The Great Pyramids of Giza
Staff posted on October 13, 2006 |
The Great Pyramids of Giza
  • The Pyramid of Menkaure (Greek: Mykerinus), the fifth king of the 4th dynasty, at Giza, near Memphis, Egypt.
  • The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt, built for the 4th-dynasty (c. 2575-2465 BC) kings Khufu (Greek: Cheops), Khafre (Chephren), and Menkaure (Mykerinus).
  • The Great Sphinx, at Giza, Egypt. Measuring approximately 240 feet (73 metres) long and 66 feet (20 metres) high, it has the facial features of a man but the body of a recumbent lion.

Pyramids of Giza - Map

Arabic: AHRAMAT AL-JIZAH, Giza also spelled GIZEH, three 4th-dynasty (c. 2575-c. 2465 BC) pyramids erected on a rocky plateau on the west bank of the Nile River near Al-Jizah (Giza), northern Egypt; in ancient times they were included among the Seven Wonders of the World. The ancient ruins of the Memphis area, including the Pyramids of Giza, Saqqarah, Dahshur, Abu Ruwaysh, and Abu Sir, were collectively designated a World Heritage site in 1979.

Great Pyramids - Khufu
Great Pyramids - Khafre
Great Pyramids - Menkaure

The designations of the pyramids — Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure — correspond to the kings for whom they were built. The northernmost and oldest pyramid of the group was built for Khufu (Greek: Cheops), the second king of the 4th dynasty. Called the Great Pyramid, it is the largest of the three, the length of each side at the base averaging 755¾ feet (230 metres) and its original height being feet (147 metres).

The middle pyramid was built for Khafre (Greek: Chephren), the fourth of the eight kings of the 4th dynasty; the structure measures 707¾ feet (216 metres) on each side and was originally 471 feet (143 metres) high.

The southernmost and last pyramid to be built was that of Menkaure (Greek: Mykerinus), the fifth king of the 4th dynasty. Each side measures 356½ feet (109 metres), and the structure's completed height was 218 feet (66 metres). All three pyramids were plundered both internally and externally in ancient times. Thus, most of the grave goods originally deposited in the burial chambers are missing, and the pyramids no longer reach their original heights because they have been almost entirely stripped of their outer casings of smooth white limestone; the Great Pyramid, for example, is now only feet (138 metres) high.

Khufu is perhaps the most colossal single building ever erected on the planet. Its sides rise at an angle of 51º52' and are accurately oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass. The Great Pyramid's core is made of yellowish limestone blocks, the outer and the inner passages are of finer light-coloured limestone, and the interior burial chamber is built of huge blocks of granite. Approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone were cut, transported, and assembled to create the 5,750,000-ton structure, which is a masterpiece of technical skill and engineering ability. The internal walls as well as those few outer-casing stones that still remain in place show finer joints than any other masonry constructed in ancient Egypt.

The entrance to the Great Pyramid is on the north side, about 59 feet (18 metres) above ground level. A sloping corridor descends from it through the pyramid's interior masonry, penetrates the rocky soil on which the structure rests, and ends in an unfinished underground chamber. From the descending corridor branches an ascending passageway that leads to a room known as the Queen's Chamber and to a great slanting gallery that is 151 feet (46 metres) long. At the upper end of this gallery a long and narrow passage gives access to the burial room proper, usually termed the King's Chamber. This room is entirely lined and roofed with granite. From the chamber two narrow shafts run obliquely through the masonry to the exterior of the pyramid; it is not known whether they were designed for a religious purpose or were meant for ventilation. Above the King's Chamber are five compartments separated by massive horizontal granite slabs; the likely purpose of these slabs was to shield the ceiling of the burial chamber by diverting the immense thrust exerted by the overlying masses of masonry.

According to the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, the Great Pyramid took 20 years to construct. It was first believed that 100,000 men worked on the pyramid, but there were probably only a fraction of this number working at any one time. This figure is based on an analysis of the area of the barracks used by the permanent staff of about 4,000. Further study of tomb paintings indicate 172 workers could move a 60-ton statue, so eight men could move an ordinary 2.5-ton block. Additionally, oxen could be used as well.

Constructed near each pyramid was a mortuary temple, which was linked via a sloping causeway to a valley temple on the edge of the Nile floodplain. Also nearby were subsidiary pyramids used for the burials of other members of the royal family.

Great Pyramids - Sphinx To the south of the Great Pyramid near Khafre's valley temple lies the Great Sphinx. Carved out of limestone, the Sphinx has the facial features of a man but the body of a recumbent lion; it is approximately 240 feet (73 metres) long and 66 feet (20 metres) high.

Surrounding the three pyramids are extensive fields of flat-topped funerary structures called mastabas; arranged in a grid pattern, the mastabas were used for the burials of relatives or officials of the kings. Besides the core mastabas of the 4th dynasty, numerous mastabas have also been found that date from the 5th and 6th dynasties (c. 2465-c. 2150 BC), as well as from the 3rd dynasty (c. 2650-c. 2575 BC).

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