance one needs time, time to explore and wonder at the marvels that have survived to the present day to keep us asking, why and how.