The Pyramids of Giza are three 4th-dynasty pyramids erected on a rocky plateau in northern Egypt. They are considered to be among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The pyramids were constructed with amazing precision. Each stone block weighed between 25 and 80 tons. The blocks were transported from quarries that were located nearby or as far away as 500 miles.
The Pyramids of Giza were the tombs of three pharaohs
The pyramids are located on the Giza Plateau in the Giza Necropolis UNESCO World Heritage Site, along with the Sphinx and other Old Kingdom monuments. They were built by pharaohs of the Fourth Dynasty and later became tombs for their successors.
The three primary pyramids on the plateau were built throughout about three generations by Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Each was part of a larger royal mortuary complex that included a temple at its base and a long causeway leading to a valley temple on the Nile floodplain.
Each pyramid was constructed with millions of stone blocks weighing 25 to 80 tons, each assembled with extraordinary precision. The pharaohs believed their souls would ascend to heaven after death, and they filled their tombs with everything they would need in the next life. Today, these pyramids offer a broad window into one of the world’s first great civilizations. Detailed excavations reveal snapshots of everyday Egyptian life, from carved and painted tomb scenes to settlements and burial remains.
The Pyramids were a symbol of power
The pyramid’s form evoked the sun’s rays reaching to earth, which was a symbol of the life-giving power of the Egyptian gods. It also represented the pharaoh’s rule over all of Egypt.
The Great Pyramid, which was built by Khufu (Cheops), the first pharaoh to build his pyramid at Giza, was the largest of these structures. It was built to a height of 146 meters (479 feet).
Historians have a variety of theories regarding the pyramid’s construction. They speculated that the builders used copper tools, including chisels and drills to cut the stone blocks, and a knowledge of astronomy was necessary for orienting the sides of the pyramid to the cardinal directions.
The massive structure required a large workforce to construct it. Evidence from excavations near the pyramids suggests that a town for workers was built nearby, where bakeries and workshops were located. Mud-sealed tombs of the workers were found. The workers’ gangs may have consisted of 200 men who could haul the 2.5-ton stones from quarry to pyramid in about 20 minutes, their path eased by a surface lubricated with silt.
The Pyramids were a religious site
UNESCO has made efforts to restore the pyramids and protect them from the pollution of Cairo’s cityscape. However, the site still faces threats, including erosion from unsustainable tourism and the illegal quarrying of sand on the plateau.
The pharaohs believed that their souls would live after death, and they were honored as gods who ruled over the people. To honor their godly status, the pharaohs built massive pyramid tombs for themselves that were filled with everything they needed in the next world.
These pyramids were constructed by a large workforce, but the king was responsible for overseeing the work. The workers were organized into crews and gangs of 2,000 men, and they worked for three or four-month shifts. Each worker received ten loaves of bread and a measure of beer for his labor. Some workers even fought against each other for jobs on the pyramids. But overall, the pharaohs had a successful relationship with their laborers.
The Pyramids were a social site
The pyramids were built during a period when Egypt was one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world. They reflect the central role that pharaohs played in ancient Egyptian society, as well as their heightened status as quasi-divine figures.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was constructed over 20 years and required the work of about 100,000 men. Historians have speculated that the workers were slaves, but skeletons found at the site indicate that the majority of workers were native agricultural laborers.
The next two major pyramids at Giza were commissioned by the kings Khafre (Chephren) and Menkaure (Mycerinus). Several smaller tombs, known as mastabas, surround these three pyramids. Being buried near the pharaoh was considered a great honor, and it ensured a prized place in the afterlife.