Constructed on the northern Gizeh plateau, the Great pyramid of Gizeh was constructed with roughly 2 million limestone blocks, each weighing from a small 2 tone to large 70 ton pieces (Great Pyramid of Giza Association). The construction of these structures is not the sole property of ancient Egyptian history (MSN Encarta). Throughout the ages, many ancient civilizations have engaged in the construction of pyramid like structures (Encarta).
But to the Egyptians belong the distinction of having constructed the largest and the more notable structures (Encarta). From 2630 to 1530 B.C., the Egyptians constructed more than 90 pyramids (Encarta). In and out the structure of the pyramids various activities were done. These structures mainly served as burial sites of the royalty of Egypt, notably the royal family, but were also places used for religious purposes (Encarta). When the Pharaoh, or king or queen, passed away, the corpse was treated and covered in the process of mummification (Encarta).
In the belief system of the ancient Egyptians, the pyramid itself provided a gateway for the king or queen to move on to the afterlife (Encarta). The temples within the complex housed the priests who conducted religious rituals intended to strengthen the spirit of the dead Pharaoh (Encarta). Ancient Egyptian artisan carved into the wall of the burial place hieroglyphics. These were inscribed with the purpose of safeguarding the passage of the dead king into the spirit world (Encarta). The writings included spells, instructions on etiquette on actions before the gods, and other guidelines, collectively known as the Pyramid Texts (Encarta).
The Great Pyramid of Gizeh is the only remaining item listed in the seven ancient wonders of the world (Great Pyramid of Giza Association). The others lost in time are the Colossus of Rhodes, the Mausoleum in Halicarnassus, the Babylonian Hanging Gardens, the temple of Diana, the Alexandrian lighthouse and the statue of Zeus erected in Olympia (Giza Association). When one thinks of Egypt and its history, people would easily think of the Great Pyramids; the only other item that would rival the pyramids in reference to ancient Egypt would be the Sphinx (Minnesota).
The largest of the Pyramids were constructed in a location called the Valley of Gizeh (Minnesota). Here three pyramids were constructed- the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the pyramid of Kahfre and Menkaura (Minnesota). Each of the pyramids was built dedicated to a different Pharaoh (Minnesota). The pyramids were built in the Third and Forth Dynasty, the structures constructed by the different kings and then through their sons (Minnesota).
Many theories have surrounded the reasons why the pyramids were constructed (Giza Association). Most argue that the pyramids were, as discussed earlier, was a resting place for the monarchs of Egypt (Giza Association). But many other theories have been put forth as to the reason of the pyramid’s construction (Giza Association). Some have put forth that the pyramids was an observation used for astronomical purposes, a place of religious practices, even a colossal sundial (Giza Association). Others have proffered that the pyramids was a grain silo, a monument to a prophecy, or as simple as a library (Giza Association).
The most colossal of the pyramids, the one built in honor of King Khufu, is the one widely called as the Great Pyramid (Encarta). The pyramid is hemmed in by the pyramids built for Khafre and Menkaure, the son and grandson of the late monarch, respectively (Encarta). The Great Pyramid itself is about thirty times the size of one of New York’s larger establishments, the Empire State building, if the reference used is to its mass (Henri Stierlen). Each of the sides of the Pyramid is approximately 750 feet on each of its sides (Cleveleys). It is about 450 feet high, and despite the limitations of the builders in the availability of tools in surveying the blocks of the pyramid is perfectly directed to the points of the compass (Cleveleys).
Apart from the pyramids, the Khufu complex also housed other structures (K.Kris Hirst). Apart from the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, the complex also consisted of other structures (Hirst). The complex also included several “mastabas”, rectangle-shaped structures that were the forerunners of the pyramids (Hirst). In fact, the Pyramids are so large that they can be pictured even in outer space (World Mysteries).
The Khufu, or Cheops (Khufu in the Greek language), is a structure that can also be noted for the intrinsic position that the structure straddles on the world’s geographical layout (World). The placement of the Pyramid exactly places the structure at the center of the continent’s gravity center (World). In fact, the pyramids lie in the exact geographical center of the world, separating the world’s land masses into four equal parts (World). The land covered by the Great Pyramid alone can fit St. Peter’s in Rome, the Florence and Milan churches and the English churches of Westminster and St. Paul’s in one area (Stierlen). The other two pyramids, those of the King’s son Khafre and grandson Menkaure, are equally imposing themselves; the Pyramid of Khafre is 704 feet on all sides, and about 470 feet high; the pyramid of Menkaure, 345.5 square and 216 feet high (Kevin Matthews).
Construction of the Great Pyramid
The method that was used in the construction of the pyramids still is a mystery that is still unsolved (Inter City Oz). The Greek historian estimates that the Egyptians over 30 years to build and would have required the effort of about 100,000 slaves (Inter City). The base of the pyramid was constructed on a bedrock core that supported blocks of limestone that can be seen on the north and east sides of the structure (World Mysteries). Those that built the pyramid chose well the site in that a majority of the stones that were used, with the exception of the casing blocks, some of the granite blocks and the basalt blocks, could be harnessed from the immediate area of the construction location and available also from the quarry nearby (World Mysteries).
This factor was significant in that the time needed to haul the stones across the Nile River was greatly reduced (World Mysteries). After the construction of the base pyramid structure, the outer stone casing was utilized to smoothen out the structure’s outer surface (Alaa Ashmawy). In the construction of the largest pyramid, that of the Pharaoh Khufu, the builders built upon previous pyramid construction techniques utilized in the building of earlier architects (Encarta). The site of the actual construction consisted of a flat bedrock-not sand (Encarta). That provided the strong foundation and the resulting stability of the pyramids and the adjacent structures (Encarta).
After the initial surveying activities was done, the builders set down the first level of stones of the pyramid, then proceeded to construct the pyramid by laying the blocks in a horizontal fashion, putting each stone on top of the preceding stone (Encarta). The stones that were used in the building of the pyramid was sourced from quarries due south of the construction site (Encarta). The pristine, smooth outside of the pyramids consisted of fine limestone rock that was acquired from quarries across the Nile (Encarta). These were hewn, and then set on barges for transport to the building location (Encarta).
The symmetrical shape of the pyramid was ensured by the fact that the builders maintained the symmetry of the stones themselves (Encarta). In this case, the stones used for the outside of the pyramids, used to case the shape of the pyramid itself, were determined by the builders to be of the same height and width (Encarta). To accomplish this feat, the workers put a mark on all the stones used to state the angle that the stones faced and then trimmed all the excess stone so that the blocks would come together in a seamless fashion (Encarta).
As the progress of the pyramid construction progressed, ramps were built to haul the materials needed along the sides of the pyramid (Encarta). How the ramps were constructed is not known, but many researchers believed that the ramps might have been made in a winding fashion, encircling the pyramid as the structure went up (Encarta). It is believed that the materials used in the manufacture of the ramps included clay from the desert mixed with the leftover limestone from the construction activities of the pyramids (Encarta).
When the final phase of the construction of the pyramid was ending, the workers then had to install the cap stone, or the pyramidion, on the topmost portion of the pyramid (Encarta). It was believed that the ramps used in the hauling of the materials still wound around the pyramid (Encarta). As the ramps came down, the bare surface of the pyramids was exposed; the masons in the workforce smoothened out the rough surfaces of the pyramid and then polished them. As the progress of the masons progressed, so did the increasing grandeur of the pyramid become incrementally apparent (Encarta).
In his book Pyramids (1988), Max Toth avers that the deliberate alignment of the sides of the pyramids to the four compass points points to the extreme points of darkness and the light, corresponding the east and west positions (Max Toth). Also, Toth (1988) avers that the four sides of the pyramid at the base of the structure pertain to the four basic elements essential to human life- air, fire, water and earth. The triangular face of the structure, according to Toth (1988), is symbolic of the trinity found in all of nature (Toth).
As stated earlier, the premise that the pyramids were built for other purposes and the identity of the builders, instead of just being tombs, were proffered over time (Ashmawy). More recent was the theory that the pyramids were constructed by aliens, but the theory offers very little factual or scientific basis (Ashmawy). Lately, robots have been utilized in the exploration to the structure and to provide maps into the structure (Encarta). Most of the treasures in the pyramids are believed to be still lying in the pyramids, away from the prying eyes of thieves and modern archaeological efforts (Cleveleys).
Most of those that come for the chance to se the pyramids come for academic satisfaction (Giza Association). But some people, small or great, have been drawn to them just to marvel at the grand structures (Giza Association). Aside from answers to academic queries, some have even come to seek out some of life’s answers (Giza Association). To modern day Egyptians, and to the many of us, the purpose and the need for the structures may be as varied as the reasons that the structures themselves were built (Giza Association).
Ashmawy, Alaa. “The Great Pyramid of Giza”.
Clevelys. “The seven wonders of the world- the Great Pyramid”.
Giza Research Association. “Introduction and overview of the Great Pyramid of Giza”.
Hirst, K.Kris. “Great Pyramid at Giza: the pyramid complexes of the Giza Plateau”.
Inter City Oz. “The Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu)”.
Matthews, Kevin. “Great Pyramid of Khufu”.
Minnesota State University-Mankato. “The Pyramids of Giza”.
MSN Encarta. “ Pyramids (Egypt)”
Stierlin, Henri. “The Great Pyramid at Giza”.
Toth, Max. “Pyramid Prophecies”. Inner Traditions/ Bear and Company. Rochester, VT. 1988.
World Mysteries. “The Great Pyramid”.