The Great Pyramid is a defining symbol and landmark in Egypt. It is the oldest and largest pyramid of the Giza Pyramid Complex, located on the Giza Plateau near Cairo. The other two pyramids are the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Mykerinos. Although the Great Pyramid has been excavated and studied for years, the purpose of its construction is still a matter of debate. Below are some facts about this man-made miracle in Egypt. The Pyramids of Giza were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. They are now considered an honorary candidate of the New Seven Wonders, which were announced in 2007.
1. The Pyramid was looted
The Great Pyramid was looted long before Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie’s arrival at the site. In fact, looting was common in ancient Egypt, in revenge, during economic hardship, or by the deceased’s own relatives. Kings were considered an incarnation of the god Horus, and so the descendants of dead kings saw the objects of the tombs as their own, and so did not think twice about getting them back.
2. The Great Pyramid has three known chambers
The pyramid has three well-known chambers, as well as a high hall: the Grand Gallery, the Queen’s Chamber, the King’s Chamber, and an unfinished underground chamber. The unfinished room was cut into the foundation, while the King’s Chamber and the Queen’s Chamber are located higher up within the structure. All chambers have air shafts, but as with everything to do with the Pyramids of Giza, experts debate whether these tunnels were actually intended for air circulation, or rather for ritualistic purposes related to the ascent of the spirit of the king to heaven.
Experts agree that the Queen’s Chamber was not actually intended as a burial place for the Queen, despite the room’s name. Some curious objects were found in the room, the only objects found in the entire pyramid: a granite sphere and a copper hook. That is why some experts believe that this room was intended to house Cheops’ burial objects.
When Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie excavated the pyramid, the only item found in the King’s Chamber was the red granite sarcophagus, which was empty and damaged on one corner. It was also hastily finished and less ornate, which was unusual for a king’s sarcophagus at the time, so experts believe the original sarcophagus was broken or lost and it was quickly made to replace it. Since the sarcophagus is slightly larger than the hallway leading to the room, it is known to have been placed there during the pyramid’s construction before the room’s ceiling was added.
3. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie was the first person to excavate the pyramid
Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie was the first person to use modern techniques and scientific analysis to excavate the pyramid. The British archaeologist first excavated the pyramid in 1880, setting the standard for archaeological operations in Egypt, particularly Giza. He created a sequence dating method that has since been used to help reconstruct history from ancient relics such as the pyramid. He was knighted in 1923 for his work on Egypt, which spanned half a century of his life.
4. More than 2 million stone blocks were used in its construction
The Egyptian monument is made up of up to 2.5 million blocks of stones, some of which are solid, most notably the pink granite in the King’s Chamber, a room near the top of the pyramid that houses a red granite sarcophagus. The stones for this room weighed between 25 and 80 tons and were brought about 800 km to the site of the pyramids. The amount of materials used is estimated at 5 million tons of limestone and 8,000 tons of granite.
The method of transport and placement of the blocks is another source of discussion among experts. The stones were likely dragged over the sand and lifted using a rope system, or pushed onto ramps that were lubricated with water to prevent friction. To bring the stones to the construction site, they were carried by boats up the Nile and possibly pushed through the desert with an invented machine.
5. The Pyramid is surrounded by several other structures
The pyramid is surrounded by several structures, including smaller pyramids. The tomb of Cheop’s mother, Queen Hetepheres I, is also nearby. The pyramid is also surrounded by mastabas where the king’s officials and family members were buried to guide and support the king in the afterlife. Three smaller pyramids for Cheop’s women were built next to the Great Pyramid.
6. It was the tallest man-made structure for 3,800 years
The pyramid was the tallest structure made by humans for a record height of 3,800 years until the completion of Lincoln Cathedral (England) in 1300 BC, which stands 160 meters high. The pyramid is 146 meters high and has a base of 230 meters on each side. However, other scholars point to the Eiffel Tower completed in 1889 as the structure that first surpassed the pyramid, at 324 meters high.
7. It may have been for a purpose other than a tomb
Although it is widely believed that this historic monument was built as the final resting place for the king after death, some scholars argue that it was not a tomb as no mummies or tombs have ever been found. Studies are still underway to determine the exact uses of the pyramid.
8. The Great Pyramid was built for 20 years
It took about 20 years for the Great Pyramid to be completed. The Greek historian Herodotus stated that the work required 100,000 workers, who were divided into five clans of 20,000 men each. However, it has recently become apparent that the work required a workforce of 14,500-40,000. There is much debate about how the pyramids were built and whether the workers were slaves or skilled workers, and how many of them were needed for construction. What seems to be settled in recent years is the fact that the workers were likely paid, skilled workers.
9. The other two pyramids are for Chufu’s son and grandson
The Great Pyramid is just one of the three great pyramids in Giza. The second oldest is the Pyramid of Khafre, built as a tomb for Khafre, the son of Khufu. It is the second highest pyramid in Giza. Khafre ascended to the throne after the short-lived rule of Djedefre, who was probably his older brother and Cheops’s successor. He reigned from about 2558 to 2532 BCE, but the exact timeline has never been established.
The third and smallest pyramid is the Pyramid of Mykerinos, son of Khafre. It is not entirely clear, but he probably succeeded his father as king and reigned for 18 or 28 years. It was unfinished at his death, but his successor Shepseskaf had the mortuary temple finished. Important statues were found in the tomb.
10. It was built during the reign of King Khufu
The pyramid was built during the reign of King Khufu (2589-2566 BC). He was the second king of the fourth dynasty of Egyptian kings. Shortly after he came to power, Chufu is believed to have wanted to build his great tomb in which he would be buried, which lives on today as the Great Pyramid. He also built other pyramids for his queens nearby.
The pyramid is an impressive sight, but that would have been even more so after it was first completed. The stones we now see exposed would have been covered with smooth casing stones, giving the structure the shape of a real pyramid with flat sides.