Here Are 10 Aerial Images of the Giza Pyramids That Will Leave You Stumped

Here's your chance to see what the Pyramids look like from space.

The true size of the pyramids of Giza is hard to explain. Located at the edge of the Western Desert, approximately 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 stand the supermassive pyramids that make up the Giza Pyramid Complex.

Also dubbed the Giza Necropolis, the site on the plateau include 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 the Great Sphinx of Giza.

Egyptologists maintain that the pyramids, their respective temples as well as the Sphinx were built during Egypt’s fourth dynasty.

The Giza plateau where the pyramids are located is also home to the remnants of what Egyptologists say is the workers’ village.

The three pyramids, as well as the Sphinx, are well-known emblems of ancient Egypt in the Western World.

View of the Pyramids at Giza from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.
View of the Pyramids at Giza from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA.

The most striking characteristics of the plateau are the three pyramids, the largest of which is the Great Pyramid of Khufu. This behemoth structure is believed to have been built around 4,500 years ago as the eternal resting place for Pharaoh Khufu.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is thought to have been built in a period of around 20 years during which thousands of workers quarried, transported and placed into position a staggering 2.3 million blocks, creating 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.

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Notice how Khufu's pyramid (to the right) has eight sides instead of four. Shutterstock.
Notice how Khufu’s pyramid (to the right) has eight sides instead of four. Shutterstock.

Although we have never discovered any evidence that suggests how the pyramids were actually built, experts assume that the pyramid of Khufu, as well as all other pyramids at Giza,  were built by moving massive stones from different quarries and then dragging and lifting them into place.

The lack of written texts about pyramid construction is surprising since the ancient Egyptians were adept record keepers. Despite the lack of texts, archeologists believe that in building the pyramids, the architects and engineers may have developed certain building techniques over time.

A stunning aerial view of the three main pyramids at the Giza plateau. Shutterstock.
A stunning aerial view of the three main pyramids at the Giza plateau. Shutterstock.

The first step in building the pyramid was picking out a relatively flat area of bedrock which would provide the structure with a stable foundation. After surveying the site, the builders would then proceed in laying down the first row of stones, continuing in building the pyramid in horizontal levels, one on top of the other.

While construction materials for the Great Pyramid were hauled over great distances, most of the stone that was used for the interior of the pyramids is believed to have been quarried just south to the construction site.

The Giza plateau with its three predominant pyramids. Shutterstock.
The Giza plateau with its three predominant pyramids. Shutterstock.

The smooth exterior of the pyramid was made with high-quality limestone that was obtained from quarries across the Nile.

Khafre’s pyramid, the second one built at the Giza plateau, appears bigger than that of his father Khufu. That’s because of its more elevated location, and the steeper angle of inclination used in its construction. Khafre’s pyramid is actually smaller in both height and volume, despite the fact that in most images of the Giza plateau, it appears to be bigger than Khufu’s, reason why many people misinterpret it for the “Great Pyramid of Giza.”

The pyramids of Giza with the sun shining brightly in the background. Shutterstock.
The pyramids of Giza with the sun shining brightly in the background. Shutterstock.

Khafre’s pyramid retains a large amount 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 Menkaue’s pyramid is seen without any of its original polished limestone casing.

Flying above the pyramid of Khafre, often misinterpreted as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Shutterstock.
Flying above the pyramid of Khafre, often misinterpreted as the Great Pyramid of Giza. Shutterstock.

All three of the Pyramids at the Giza plateau were astronomically aligned to the north-south and east-west within a small fraction of a degree. The exact reason or purpose of the specific, deliberate alignment of the pyramids remains a profound enigma around which numerous theories have been coined. The intricate arrangement of the Giza pyramids is argued to be a representation of the constellation of Orion, according to the Orion correlation theory.

This theory proposes that the three largest pyramids were built on purpose to reflect the three main stars of the Orion Constellation.

Incredible view of the Great Pyramid from the air, and its accompanying pyramids. Shutterstock.
Incredible view of the Great Pyramid from the air, and its accompanying pyramids. Shutterstock.

In addition to the three major pyramids at the Gizta plateau, the area is famous for the massive Sphinx statue, not far from Khafre’s pyramid.

The Great Sphinx is surely the most mysterious yet fascinating monument ever discovered in Egypt.

What the Pyramid Complex at Giza looks like from a distance, from above. Shutterstock.
What the Pyramid Complex at Giza looks like from a distance, from above. Shutterstock.

The massive statue has the carved body of a lion and the head of a human. Who exactly the Great Sphinx is meant to represent remains a mystery, since there are no inscriptions whatsoever about its origin, purpose, or meaning. Despite this, researchers are inclined to believe that the Sphinx actually represents the face of Khafre, the second Pyramid builder at Giza, son of Pharaoh Khufu.

Just as the three major pyramids at Giza are said to mimic the three main stars of the constellation of Orion, it is said that the Great Sphinx was specifically carved and oriented as a reference to the constellation of Leo.

The Pyramids at Giza, circled in white. Shutterstock.
The Pyramids at Giza circled in white. Shutterstock.

Bauval and Hancock argue that the orientation and disposition 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 (represented by the Nile).

This correlation theory allusions do dates circa 12,500 years ago when some of these strcutures may have been built when the respective structures and the Nile River were aligned to the stars. The chronology set forth by Bauval and Hancock contents that precisely some 10,500 to 12,500 years ago, an advanced, now vanished civilization inhabited that part of Egypt.

The Giza plateau and its three pyramids. Shutterstock.
The Giza plateau and its three pyramids. Shutterstock.

This theory is heavily criticized by mainstream scholars who argue that the pyramids at Giza were built by the ancient Egyptians in a span of 85 years between 2589 and 2504 BC.