From an engineering perspective, how are the 'relieving chambers' above the kings chamber supposed to work? Kings chamber relieving chambers

The 5 layers of horizontal lintels separated by air-gaps are normally described by mainstream archaeologists as 'relieving chambers' to share and spread the load of the thousands of tons of rock above the kings chamber.

The builders obviously understood the principles of a corbelled arch since it was used in both the grand gallery and other pyramids.

corbel arch

They also understood the simple triangular arch, since this was incorporated in the queens chamber, and at the top of the relieving chambers above the kings chamber. triangle arch

So, back to the original question, how do the relieving chambers work? (or maybe they don't?) The horizontal lintels have empty space above and below, so are presumably unloaded? The width of each chamber is constant, so can't be acting like a corbelled arch. The only elements actually doing any load spreading are the lintels that make up the triangular arch right at the top. So what's the purpose of all the layers of horizontal lintels? They must have taken a lot of additional work for no (engineering) purpose - not that I can see anyhow.

UPDATE - some theories from elsewhere on the net. A triangular arch directs the load to the side and below the bottom of the arch. For the arch to work, it needs to re-direct the load onto a secure and stable area of masonry. The most noticeable result of the 5 layers of 'relieving chambers' was to require the arch to move about 10 meters higher than it needs be.

Maybe the triangular arch was placed where it was to avoid loading the areas immediately to the side of the kings chamber? and maybe this was needed because those areas contained voids or some areas of structural weakness? A lot of 'maybes', I know.

  • $\begingroup$ My guess would be that the lintels actually prevent the supports of the triangular arches from bending inwards but I#ll happily wait or an expert. $\endgroup$
    – mart
    Aug 17, 2020 at 11:11
  • $\begingroup$ Was paying for (additional) work an issue - not sure the pharaoh paid overtime. $\endgroup$
    – Solar Mike
    Aug 17, 2020 at 11:44
  • $\begingroup$ All we can possibly do is speculate. The peak above Campbell's chamber would deflect load away from chambers. Doubtful chambers are load bearing. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2020 at 19:51

1 Answer 1


It is known that even clay under such a huge pressure can support bores and even huge underground caves and cavities with spans of hundreds of feet, a fact that must have have been known to those great architects and masons at the time. This weakens the hypothesis that those beams had much of a structural function.

They could have been a temporary construction shoring and formwork left in place to become permanently part of the structure because of their huge sizes and the fact that it would be a logistical nightmare to remove them. It is possible that the shape of this tall structure during the construction erected from the rest of the base and before being buried under the pyramid has had spiritual and cultural significance as well.

Let's not forget the whole thing was a monument, a symbol of the divinity of a demigod. So even during the period of construction, it must have to remain spectacular at any stage.


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