The Pyramids of Giza: History, Significance and Facts

The pyramids of Giza have been delighting the minds of Egyptologists and tourists alike for over 4500 years

The Pharaohs of the Old Kingdom built the pyramids from c. 2575–2465 BC. Today, Giza pyramids are the only existing wonder of the ancient world. The Giza Pyramids are in the rocky Giza plateau west of the Nile river, next to modern-day Giza city.

Giza Pyramids

In 1979, UNESCO declared the Giza pyramids as a World Heritage Site. This was an important step in protecting and preserving this ancient monument. Let’s have a look at the history and significance of the Giza pyramids and puzzle out some of its many secrets.

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History and Significance of Giza Pyramids:

Let’s look at the wonderful history and significance of Giza Pyramids.

Who built the Pyramids of Giza? Why were they built?

The Kings of Egypt, known as Pharaohs, acted as agents of God on earth.

In a letter addressed to King Merykare, the writer advises the King that “he be just and kind towards the oppressed since all his actions will be examined on the Day of Judgement”. In his daily life, the Pharaoh performed religious and civil duties as head of the State. And in death; he believed he would rise to godhood and be King of the Dead.

Ancient Egyptians built the Giza pyramids to honor their pharaohs. The pyramids were the storehouse for everything the Pharaoh might need after death. Pyramids became popular as the burial place instead of simple mastabas. Mastabas were simple rectangular clay brick tombs.

Imhotep was the vizier; a high-ranking official, and architect to King Djoser. King Djoser was the first pharaoh in the old kingdom to build with stone. For King Djoser’s tomb, Imhotep built a seven-step tomb by stacking mastabas on top of each other. Today, we know this tomb as the Step Pyramid of King Djoser.

King Djoser’s son, King Khufu, took inspiration from the Step Pyramid and built the largest and tallest pyramid in the world known as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

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Giza Necropolis – The City of the Dead:

The Giza pyramid complex, or more known as the Giza Necropolis, is a collection of three Pharaoh pyramids and related buildings.

  • The pyramid of Khufu built in honor of King Khufu is the tallest and the biggest of the three pyramids.
  • The pyramid of Khafre has the steepest angle of rising and looks taller than the pyramid of Khufu.
  • And last, the Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest of the three pyramids.
  • The Great Sphinx is a monolithic statue that has a human head attached to a lion’s body. Experts believe the masons carved the Great Sphinx at the same time as the pyramid of Khafre. The Great Sphinx stands guard over the Pyramid of Khafre.

What is inside the pyramid of Giza?

There are three levels in the great pyramid. The base level is in the ground. The second level is the smaller Queens’ chamber and the highest level hosts the Kings’ chamber.

The great pyramid is the only pyramid at the Giza complex to contain passages that start at the entrance of the pyramid and go upward towards the King’s and the Queen’s chambers and downward towards the underground level.

The Great Pyramid also comprises several unfinished rooms on the underground level.

The pyramid complex contains:

  • a smaller pyramid for King Khufu’s Queen;
  • a mortuary temple that held daily prayers and accepted offerings;
  • a funerary temple where the priests prepared the pharaoh’s body for mummification;
  • boat pits that held solar boats that would serve the Pharaoh in the afterlife.

One such boat, known as Khufu’s Ship, is on display at the Giza Solar Boat Museum.

What are the pyramids of Giza made of?

Pyramid of Khufu:

Pharaoh Khufu began the construction of the great pyramid c. 2550 BC. Architects built the pyramid of Khufu with natural limestone. The total weight of the limestone used is around 1.3 million tonnes; other building materials were granite and mortar. The granite came from Aswan which is 800km away from Giza.

The smallest blocks used in the pyramid’s construction weighed around 2 tonnes and the largest blocks to be about 15 tonnes. The masons stacked the largest stones on the bottom of the pyramid and the smallest stones at the narrow top of the pyramid.

The original height of the great pyramid of Giza was 481 ft, but it now measures 450 ft. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3600 years and is estimated to be as tall as 45 stories.

The base of the pyramid spans the length of 13 acres. It contains several rooms and passageways. The locals believe the pyramid was full of riches beyond belief to help the pharaoh in the afterlife.

The pyramid’s white limestone casing must have been a wondrous sight to behold, but alas, it has now degraded apart from the bit that can still be seen at the top of the pyramid of Khafre.

Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure:

Amongst all the pyramids in Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza are the largest set of pyramids in the world.

The pyramid of Khafre built around c. 2500 BC by Pharaoh Khafre, son of Pharaoh Khufu, stands 448 ft tall. Pharaoh Khafre based the pyramid on higher ground and gave it a sharper rise. The pyramid of Khafre appears bigger and taller than the great pyramid.

The great Sphinx is a part of the Complex of the Pyramid of Khafre.

Pharaoh Menkaure built the Pyramid Of Menkaure c. 2490 BC. It is the smallest and shortest pyramid in Giza Necropolis. It was 215 ft at its greatest but now stands at 200 ft.

Here are some Giza Facts at a Glance:

NamePyramid of KhufuPyramid of KhafrePyramid Of  Menkaure
Built byPharaoh KhufuPharaoh KhafrePharaoh Menkaure
Built in year C. 2550 BCC. 2500 BCC. 2490 BC
Height450 ft448ft200ft
Size in relation to each otherTallestMiddleSmallest
LocationGiza Plateau, near Giza cityGiza Plateau, near Giza cityGiza Plateau, near Giza city
Giza Facts

How long did it take to build the Great Pyramid?

Herodotus, the famous Greek historian from the fifth century BC, claimed it took roughly 100,000 laborers who worked around the year in three-month shifts for 20 years to finish the Great Pyramid.

Diodorus Siculus in his Universal History claimed that although the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre were the royal tombs for the Pharaohs, the kings were in secret locations.

Some Fun Facts about Pyramids of Giza:

  • Pharaoh was originally the palace or ‘Great house’ where the King of Egypt lived. Over time, Pharaoh became known as the king.
  • History credits Imhotep, an architect for King Djoser, with the design of the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of King Djoser.
  • The Pyramids of Giza are the only surviving wonder of the Ancient World.
  • Some experts claim the Giza pyramids to be the oldest display of urban planning.
  • In 2017, scientists discovered a 100 FT long hidden void above the Grand Gallery in the Great pyramid. This was the first discovery of such a scale since the 1800s.

The importance of Giza Pyramids in Egypt’s Travel and Tourism:

Around 15 million people visit the Giza pyramids every year, contributing roughly 12% to Egypt’s GDP. The tourism industry in Egypt contributes 2.5 million jobs, expected to rise to 3 million jobs by the end of this decade.

The travel industry contributes heavily to Egypt’s yearly growth, making it the fastest growing country in North Africa. To make this famous travel destination more attractive to the modern tourist, there’s been a massive renovation of the Giza complex.

Environment friendly electric vehicles are used to move the tourists to and from the Pyramids to maintain the integrity of the landscape. The first ever restaurant on site keeping in mind the natural surroundings and architecture of the pyramids.

The pyramids of Giza have stood the test of time. There may always be speculation about why these monuments still exist and the hidden treasures that may still hide in the belly of these giants. But what we cannot deny is that the Giza pyramids granted true immortality to their makers, the Pharaoh’s.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why were the Pyramids of Giza built?

The Pyramids of Giza were built to rest the mummy of the Pharaoh and store riches to help them along in the afterlife. 

Where are the Giza Pyramids located?

The Giza Pyramids are located in the Giza Pyramid Complex, Near Giza City, Egypt.

How many Pyramids are there in the Giza Pyramid Complex?

There are three Pyramids in the Giza Pyramid Complex along with smaller satellite pyramids for Queens and family.

How tall is the Great Sphinx?

The Great Sphinx is 66 ft tall.

How many laborers built the Great Pyramid?

It took 100,000 laborers working in three-month shifts around the year for 20 years to build the Great Pyramid.

How old are the Pyramids of Giza?

The Pyramids of Giza are over 4500 years old.

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