The supermassive size of the pyramids of Giza is hard to explain. The three main pyramids are located at the edge of the Western Desert, around 9 km (5 mi) west of the Nile River in the city of Giza, and about 13 km (8 mi) southwest of the city center of Cairo. There, massive monuments, believed by some to have been tombs, were built thousands of years ago in the middle of the desert.
The pyramids, as well as their accompanying temples and tombs, make up the so-called Giza pyramid complex.
Also dubbed the Giza Necropolis, the entire complex includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of his son Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, Khufu’s grandson. In addition to the three pyramids, the plateau is home to their associated pyramid complexes and one of the most fascinating, monolithic statues on Earth, the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Although controversial according to many, Egyptologists have maintained for decades that the pyramids, as well as their respective temples and the Sphinx, were all built during Egypt’s fourth dynasty. The Pyramids were supposedly the massive tombs built for the Pharaoh.
The three pyramids, as well as the Sphinx, are well-known emblems of ancient Egypt in the Western World.
The most striking characteristics of the plateau are the three pyramids, the largest of which is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, a massive structure believed to have been built with around 2.3 million blocks of stone.
This behemoth structure is believed to have been built around 4,500 years ago as the eternal resting place for Pharaoh Khufu, despite no direct evidence linking the Pyramid to him, other than poorly written graffiti which was supposedly written by the very people who helped build the structure thousands of years ago.
It is usually acknowledged that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in approximately 20 years during which thousands of workers quarried, transported and placed into position around 2.3 million blocks of stone, building a pyramid with a total weight of around 6 million tons.
Whether or not the pyramids were built as tombs remains a highly debated subject, although mainstream scholars remain convinced. It is also possible that the pyramids were no more than ancient cenotaphs built to commemorate the might and power of the Pharaohs.
Although we have never discovered any evidence that suggests how the pyramids were actually built, experts believe that the pyramid of Khufu, as well as all other pyramids at Giza, were constructed by moving massive stones from different quarries and then dragging and lifting them into place. Some of the stones that were used to build the Giza pyramids came as far away as Aswan, some eight hundred kilometers to the south.
While the pyramids date back thousands of years, marking the peak of an ancient civilizations engineering and architectural capabilities, there are no records that tell us how it was done. No written texts mentioning the construction of the pyramids has ever been found. But despite this surprising lack of written evidence, Egyptologists argue that in building the pyramids, the architects and engineers may have developed certain building techniques over time.
Scholars have therefore concluded that the most likely first step the ancient builders took was picking out a relatively flat area of bedrock which would provide the structure with a stable foundation.
Following a survey of the site, the builders would then advance in laying down the first row of stones, proceeding in building the pyramid in horizontal levels, one on top of the other.
While construction materials for the Great Pyramid were brought over great distances like the stone quarries of Aswan, most of the stone that was used for the inside of the pyramids is thought to have been obtained just south to the construction site.
The smooth exterior of the pyramid was constructed with high-quality limestone that was obtained from quarries across the Nile.
A curious fact: Khafre’s pyramid, the second one built at Giza, seems bigger than the pyramid constructed by his father, Khufu.
That’s because of its more elevated location, and the steeper angle of inclination used in its construction. Although not immediately clear to the eye, Khafre’s pyramid is smaller in both height and volume. Nonetheless, most images of the Giza plateau make Khafre’s pyramid seem bigger than Khufu’s. This is the main reason why people mistake it for the “Great Pyramid of Giza.”
But despite the fact that it is not the biggest on the plateau, the pyramid built by Khafre retains a large number of casing stones at its summit.
The third-largest pyramid at the Giza plateau is the Pyramid of Menkaure. His pyramid has three subsidiary pyramids. Of the three pyramids at Giza, only Menkaure’s pyramid is seen without any of its original polished limestone casing.
It is no surprise that the pyramids were astronomically aligned structures.
All three Giza Pyramids were astronomically aligned to the north-south and east-west within a small fraction of a degree. The exact reason for this clearly deliberate alignment remains a profound puzzle. This mystery has given rise to a number of theories trying to explain the intricate alignment.
The complex arrangement of the Giza pyramids is claimed to be a symbol of the constellation of Orion, according to the controversial Orion correlation theory.
The Orion correlation theory suggests that the three largest pyramids were built on purpose to match the three main stars of the Orion Constellation. To the ancient Egyptians, Orion was connected with one of their greatest gods: Osiris, the god of fertility, alcohol, agriculture, the afterlife, the dead, resurrection, life, and vegetation
In addition to the three major pyramids, the Great Sphinx is another mystery at Giza located not far from the pyramid of Khafre. The Great Sphinx is probably the most mysterious and captivating monument of Egypt.
The massive statue has the carved body of a lion and the head of a human. It remains a profound mystery as to who exactly the Great Sphinx represents. Strangely, just as there are no inscriptions mentioning the pyramid construction there are no inscriptions about the origin, purpose, or meaning of the Great Sphinx.
Despite this, researchers tend to believe that the Sphinx represents Khafre, the son of Khufu and the man who is believed to have built the second-largest pyramid at Giza.
Just as the three major pyramids at Giza are said to mimic the three stars of the constellation of Orion, there are theories that suggest that the Great Sphinx was precisely carved and oriented in order to pay tribute to the constellation of Leo.
Bauval and Hancock contend that the orientation and distribution of the Giza pyramids, the Great Sphinx, as well as the Nile river relative to one another on the ground is put forward as an accurate map of the constellations of Leo, Orion, and the Milky Way, which would be represented by the Nile River. An interesting theory, right?
This correlation theory references do dates around 12,500 years ago suggesting that when the monuments were built, they were aligned to the stars.
The chronology set forth by Bauval and Hancock contents that some 10,500 to 12,500 years ago, an extremely developed civilization inhabited Earth. This civilization mysteriously disappeared, leaving no traces behind them, other than a technological development that was supposedly passed on to other civilizations such as the ancient Egyptians.
The Giza plateau and its three pyramids. Shutterstock.Although many people hold this theory to be true, it is heavily criticized by mainstream scholars who dispute that the pyramids at Giza were built by the ancient Egyptians in a span of 85 years between 2589 and 2504 BC. The three pyramids at Giza and the Sphinx have stood the test of time, forever leaving an imprint in the history of mankind.