The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the one of the ancient Seven Wonders of the World and a defining icon of Egypt. It was erected during a twenty-year period during the reign of King Khufu (2589-2566 BCE, also known as Cheops) of the 4th Egypt Dynasty on the Giza plateau near the present city of Cairo.

Introduction to the Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza was the world’s highest building built by human hands at the time, a record it held for nearly 3,000 years and is unlikely to be broken. Other experts have pointed to the Lincoln Cathedral spire in England, completed in 1300, as the construction that eventually topped the Great Pyramid in height, although the Egyptian pyramid kept the distinction for a long time.

The Pyramids of Giza, also known as Gizeh, are three 4th-dynasty (c. 2575-c. 2465 bce) pyramids built on a rocky plateau on the west bank of the Nile River at Al-Jzah (Giza) in northern Egypt. The pyramids’ names—Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure—refer to the rulers for whom they were erected. The group’s northernmost and oldest pyramid was erected for Khufu, the fourth dynasty’s second monarch.

Only the uppermost piece of Khafre’s maintains the outside limestone casing. A mortuary temple was built near each pyramid, and it was linked to a valley temple on the edge of the Nile floodplain by a sloping causeway. There were further auxiliary pyramids nearby that were used for the funerals of additional members of the royal family.

In ancient and mediaeval ages, all three pyramids were robbed both interior and outside. Thus, the grave goods that were originally deposited in the burial chambers are missing, and the pyramids no longer reach their original heights.

Construction Features of the Great Pyramid of Giza

The pyramid stands 479 feet (146 metres) tall with a base of 754 feet (230 metres) and is made out of almost two million stone blocks.

 Some of these stones are so large and heavy (such as the granite slabs in the King’s Chamber) that the logistics of raising and properly arranging them appear impossible by current standards.

The Great Pyramid is the biggest of the three, with each side at the base measuring 755.75 feet (230 metres) in length and an initial height of 481.4 feet (147 metres).

The middle pyramid was erected for Khafre (Greek: Chephren), the fourth of the 4th dynasty’s eight rulers; it measures 707.75 feet (216 metres) on each side and was originally 471 feet (143 metres) high.

Menkaure’s (Greek: Mykerinus’) pyramid was the southernmost and last to be erected; each side measured 356.5 feet (109 metres), and the structure’s height was 218 feet (66 metres).

As all three pyramids were robbed both interior and outside. Their outer casings of smooth white limestone have been almost entirely stripped away; the Great Pyramid, for example, is now only 451.4 feet (138 metres) tall.

Khufu’s pyramid is maybe the largest massive single structure ever built on the world. Its sides rise at a 51°52′ angle and are precisely aligned to the four cardinal points of the compass.

The Great Pyramid’s core is formed of yellowish limestone blocks, the outside casing and inner corridors are made of finer light-colored limestone, and the interior burial chamber is made of massive chunks of granite.

Approximately 2.3 million stone blocks were cut, transported, and assembled to construct the 5.75-million-ton structure, a technological and engineering wonder. The inside walls, as well as the few remaining outside casing stones, feature the finest joints of any ancient Egyptian construction.

The Great Pyramid’s entrance lies on the north side, about 59 feet (18 metres) above ground level. A sloping path descends from it into the internal masonry of the pyramid, through the rocky earth on which the construction is built, and finishes in an unfinished subterranean chamber.

From the descending corridor, an ascending tunnel leads to the Queen’s Chamber and a large slanting gallery that is 151 feet (46 metres) long. A long and narrow corridor at the upper end of this gallery leads to the burial room proper, also known as the King’s Chamber.

This chamber has granite walls and a granite roof. Two small shafts go obliquely through the stonework from the chamber to the exterior of the pyramid; it is unknown whether they were constructed for religious purposes or for ventilation.

Above the King’s Chamber are five compartments divided by gigantic horizontal granite slabs; the slabs’ likely purpose was to cover the burial chamber’s roof by redirecting the enormous force generated by the overhanging volumes of masonry.

The Great Sphinx is located to the south of the Great Pyramid, near Khafre’s valley temple. The Sphinx, carved from limestone, has the face characteristics of a man but the body of a reclining lion; it is roughly 240 feet (73 metres) long and 66 feet (20 metres) high.

The three pyramids are surrounded by vast fields of flat-topped funerary buildings known as mastabas, which are constructed in a grid pattern and were used for the graves of kings’ relatives or officials. Aside from the 4th dynasty’s core mastabas, additional mastabas from the 5th and 6th dynasties (c. 2465-c. 2150 bce) have been discovered around and among the earlier buildings.

Near the top end of Khufu’s causeway, a pit grave holding the transferred burial equipment of Khufu’s mother, Queen Hetepheres, was discovered in 1925. The queen’s empty tomb was discovered at the bottom of a deep stone-filled hole, surrounded with furniture and jewellery attesting to the extraordinary artistic talent and technical precision of the 4th-dynasty craftsmen.

Khufu’s daughter Nefertiabet is depicted on a relief found in her tomb in Giza.

Archaeological Excavations on the Great Pyramid of Giza

Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (l.1853-1942), the British archaeologist who established the standard for archaeological operations in Egypt in general and at Giza in particular, excavated the pyramid for the first time in 1880 using modern techniques and scientific analysis.

The subject of how the pyramids were built has yet to be satisfactorily answered. The most likely explanation is that the Egyptians used a sloping and surrounding embankment of brick, dirt, and sand that grew in height and length as the pyramid grew; stone blocks were dragged up the ramp using sledges, rollers, and levers.

According to Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian, the Great Pyramid took 20 years to build and required the labour of 100,000 men. This figure is plausible if these men, who were agricultural labourers, worked on the pyramids solely (or mostly) when there was little work to be done in the fields, i.e., when the Nile River was in flood.

However, during the late twentieth century, archaeologists discovered evidence that a smaller crew may have occupied the site permanently rather than seasonally. It was estimated that as few as 20,000 employees, along with support people (bakers, medics, priests, and so forth), would have sufficed for the task.

How Marvelous was the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza?

The ancient architectural accomplishments at Giza were so remarkable that experts are still unsure how the pyramids were constructed. They have, however, learnt a lot about the individuals who created them and the political strength required to make it happen.

The construction workers were competent, well-fed Egyptians who resided in a neighbouring temporary city. Archaeological excavations at the interesting site have revealed a highly structured, resource-rich community that must have been supported by a strong central authority.

Communities throughout Egypt are believed to have donated employees, as well as food and other necessities, to what became a national endeavour to demonstrate the riches and might of the ancient pharaohs.

The Pyramids not only helped to create ancient Egypt, but they also helped to preserve it. Giza allows us to see a long-forgotten world.

Many people think of the site as merely a cemetery in the contemporary sense, but it’s a lot more than that, says Egyptologist Peter Der Manuelian of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and Tufts University. “There are amazing representations of every facet of life in ancient Egypt in these adorned tombs—so it’s not only about how Egyptians died, but how they lived.”

Tomb art depicts ancient farmers labouring on their fields and tending to their cattle, as well as fishing and fowling, woodworking, clothes, religious rites, and burial procedures.

Inscriptions and manuscripts also enable study of Egyptian grammar and language.

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