Pyramids of Giza in Egypt | Giza pyramid complex History, Location, Age, Interior, Facts Pharaonic Tombs in Ancient Egypt Civilization, Complete Guide of the Giza Necropolis.
Pyramids of Giza in Egypt
Pyramids of Giza and the ancient Egyptian Religion
The ancient Egyptians were great recognizers of nature and the creatures surrounding them. They thought about resurrection as a necessary continuation of life. Death was not the end of life but it is an essential step to another immortal one.
They recognized the sun rises then sets then rises again, the Nile floods then dries then floods again. The soil and the seeds alive produce plants that dry and then are alive again.
Believing in all this made the ancient Egyptians keen on having their tomb built to be used hereafter as an eternal house. The second life depended besides the Pharaonic Tombs on the preservation of the body and the provision of food and drinks. That was the reason why the Ancient Egyptian civilization created mummification to keep the bodies of their deceased in very good condition.
So, the soul can easily know its way to the right body. Such a physical operation had reached the top of its accuracy and perfection in The New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. They used to provide the tomb with food, drinks, and the person’s precious properties and belongings, so he can use them after the resurrection.
They had chosen the western bank of the River Nile to build their tombs there as the soil is sterile and the desert is so dry. That will sure prevent the body from being spoiled by humidity.
The Nile River
The ancient Egyptians believe that the Nile divides their land into 2 parts, the kingdom of the alive on the eastern bank and the kingdom of the death on the western bank. In addition, the type of soil determines the place of the necropolis or the residence of the alive.
Another religious reason
The principal god in ancient mythology was Ra, the sun god who use to travel twice a day in his boat to illuminate the kingdom of the alive (A journey starts from the east to the west) and the kingdom of the death (A journey starts from the west to the east).so, the city of the alive should be on the east bank of the Nile River where the sun rises. The city of the death should be on the west bank of the Nile River where the sun sets.
But the sun when it travels from the west to the east, it took a very long journey, so the houses of the dead people should be built from strong stone to bear time and other natural phenomena. Also, houses on the east bank were built from mud bricks.
Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs were usually buried in similar tombs to ordinary people called Mastabas till the time when the king worshiped himself as the alive representation of the sun god on earth. so, he should be buried in a place belonging to Ra, the first existence of Ra on the eternal hill (PEN PEN), they imagined that the king’s soul will ascend over the pyramid tomb to reach the sun god to get unity with him as he is waiting for the soul of the representative.
Why Pyramidical Shape?
That’s why the ancient Egyptians have chosen the Pyramid shape to be the grave of their royal family members. But ordinary people were buried in the original form of the graves which is Mastaba.
We can notice also that there were no reliefs on the inner walls of the Pyramids showing scenes of offerings or scenes from daily life. Exceptionally, the Pyramids of the 5th Dynasty were decorated with beautiful hieroglyphic texts called Pyramids texts. On the other hand, the tombs of the High-rank people of ancient Egyptian society were covered with very beautiful reliefs even though they were wealthy as the royal family members.
Pyramids of Giza and The Great Sphinx
In the following pages, we will try to reveal the secrets behind the Giza Pyramids, and how they were constructed the Giza pyramids. And why? Why the Giza Pyramids are not the same size? Some facts about the Cheops Pyramid?
The Giza Pyramids are one of the top tourist attractions in Egypt and are always included in any Egypt Tour packages. After the death of the founder of the fourth Dynasty Snefru, his son Khufu who is known worldwide as Cheops followed him. Snefru, the first pharaoh of Egypt’s 4th Dynasty built his two Pyramids in Dahshour, the Best Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. However, his son for an unknown reason to historians changed his father’s area (Dahshour cemetery) and built his Pyramid on the Giza plateau.
The Great Pyramid of Cheops – Pyramids of Giza
Cheops Pyramid is one of the seven wonders of the world and perhaps the only existing one. The construction of the Great Pyramid of Cheops took 20 years and more than 2300 000 blocks of limestones. Meanwhile, each block weights between 2.5 till 15 tons. The ancient used 3 different qualities for the Great Pyramid
- For the core of the Pyramids, they used limestones from local quarries near the Sphinx
- For the Casing blocks, they used very fine white limestone from Tura quarries on the east bank of the Nile
- For the door lintels, roof, and sarcophagus, they used granite from Aswan quarries.
The Giza Pyramids gave us a great idea about the stone quarries of ancient Egypt and Egyptian history during the 4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom, and the Egyptian Pharaohs kings like Snefru, Cheops, Khafre, and Mycerinus.
Secrets of the Construction of the Giza Pyramids
Choosing the site
The first step of building any Pyramid is choosing the site.
1st, it should be in the vicinity of the Capital (Memphis at that time)
2nd, it should be located on the west side of the Nile River in the world of the dead as we explained before.
3rd, it should be above the maximum known level of the annual Nile Flood but not very far from the Nile to be easy to transport the stone blocks
4th, the selected area must be as flat as possible
5th, the mother rock must be solid enough to support the weight of the mass construction.
Preparing the Site
After choosing the site of the Pyramid, they will start cleaning that site from the sand and the rubble to build the Pyramid on a solid foundation of rock.
Workers will begin flatting and smoothing the surface of the mother rock. In case, there was any natural depressions, they will use the debris to fill it up.
We know a lot about the leveling techniques from the 2nd Pyramid, a short distance from the north side of the second Pyramid was found grid trenches are left unfinished. The whole operation depended on the water to prepare the square area of the Pyramid divided into 3 phases
Surround the square area of the Pyramid by a wall built of mud bricks. Then a network of trenches was dug in the rock producing a number of rectangular blocks that look like Mastabas separated from each other by these trenches.
Filling the whole area with water
Measuring the distance from the water level to the top of the rectangular blocks
When the tops of these rectangular blocks became at the same level, the water could be released and the trenches were filled in again by the debris and stones to make it a flat area ready to start building the Pyramid.
Fixing the Cardinal Points
The base of the Pyramid should be square and each side must be oriented to face one of the four cardinal points. Sure, we know that they did not have a magnetic compass at that time, and fixing the cardinal points needs an accurate instrument, so we can confess that they had something that g was enough to do that mission.
Methods and Ceremonies of the building the Pyramids of Giza
Our information about the methods and ceremonies mostly came to us from those Pharaonic temples built in the Greco-Roman era. Edfu temple, Kom Ombo temple, Dendera, and Phaile temple gave us huge information about those processes as following
1st, with the help of an instrument called Merkhet, the king observes the position of the stars in the Great Bear. Then they decide on the true East, the true West, and so on
As soon as they finish all the preparations like leveling the base, and fixing the four cardinal points, the next step will be preparing the RAMPS on which they will transport the heavy blocks.
Wooden machines or Ramps
Ramps are composed of bricks, earth, and wooden logs upwards from the ground level to any desired heights. The Ramps can be one big ramp on one side of the building or on two sides of the building or like zigzag around the four sides of the Pyramid.
They pulled the stones across the desert with ropes and sleds, and we have what proves that they were wetting the wooden sleds with oils to reduce friction. However, to drag the stones upwards, they built upwards ramps using a sled that carried a stone block.
After finishing the body of the Pyramid, they had to cover the whole building with white limestone blocks from Turah quarries. This last step used to be achieved together with the removing of the ramp or ramps from the top going down.
That was a general idea about the suggested ways how ancient Egyptian Pharaohs kings built the Giza Pyramids and now we will talk about each Pyramid complex one by one
Great Pyramid Complex – Cheops Pyramid Complex in Pyramids of Giza
Cheops or Khufu was the son of Snefru from his chief wife Hotep-Heres and he ascended the throne peacefully. Surprisingly, the only surviving sculpture of Khufu is a small ivory statue not more than 8 cm. We still are not sure if there was a religious meaning behind that.
How is the Great Pyramid attributed to Cheops?
The Great Pyramid is for sure attributed to king Cheops because of 3 reasons
1st, the name Khufu was found written in one of the 5 rooms above the burial chamber
2nd, the tombs built around the Pyramid were for the High Officials of the king
3rd, Historians and archeologists’ evidence confirm that the Pyramid is the Khufu pyramid.
The great Pyramid Complex – Cheops Pyramid Complex
- Any Pyramid complex consists of
- The main Pyramid
- Subsidiary Pyramids (Satellite Pyramids)
- Funerary temple
- Valley Temple
- Boat Pits
- Surrounded walls
The Great Pyramid (Cheops Pyramid) – Pyramids of Giza
The great Pyramid of king Cheops from the 4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom was the fourth Pyramid in Egypt after the Djoser Step Pyramid and the two Pyramids of Snefru, the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid.
Hemounu, the architect, Vizier of Cheops built the Great Pyramid with an astonishing degree of accuracy in the simplest possible way. The Great Pyramid took over two million, three hundred thousand blocks of Limestone.
Some of the blocks weight 15 tons but we have to know that the very huge blocks are at the bottom but those at the top are smaller. Meanwhile, the large granite slaps covering the burial chamber weights between 50 and 80 tons. The Pyramid is about 146m tall with an average deviation of the sides from the four cardinal points in 3’ 6’’ of arc, and the maximum difference in length of the side is 4.4 sm.
The Main Entrance of the Great Pyramid
The main entrance of the Cheops Pyramid is still closed now
The present entrance is located a few meters under the original one
The original entrance of the Pyramid leads to a descending passage for about 58.5 meters until the subterranean chamber which is unfinished.
18 meters from the original entrance and in the roof of the descending passage, a hole was cut to be the starting point of an ascending passage in the core of the Pyramid.
The new passage goes up for about 38.7 meters and leads to a horizontal corridor ends with a chamber called wrongly the QUEEN CHAMBER. This room is in the center of the Pyramid and seems intended to eb the burial chamber before they changed the plan.
Once more, the plan changed and the room was not finished.
The Great Gallary
A new passage known as THE GREAT GALLERY was cut for about 46.7 meters and 2.1 meters in width and 8.7 meters in height. The corridor is made out of very polished limestone and it raises vertically for 225cm.
At the southern end of this corridor, we climb a high step leading to a low and narrow passage. Later on, the passage heightened and enlarged into a kind of antechamber, 3 of its walls are made of granite.
Nest is the burial chamber of the King Cheops and it was built totally of granite it measures 10.5 from east to west and 5.2 from north to south with 5.8 meters in height.
The roof of this chamber consists of 9 nine slaps weighing about 400 tons.
Above that chamber, there are 5 small chambers to minimize the load of the mass construction.
4 of these rooms have a flat roof while the 5th has a pointed roof
There are two shafts in the north and south walls of the room that go outside the Pyramid and the purpose could be
Providing the room with fresh air (is not acceptable)
The purpose is to allow the spirit of the king to ascend to the sky, start and come back from time to time to visit the king.
The sarcophagus of the king on the west side of the room
The sarcophagus is bigger than the entrance of the room from the end of the corridor by about 2.5cm. it seems therefore that the sarcophagus have been placed in the room while the chamber was being built.
The side Pyramids or the satellite Pyramids are small Pyramids for the Queens and the female members of the king. Besides the great Pyramid, we found 3 small ones on the east side of the main pyramid. From North to South, they are as follows
Queen Hotep – Heres Pyramid (Cheops’s mother)
The Queen Henutsen
Funerary temple (Mortuary temple)
The Mortuary temples are always on the east side of the Pyramid and Khufu mortuary temple still can be seen on the eastern side of the Pyramid but only on the basalt pavement. From what we still have, it was a rectangular building that measured 51*39m. it was reachable through the causeway.
The function of the temple most probably was perfuming the king before they put him in his eternal house, the Pyramid. As we know, the king was mummified in the palace for 69 days and on day number 70 they sail from the east bank to the west bank. At the valley temple, they do the Opening of the Mouth to the mummy of the king. Then, perfuming the king in the mortuary temple with the 7 holly oils before burying him.
The Causeway was used later during the 12th Dynasty for building some of the Pyramids of the Middle Kingdom kings. According to Herodotus, the causeway was built of limestone and it was colored with carved reliefs.
The Valley Temple is Cheops still buried under the modern village of Nazlet El Semman.
Around the great pyramid, we found 5 boat pits. 3 of them were empty and in two they found two real ones. One was found in 1954 by Kamal El Malakh and right now it is in the GEM Museum. And the 2nd one was discovered in 1987 by a team of National Geographic and it is under reconstruction now.
The Pyramid was surrounded originally on four sides by an enclosure wall but it disappeared now.
The Complex pf Khafre
The complex of Khafre (Chephren) consists of the same elements as Cheops Pyramid.
- Valley Temple
- Mortuary temple
- Main Pyramid
- Satellite Pyramids
- Enclosure wall
Who was Khafre (Chephren)?
Khafre was the 4th king of the 4th Dynasty of ancient Egypt, Old Kingdom, and the builder of the 2nd Pyramid at Giza Plateau.
King Khufu has a secondary wife called queen Meritetes I and with her, he had 2 sons, Djedefre and Khafre. After Khufu’s death, Djedefre followed him on the throne and he ruled for a very short time 8 years. His Pyramid at Abu Rawash, Egypt. Djedefre Pyramid is in ruin now and the sphinx of his wife, Hetepheres II was the first created Sphinx in ancient Egyptian History.
King Khafre (2558 – 2532 BC) got married about 4 times and he had nearly 12 sons and 3 daughters. The names of the 4 wives are as follows
- Khamerernebty I was his main wife and Menkaure’s mother
- Queen Meresankh III, the daughter of his brother Kawab (his niece)
- Hetepheres II
- Present was his last queen of King Khafre and the mother of Nikaure.
King Chephren’s pyramid is smaller than Khufu’s Pyramid by only three meters but it lies on higher ground, which makes it looks taller than Khufu’s Pyramid. Khafre Pyramid is about 136 meters and it is the only one that still keeps its casing near its Apex. The base length is 215 m and it was built mainly from limestone.
The second Pyramid has two passages, the upper one was cut in the masonry of the core of the Pyramid about 12 meters higher than the ground level. The other one starts at the ground level and slopping towards a horizontal corridor that leads into an ascending corridor. Both corridors, the one from the first entrance and the second one from the second entrance to the burial chamber.
The Sarcophagus is made out of black granite. The lid is broken now into two pieces on the floor near the sarcophagus.
Valley temple of Khafre
August Mariette discovered the Valley temple of king Khafre in 1853, temple was cleaned from the sand in 1869, and from 1909-1910 was totally free from the sand.
The temple was built of local limestone and cased with Red Granite from Aswan. The Valley temple of Khafre consists of
Once they had a huge single-leaf door made of Cedar wood from Lebanon
Granite walls, alabaster floor, and inside was found the marvelous Khafre stature in the Egyptian Museum.
In the middle of the Vestibule, there is a door that leads to the hall paved with white alabaster floors and polished red, reddish, and black granite walls.
16 granite pillars one single piece
Supporting the roof
23 statutes basis
They were supposed to house the statutes of the king once with the crown of Upper Egypt and one with the crown of Lower Egypt.
Exit in the north-west corner
The exit of the Valley temple was separating the temple from the causeway and it seems it was the end for many people except the King’s family who will join him in the purification temple.
The causeway was roofed and decorated and led to the Mortuary temple.
Mortuary temple of Chephren
The ruins of it can still be seen on the eastern side of the Pyramid.
Satellite Pyramids of Chephren
Were found to the north of the Pyramid. 5 Empty pits were found around the mortuary temple. Two of them were cut along the northern side while the rest in the southern side.
Enclosure Wall of Khafre
The whole complex was surrounded by enclosure walls like Cheops complex.
The Pyramid Complex of Menkaure (Mykerinos) c.2532–2503 BC
Menkaure was the son of king Khafre, 4th Dynasty, Old Kingdom, and the Builder of the smallest Pyramid of Giza Pyramids. The Name Menkaure was found in red ink on some blocks that formed the ceiling of his burial chamber of the queen pyramids plus some blocks of his valley temple.
Pyramid of Menkaure
The Pyramid is the smallest one 65m and it was built on a base higher than the Khafre base at 2.5m. Meanwhile, The Pyramid covers a quarter of the area of the other two pyramids. Menkaure Pyramid with limestone and causing of unfinished pink granite.
The entrance of the Pyramid on the north side is 4 meters higher than the ground level. The entrance led to a descending corridor of 31 meters that ends with a room carved with decorative panels. Then, another chamber with six large niches. The burial chamber of the complex has a black stone sarcophagus that was lost at sea in 1838. That happened when it was being transported to England.
Fact About the smallest Pyramid of the Giza Pyramids
- Height: 200 feet or 61 meters
- Base: 356 feet or 108.5 meters
- Angle: 51°20′25″
- Built: Circa 2532–2503 BC
- Opening Hours: 7.00 am to 5.00 pm
- Entry Into the Pyramid: Extra 100 EGP or $5.50
Valley Temple of Menkaure
Menkaure started the valley temple but his successor Shepseskaf finished it. The temple consists of an entrance leading to the antechamber, an open courtyard, Portico then storerooms. Seems that king Pepi II from the 6th Dynasty rebuilt the temple.
The Causeway of Menkaure
Led as normal from the Valley temple to the Mortuary temple and most probably completed by Shepseskaf. According to some, they never finished the causeway.
The Mortuary Temple of Menkaure
The Menkaure’s sudden death led to unfinished the temple. Moreover, the temple was not built on the east side of the Pyramid. The temple supposes to be built of pink granite but his son uses mudbrick.
We did try to reveal some of the secrets behind the Giza Pyramids but we have to confess that the Giza Pyramids must stand as the most spectacular of all the achievements in the history of humankind when booking Cairo Day Trip from Hurghada.