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The Great Pyramid of Giza
During the Ancient Egypt period, the Egyptians built pyramids, as tombs to protect the mummified bodies of their Pharaohs and their family. The Egyptians believed life continued after death. Their mummies were meant to stay in the pyramids forever, while the pharaohs spirits travelled to the afterlife.
Historians believe that the triangular shape of the four sides of these huge structures may have been designed to indicate the journey of the pharaoh to the heavens and the afterlife.
The Egyptians built the pyramids on the west side of the Nile River in the path of the setting sun.
The most famous pyramids of all are those at Giza, just outside the city now known as Cairo in Egypt. These three massive tombs were built more than 4,500 years ago. The pyramids at Giza were built for Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops), Pharaoh Khaefre and Pharaoh Menkaure.
Khufu's pyramid is known as "The Great Pyramid", it is the largest, but appears smaller as it sits on lower ground.
The Great Pyramid of Giza built around 2550 BC was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. It covers an area of about five hectares and was approximately 147 metres high. It is one of the largest stone monument on earth and is an example of Egyptian scientific skill - each of its sides aligns almost exactly with north, south, east and west. The Great Pyramid also represents an amazing building effort.
Its sides are built at an angle of 51.5 degrees and it consists of at least 2,300,000 blocks of granite weighing 2.5 tonnes each. At its base are three smaller pyramids one for each of Khufu's queens . Historians think that it took approximately 100,000 men and 20 years to build the Great Pyramid.
How the pyramids were built?
How the pyramids were built remains a mystery. Historians think that the Egyptians organised peasants labourers to work on the project and that each stone was brought by a barge along the Nile from the quarries, lowered into the wooden rollers and dragged by group of workers up the earthen slopes.
As each level of blocks was positioned, sand ramps had to be built so that the next layer of stones could be moved into position,once all the blocks were in place, a smooth covering of limestone was placed on the outside of the pyramid. This meant the pyramid could be seen from a great distance, sparkling brilliantly in the strong sunlight.
Architects designed the inside of the pyramids to include chambers, tunnels and storerooms. Artists covered the wall with beautiful paintings of the pharaoh's life and sculptors carved many intricate scenes. These paintings still exist and give us a very good idea about what life was like for the important people of those times.
One of the biggest problems facing the builders of these enormous tombs was creating secret passages or false tombs, to trick the grave robbers.
Khufu - Khufu's great Pyramid was surrounded by mastaba tombs build for the wealthy elite and three queens pyramids. Originally there was a mortuary temple attached to the pyramid but this was vanished. It is the largest but appears smaller as it sits on lower ground.
Khaefre - Khaefre was Khufu's son. Khaefre's pyramid is smaller than the Great Pyramid, but looks larger because it was built on higher ground.
Menkaure - The grandson of Khufu, Menkaure, built one large pyramid, plus three smaller pyramids for the most important royal women.
Guarding the Royal Pyramids
The pyramid of the Pharaoh Khaefre is guarded by the Sphinx -- a huge limestone statue of a lion with the head of a man, presumably that of the pharaoh himself. Egyptians believed that the Giza sphinx was a form of the sun god.
For most of its 4500 year life, the Sphinx was covered in sand.
Pollution from nearby cars and factories in modern times resulted in large amounts of the Sphinx being worn away. However, the Egyptian government has recently restored parts of it.