Pyramids of Giza
Erected on a rocky plateau on the west bank of the Nile River all three of Giza’s famed pyramids and their elaborate burial complexes were built during a frenzied period of construction, from roughly 2550 to 2490 B.C.
No pyramids are more famous or celebrated than the Pyramids of Giza. Located on the west bank of the Nile River, on the outskirts of modern-day Cairo. Built in the fourth dynasty, a time with tremendous economic prosperity and stability. Making it one of the richest and most powerful times in Egypt’s history, as shown by the grandeur of Pyramids of Giza.
The oldest and largest of the three pyramids at Giza, known as the Great Pyramid, was built as a tomb for Pharaoh Khufu. Though Khufu reigned for 23 years, little else is known of his reign beyond the opulence of his pyramid.
Three small pyramids built for Khufu’s queens are lined up next to the Great Pyramid, and a tomb was found nearby containing the empty sarcophagus of his mother, Queen Hetepheres. Like other pyramids, Khufu’s is surrounded by rows of mastabas, where relatives or officials of the king were buried to accompany and support him in the afterlife.
The sides of the pyramid’s base average 755.75 feet, and its original height was 481.4 feet. Approximately 2.3 million blocks of stone (averaging about 2.5 tons each) had to be cut, transported and assembled to build Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Taking 20 years to build and required the labor of 20,000 to 100,000 men working years round.
The center and the second largest pyramid of Giza was built for Khufu’s son Khafre. Khafre’s pyramid complex, like his fathers’ consists of a valley temple, a causeway, a mortuary temple, boat pits, and the king’s pyramid. A unique feature of Khafre’s pyramid complex is the monumental statue of the Great Sphinx, carved in limestone with the head of a man and the body of a lion and the Sphinx temple.
The southernmost and smallest pyramid of Giza was built for Khafre’s son Menkaure. It’s smaller size and simpler design is a precursor of the end of the golden age of Egypt and of the smaller pyramids that would be constructed during the fifth and sixth dynasties.
Tomb robbers and other vandals had probably removed the bodies and most of the funeral goods from the tombs within a few hundred years of their completion. Plundering the pyramids of their white polished casting stones began after a massive earthquake loosened many of the outer surface stones which were then carted away build mosques and fortresses in nearby Cairo. Stripped of most of their smooth white limestone coverings, the Great Pyramids no longer reach their original heights; Khufu’s, for example, measures only 451 feet high.
Nonetheless more than 4,000 years later, the Egyptian pyramids retain their majesty, and millions of people continue to visit the pyramids each year, drawn to their towering grandeur and the enduring allure of Egypt’s rich and glorious past.