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Great Pyramid of Giza

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Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza (called the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact. Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek) over an approximately 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (480.6 ft), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, the longest period of time ever held for such a record. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure. Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid's construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.
There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen's Chamber and King's Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only pyramid in Egypt known to contain both ascending and descending passages. The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honor of Khufu (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller "satellite" pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

History and description

It is believed the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu and was constructed over a 20 year period. Khufu's vizier, Hemon, or Hemiunu, is believed by some to be the architect of the Great Pyramid. It is thought that, at construction, the Great Pyramid was originally 280 Egyptian cubits tall, 146.5 metres but with erosion and absence of its pyramidion, its present height is 138.8 metres . Each base side was 440 royal cubits, 230.4 metres long. A royal cubit measures 0.524 metres. The mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The volume, including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic metres. Based on these estimates, building this in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Similarly, since it consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night. The first quasi-precision measurements of the pyramid were done by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1880–82 and published as The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. Almost all reports are based on his measurements. Many of the casing stones and inner chamber blocks of the Great Pyramid were fit together with extremely high precision. Based on measurements taken on the north eastern casing stones, the mean opening of the joints is only 0.5 millimetres wide (1/50th of an inch).

The pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, unsurpassed until the 160-metre-tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed c. 1300. The accuracy of the pyramid's workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length. The base is horizontal and flat to within ±15 mm. The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points (within 4 minutes of arc) based on true north, not magnetic north, and the finished base was squared to a mean corner error of only 12 seconds of arc. The completed design dimensions, as suggested by Petrie's survey and subsequent studies, are estimated to have originally been 280 cubits high by 440 cubits long at each of the four sides of its base. The ratio of the perimeter to height of 1760/280 cubits equates to 2π to an accuracy of better than 0.05% (corresponding to the well-known approximation of π as 22/7). Some Egyptologists consider this to have been the result of deliberate design proportion.

Pyramid complex

The Great Pyramid is surrounded by a complex of several buildings including small pyramids. The Pyramid Temple, which stood on the east side of the pyramid and measured 52.2 metres (171 ft) north to south and 40 metres (130 ft) east to west, has almost entirely disappeared apart from the black basalt paving. There are only a few remnants of the causeway which linked the pyramid with the valley and the Valley Temple. The Valley Temple is buried beneath the village of Nazlet el-Samman; basalt paving and limestone walls have been found but the site has not been excavated. The basalt blocks show "clear evidence" of having been cut with some kind of saw with an estimated cutting blade 15 ft in length capable of cutting at a rate of 1 1/2 inches (40 mm) a minute. John Romer suggests this "super saw" may have had copper teeth and weighed up to 300 lbs. He theorizes such a saw could have been attached to a wooden trestle and used in conjunction with possibly vegetable oil, cutting sand, or emery or pounded quartz to cut the blocks and would have required at least a dozen men to operate it.
On the south side are the subsidiary pyramids, popularly known as Queens' Pyramids. Three remain standing to nearly full height but the fourth was so ruined that its existence was not suspected until the recent discovery of the first course of stones and the remains of the capstone. Hidden beneath the paving around the pyramid was the tomb of Queen Hetepheres, sister-wife of Sneferu and mother of Khufu. Discovered by accident by the Reisner expedition, the burial was intact, though the carefully sealed coffin proved to be empty.

The Giza pyramid complex, which includes among other structures the pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, is surrounded by a cyclopean stone wall, the Wall of the Crow, and outside of which Mark Lehner has discovered a worker's town, otherwise known as "The Lost City", dated by pottery styles, seal impressions, and stratigraphy to have been constructed and occupied sometime during the reigns of Khafre (2520–2494 BC) and Menkaure (2490–2472 BC). In the early 1970s, the Australian archaeologist Karl Kromer excavated a mound in the South Field of the plateau. This mound contained artifacts including mudbrick seals of Khufu, which he identified with an artisans' settlement. Mudbrick buildings just south of Khufu's Valley Temple contained mud sealings of Khufu and have been suggested to be a settlement serving the cult of Khufu after his death. A workers cemetery used at least between Khufu's reign and the end of the Fifth Dynasty was discovered south of the Wall of the Crow by Zahi Hawass in 1990.

pyramid giza

The age of the first ancient wonders of the world began with the pyramids of Sneferu, he built three pyramids and may have had a hand in others. His pyramid at Medum began as a step pyramid and was then modified to form the first true pyramid. He built two pyramids at Dahshur one called the Bent Pyramid because its upper part has a shallower angle of inclination than the lower part.

Seneferu's Bent pyramid at Dahshur was originally planned as a true pyramid, but its geometry was altered at a point just above half its height. The angle of incline was decreased from 54º 31' 13'' to 43º 21'.

When Khufu, also known as Cheops, became pharaoh one of his first acts was to curtail the growing power of the priesthood. He "shut up all the temples and forbade sacrifices". As a priest’s living came from performing these rituals it is not surprising that Khufu was unpopular with the religious orders.

Khufu's pyramid at Giza showing the plan of passages and burial chamber.

Some believe that his pyramid at Giza was built by slaves but this is not true. One hundred thousand people worked on it for three months of each year. This was the time of the Nile's annual flood which made it impossible to farm the land and most of the population was unemployed. He provided good food and clothing for his workers and was kindly remembered in folk tales for many centuries.

There are three pyramids at Giza, each of which once had an adjoining mortuary temple. Attached to this temple would have been a covered causeway descending down to a valley temple, near the Nile. The 'great' pyramid itself is truly an astonishing work of engineering skill - for over four thousands years, until the modern era, it was the tallest building in the world.

The sides are oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass and the length of each side at the base is 755 feet . They rise at an angle of 51 52' to a height , originally, of 481 feet but nowadays 451 feet . It was constructed using around 2,300,000 limestone blocks, weighing, on average, 2.5 tons each. Although some weigh as much as 16 tons. Until recently, relatively speaking, it was cased in smooth limestone but this was plundered to build Cairo.

Is it conceivable that by bringing together so many people and giving them a common goal, that of making a mountain, a national identity is forged in their hearts. From Upper and Lower Egypt communities would have got to know each other and a common bond would have been manifest in the object of the pyramid. If this is true it is unique because all other forms of nationalism have grown out of war. For example England and France in the Hundred years war and the USA through the revolutionary, civil and Indian wars.