The Entrance to the Great Pyramid, from George Sandys

a seventeenth-century Englishman inside the Great Pyramid

This is an excerpt from George Sandy’s The Relation of a Journey begun [in] 1610, shared for no reason except that I found the narrative reminiscent of Tolkien or Dungeons & Dragons. (And I can find no reliable digital text online.) I have modernized the spelling and added paragraph-breaks and a few commas. Otherwise, it is verbatim.

The top, at length, we ascended with many pauses and much difficulty, from whence, with delighted eyes, we beheld that Sovereign of Streams [the Nile], and most excellent of Countries [Egypt]. Southward and near [at] hand the Mumm[i]es: afar, of divers huge Pyramides, each of which, were this away, might supply the repute of a wonder. During of a great part of the day, it catcheth no shadow of the earth, but is at once illuminated on all sides.

Descending again, on the East side below, from each corner equally distant, we approached the entrance, seeming heretofore to have been closed up, or so intended, both by the place itself, as appeareth by the following Picture and conveyances within.

“The Entrance to the Great Pyramid”
Into this our Janissaries discharged their arquebuses, lest some should have skulked within to do us mischief, and guarded the mouth whilst we entered, for fear of the wild Arabs.  To take the better footing, we put off our shoes, and most of our apparel, foretold of the heat within not inferior to a Stove. Our guide (a Moor) went foremost: every one of us with our lights in our hands. 

A most dreadful passage, and no less cumbersome; not above a yard in breadth, and four feet in height, each stone containing that measure. So that always stooping, and sometimes creeping, by reason of the rubbish, we descended (not by stairs, but as down the steep of a hill) a hundred feet, where the place for a little circuit enlarged, and the fearful descent continued, which they say none ever durst attempt any farther. Save that a Bassa [a bashaw or person of rank?] of Cairo, curious to search into the secrets thereof, caused divers condemned persons to undertake the performance, well stored with lights, and other provision: and that some of them ascended again well-nigh thirty miles off in the Deserts.  

A Fable deviled only to beget wonder. But others have written, that at the bottom there is a spacious Pit, eighty and fix Cubits deep, filled at the over-flow by concealed Conduits; in the middle little Island, and on that a Tomb containing the body of Cheops, a King of Eypt, and the builder of this Pyramid: which with the truth hath a greater affinity. For since I have been told by one out of his own experience, that in the uppermost depth there is a large square place, (though without water) into which he was led by another entry opening to the South, known but unto few (that now open, being shut by some order) and entered at this place where we feared to descend. 

A turning on the right hand leadeth into a little room: which by reason of the noisome savor and uneasy passage, we refused to enter. Clambering over the mouth of the aforesaid dungeon, we ascended as upon the bow of an arch, the way no larger than the former, about an hundred and twenty feet. Here we passed through a long entry, which led directly forward [illegible] follow, that it took even from us that uneasy benefit of sloping. Which brought us into a little Room with a compact Roof, more long than broad, of polished Marble in whose Grave-like smell, half full of Rubbish, forced our quick return. Climbing also over this entrance, we ascended as before, about 'an hundred and twenty feet higher. 

This entry was of an exceeding height, yet no broader from side to side than a man may fathom [illegible], benched on each side, and closed above with admirable Architecture: the Marble so great, and so cunningly joined, as it had been hewn through the living Rock. At the top we entered into a goodly Chamber, twenty foot wide, and forty in length; the Roof of a marvelous height, and the Stones so great, that eighty floors it, eight roofs it, eight flag the ends, and sixteen the sides, all of well-wrought [?] Marble. 

Athwart the Room at the upper end there standeth a Tomb, uncovered, empty, and all of [?] high, seven feet in length, not four in breadth, and sounding like a Bell. In this no doubt; lay the body of the builder. They erecting such costly Monuments, not only out of a vain ostentation, but being of the opinion, that after the dissolution of the [body?] the soul should survive, and when thirty-six thousand years were expired, again be joined unto the self-same body restored unto his former condition, gathered in their conceits from Astronomical demonstrations.

Against one end of the Tomb, and close to the wall, there openeth a Pit with a long and narrow mouth, which leadeth into an under Chamber. In [the] walls on each side of the upper Room there are two holes, one opposite to another, their ends not discernible, nor big enough to be crept into; sooty within, and made as they say, by a flame of fire which darted through it. ...
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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.