Sir Flinders Petrie - Notes

The Pryamids and Temples of Giza


or pages that are not part of the book.

Petrie's key measurements for the Great Pyramid

"The Great Pyramid has lent its name as a sort of by-word for paradoxes; and, as moths to a candle, so are theorisers attracted to it. The very fact that the subject was so generally familiar, and yet so little was accurately known about it, made it the more enticing; there were plenty of descriptions from which to choose, and yet most of them were so hazy that their support could be claimed for many varying theories."

SIR FLINDERS PETRIE ... 'The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh', 1883.

Oil painting of Petrie Links for Petrie Books written by Petrie.

Sir Flinders Petrie's 1880/82 survey of the Giza plateau which included the GREAT PYRAMID of KHUFU and the relatively unknown TRIAL SITE is probably the most detailed Egyptian study ever undertaken by a surveyor.

This is the original edition of 1883 which was sold out during the first few months. The second edition which summarized many of the tables into a few lines and omitted much of the technical work appeared in early 1885.

Petrie's approach to the 1880/82 survey is seen as something quite extraordinary and it warrants the remarks he sometimes made about the "rough and ready" character of those preceding him. For example when measuring the Great Pyramid's descending passageway Petrie refers to his encounter with screw-driver marks.

For those who have taken time to study some of the surveys conducted on the Giza plateau, Petrie's contribution stands head and shoulders above the rest. Whether he is right or wrong in all his readings is not the issue ... he just did things better.

After his extensive triangulation on the Giza plateau Petrie was somewhat taken back by what he uncovered and said of the Great pyramid "a triumph of skill. Its errors, both in length and in angles, could be covered by placing one's thumb on them."

Petrie measured everything in inches, a 10th of an inch, a 100th of an inch and occasionally a 1000th of an inch. It was acceptable then ... and it should still be acceptable now.

He went to Egypt as a professional surveyor but he also had experience as a mechanical engineer and his interest in metrology was written into a number of previous books.

Book to webpage

Some of the book's type is sprinkled with dramatic dashes, for example ; the Sphinxand Mr Gill. They are not overdone and so have been retained more or less as they appear in the text. For appearance sake however, the book's italics has been converted to the alternate underline , although in some instances (where a reference has been made) this has not been necessary. Additionally, some words of the book have come up poorly in the scan and might occasionally appear with in place of a letter or letters, in particular (and with much annoyance) the decimal place or the "period" (for English speaking countries). Every effort has been made to correct them.

Font used = Arial, Geneva, MS Sans Serif.
Main text and Tables, font & size = Arial, Geneva 1 or small.
Greek symbols = HM Phonetic, substitute Symbol.

Language = xhtml. The incompatible browser problem still lingers on with xhtml but should gradually subside. Pigs might fly too. In the meantime I have been forced to write for Internet Explorer only. If this offends a small minority using Netscape and Opera ... tough !

Also note that Petrie's comments which originally appeared in the margins or at the bottom of the page have been edited to appear closer to the text in question, that is to say immediately following it.

In webpage format you also have the advantage of being able to click on a reference link, namely the illustration plates that Petrie included at the back of his book.

I cannot vouch that the text and tables of the original book have been faithfully reproduced in these pages. Errors will always occur and go unnoticed for a time. The pages have however been proof read, the latest attempt in August 2002.

Petrie's 1880-1883 measurements for the Great pyramid are not the only ones available but they are the most reliable. Almost all serious investigations now quote Petrie. Sometimes the Egyptian government survey of 1925 is also quoted. In the notes, where necessary, I have included the 1925 government measures for comparison.

And thank you to all who have already queried parts of the text, suggested solutions or just commented. It makes it worthwhile.

G.J.Oaten. Melbourne. Australia.