The pyramid history starts when Himotep, an extraordinary architect, and not only that, built the big “Step Pyramid” at Saqqara, on behalf of Pharaoh Zoser, almost 30-40 years before the 4th dynasty beginning, the dynasty of the great pyramids.
Himotep’s work, even if brilliant for the idea to use limestone blocks as building material, is not a pyramid, really, because it has not any room inside.
It could be correct to name it a “ supermastaba” because it is similar to the classic tombs, excavated in the rocky subsoil, and subsequently covered by stone blocks.
In this case the dimension is enormous, especially the excavation, but we are talking about a Pharaoh….
The “Step-Pyramid”, invented by Himotep, looks like it was made bigger and bigger during the construction, as the first project had been restricted to one row of stone blocks only, changing the project later, making the original base wider to allow a second block row had been installed and so on, deciding to expand it consequently up to the actual dimension.
Probably this is a poor point of view, but I’m not an expert, and I wrote about it just because the Step Pyramid comes before the Great Pyramids and Snefru, the initiator of the 4th Dynasty, drew his inspiration from it to build an unusual mausoleum.
If the historical data are correct, Snefru ordered his architect Nefermaat to construct the first of the three pyramids built by him.
Some historical sources don’t agree with that; they say the first one was built by Zuni, the last Pharaoh of the 3rd Dynasty, who left it to Snefru.
I have a different opinion, questionable but not incredible.
I’d like, on the contrary, to speak a little bit about Nefermaat, an extraordinary genius for sure, whose tomb, wonderfully painted (the gooses painted on the walls are very famous), shows us he had the full approval of the Pharaoh, who called him “ son”.
This is really the first constructor of the pyramid as a monumental tomb.
For his first project, he copied Himotep’s step-pyramid project, but introducing important structural news.
We find in here, for the first time , a chambre built using the overhang technique, leading later to the well-known roman bow.
The building technique shows the architect was very worried about the internal chambre stability because the very heavy weight above it: the idea consists of making the wall distance narrower during the construction, up to the ceiling.
This method requires the superposition of block rows in such a way to stick out any next row from the previous one in the room cavity. This technique will be resumed in the next pyramid constructions, to get the top in the Grand Gallery: we will speak soon about that.
I’m concerned in Nefermaat work not only because he was a brilliant constructor, but, mainly, because he was father of Hemiunu, who was the Cheope’s chief-architect, creating the Great Pyramid .
So Hemiunu followed his father job. He was a genius, son of a genius.
The first of Nefermaat’s pyramids, built at Meidum, had a big collapse of the external structure; the ruins still have a very impressive size.
The collapse probably occurred because lack of experience: nobody tried before to build something so big. Anyway Snefru did not abandon the project and he ordered to build a new pyramid.
Nefermaat began a new work, abandoning the step technique, making bigger rooms inside, starting from the ground level.
This new building was erected at Dashur, but, once more, structural problems occurred. They required a project change to reduce the excessive weight: the pyramid base was made wider and also the pyramid gradient was reduced subsequently.
This is named “ Double Gradient Pyramid”.
The problem probably suggested Snefru to start building a third one.
At this point Nefermaat understood that so big stone constructions are not stable, but they are subject to unforeseeable late settlements.
He built his third pyramid, the “ Red Pyramid”, still at Dashur, using a smaller lateral angle to reduce the weight pressure on the ground.
I may imagine Nefermaat, during his last work construction, bringing Hemiunu with him and speaking about the damned instability.
Hemiunu was a wise constructor; he worried always about the late unpredictable settlement to nullify his project, audacious on top of any limit, more than his father’s teaching.
Having understood that the main problem was the bedrock friability, Hemiunu chose the biggest of the three limestone hills in Giza area, removing the outer soft substratum, to build on it his masterpiece in such a way that his pyramid is inserted in the rocky top of the hill.
It is pointless to say that, on the remaining two, the Kefren and Micerino pyramids were built, leaving out the Orion connection found by someone and any other fantastic hypothesy: I like sensible explanations only.
I suppose that the Meidum pyramid was a Nefermaat project too, for the overhanging room inside and for the angle of inclination of 51,8°, the same of Cheope Pyramid. Nefermaat was also a great mathematician and he transferred his knowledge to the son.
We don’t find this angle in any other pyramid: it shows their mathematic capacity.
I’ll write, later on, a section dedicated to the mathematic games of Hemiunu and the reason of that. Now I just want to tell you the ratio between the apothem and the half base side of his pyramid is equal to 1,618. This is the PHI number and, if we calculate the cosine of this angle, we have:
1/1,618 = 0,618 and so inv-cos 0,618 = 51,8° !!!
I don’t believe that by chance only. I wonder to know the original angle of the “Double Gradient Pyramid”: it could be…

(This is true! I’ve just found information about an original angle of 52° almost).
I’m not interested in the fantastic mathematic relationship the esoteric people like, but I often had to accept the numerical values, even if I was really sceptical. This knowledge didn’t belong to all the Ancient Egyptians , we find the PHI number in here only, as a family secret.
Hemiunu tried to build a very fantastic monument, taking care of father’s teaching, doubling the devices and continually checking all the parts, completed already.
That was a very great dream to him, but he never forgot that something wrong could happen, also when the pyramid had been finished, before the Pharaoh death.
In addition, he scheduled one more rescue, just in case. At the Pharaoh death, at least three months had been necessary to prepare the mummy, just the time to finish the uncompleted room, safe in the deep rocky ground, and to seal it by the granite blocks, already stored outside for the Grant Gallery, but suitable also to close the descending passage, probably not involved if a structure collapse occurred.
This is the plausible explanation only for the underground project abandon.
Back to the internal plan, the descending passage shows an important forking at about 25 m. from the entrance: another passage originates from its ceiling, same size of the descending one, going up with the same gradient.