Limestone block from the pyramid of Khufu

British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

The largest pyramids of Egypt were constructed at Giza in the Fourth Dynasty (about 2613-2494 BC), heralding the transformation of Egyptian culture into the system of harmonious proportions that guided craftsmen throughout the following three thousand years.

The three major pyramids of Giza are the tombs of kings Khufu (Greek: Kheops), Khafre (Khephren) and Menkaure (Mycerinus). They were built mainly of limestone quarried on the Giza plateau itself. However, the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre were given a final coating of fine limestone cut to the shape of the blocks, in order that the pyramid would appear smooth-sided rather than stepped. The nearest source of limestone would have been the quarries at Tura near Helwan, travelling the twenty-five kilometre journey along the river by boat. Most of the stone from Tura was quarried off in later times; it is said that the Islamic monuments of Old Cairo were built with stone from Tura.

Only a few large casing blocks survive around the base of the Great Pyramid of Khufu, although there is a considerable area surviving near the apex of the pyramid of Khafre. Menkaure intended to case his pyramid in granite from Aswan, although it is unlikely that it was ever finished.


  • Title: Limestone block from the pyramid of Khufu
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 28.50cm; Width: 65.00cm; Depth: 50.00cm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Registration number: .490
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Pyramid of Khufu
  • Period/culture: 4th Dynasty
  • Material: limestone
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Donated by Vyse, R W Howard

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