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The Great Pyramid of Giza | 15 Facts And Fascinating History

[Estimated read time: 8 minutes]

The Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and the only intact man-made wonder of the ancient world. Surely it is one of the most mysterious and miraculous things in the world that still astound historians and a layman, like us, the same. But what makes it so mysterious? What is about the Pyramid that the experts fail to understand till date?

Well, for starters the ancient structure was built without the wheels, pulleys or other tools. It is generally accepted that the construction of the pyramid started sometime around 2580 BC during the rule of the Fourth Dynasty under the Old Kingdom.

The Great Pyramid is a part of a major archaeological site known as the Giza pyramid complex, which features two other significant pyramids and the Great Sphinx. Other things include small villages and cemeteries. There are many other things about the pyramid that you possibly don’t know. So, here we have compiled 15 of the most interesting facts about the Great Pyramid of Giza.

15. For What the Pyramid Was Built For?

the pyramid of giza Image Courtesy: Nina Aldin Thune

The ancient Egyptians used pyramids as the final resting place of the Pharaohs and their queen. Historians and experts believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for the Egyptian Pharoh Khufu, also known as Cheops in Greek, possibly under the supervision of his Vizier (chief supervisor) Hemiunu.

14. When Was the great Pyramid of Giza Built?

the great pyramid from 19th centuryThe Great Pyramid of Giza in the 19th century

The Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and the only surviving wonder of the ancient world. It exhibits the height of human engineering and sheer will, a true masterpiece in every sense. However, its establishment is still much of a debate. Pyramid’s near perfect measurements have dazzled researchers for decades and fueled many relentless debates.

Although the exact date is not known, it generally considered that the pyramid’s construction was completed sometime around 2560 BCE.

13. How Much Time it Took to Build the Pyramid of Giza?

Since no significant written accounts have been recovered regarding the construction of Pyramid of Giza, it is almost impossible to estimate the amount of time it took to construct the ancient structure. A leading and generally accepted theory suggests that the entire structure was completed in just 20 years.

The original pyramid was 146.5 metres tall and 230.4 metres long. Completing a structure of this magnitude in 20 years would require installing about 5 stones in every half hour every day around the clock. In comparison, the 22 meters high famous Louvre Pyramid was completed in just one year.

12. About 2.3 Million Stone Blocks are Used in the Great Pyramid

Casing stoneAn original casing stones for the Great Pyramid currently in the British Museum

About 2.3 million blocks of stones are used to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is estimated that more than 5.5 million tonnes of limestones were quarried from across the Nile river, about 8,000 tonnes of Granite was transported from Aswan and half-a-million ton of mortar of unknown origin was used in the process.

11. How Much Does it Weigh Then?

Let’s see. We know that the entire pyramid was built with 2.3 million stone blocks, now if each stone block weighs about 2.5 tons and taking special blocks in account, the total weight of the Great Pyramid would be around 5,955,000 tons. In comparison, the Burj Khalifa has an empty weight of 500,000 tons.

Read: Jeddah Tower: World’s Tallest Building By 2020

10. It is Not the Oldest Pyramid in Egypt

You heard it right. The crown of the oldest pyramid in Egypt goes to the Pyramid of Djoser, also known as the step pyramid. It was constructed more than 4,700 years ago in Saqqara necropolis (a large ancient cemetery) for the burial of the Third Dynasty Pharaoh Djoser.

The Pyramid held the record for the tallest structure in the world in 2650 BC and was outranked 40 years later by the Meidum Pyramid in Egypt.

9. What’s Inside the Great Pyramid?

inside the tombSketch of the Great Pyramid 1754 by Richard Pococke

The Great pyramid consists of three known chambers. A base chamber, which is directly above the bedrock and two upper ones known as King’s and Queen’s chambers. After entering the pyramid, a small passage descends about 106 meters into the bottom of the pyramid and then lead to an unfinished chamber.

At about 30 meters down the descending slope, there is the pathway to the ascending passage that leads to the Grand Gallery. At the beginning of the Grand Gallery there is the Queen’s Chamber. The King’s Chamber has a roof 5.9 meters above the floor. On the north and south walls, there are two narrow shafts. Their purpose is however not clear.

The only remaining object in the King’s Chamber is a partially broken sarcophagus. The rectangular sarcophagus is slightly bigger than the passage leading to the chamber and it appears that it must have been placed before the roof was built.

8. The Robbers’ Tunnel

Legend has it that around AD 820, Al-Ma’mun, the 7th Caliph of the Abbasid Caliphate breached the Great Pyramid of Giza by cutting a tunnel in order to acquire knowledge about the pyramid and possibly for treasure. This tunnel is now popularly known as the Robbers’ Tunnel. However, many contradicting theories are also proposed to shed some light on the tunnel.

7. Almost Everything Inside Has Been Taken or Stolen

Many researchers claim that all premises of pyramid of Giza were constantly robbed during the New Kingdom, especially during the construction of tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Writer and archaeologist Joyce Tyldesley argue that the Great Pyramid was also constantly raided and emptied by the Middle Kingdom long before the arrival of Abdullah al-Mamun sometime during AD 820.

6. The Pyramid Remained the Tallest Man-Made Structure for Thousand of Years

height of pyramid

At around 146.5 meters the Great Pyramid of Giza became the tallest man made structure in the world upon its completion. It remained so for more than 3,800 years until the Lincoln Cathedral was erected in 1311 in the United Kingdom. The Cathedral, however, lost its place to Germany’s St. Mary’s Church after a devastating storm of 1549.

5. The Djedi Project

Back in 2004, an international team of Egyptologist launched the Djedi Project. Under this project, a robotic explorer would investigate two mysterious shafts in the Queen’s chamber of the Great Pyramid. The name “Djedi” was derived from an Ancient Egyptian magician, who advised the Pharaoh while building this pyramid. You can find a detailed report on this project here.

4. The Great Pyramid was Constructed By Skilled Labors

The early Greek observers believed that thousands of unskilled slaves were used to construct the pyramid and it remained a widely accepted theory until recently. Many recent discoveries near the historic site now indicates that the structure was built by thousands of skilled labors instead of slaves.

In 1990, archaeologist and Egyptologist Zahi Hawass along with his fellow colleague Mark Lehner discovered few cemeteries of workers who presumably worked around the clock on the pyramid. Researchers theorize that a few groups of skilled labors took permanent shelter near the premises, and it was only during the late summers that a large workforce were summoned to work on the pyramid.

3. Can We Replicate the Great Pyramid of Giza?

Pyramid of Khufu entranceThe entrance of Great Pyramid   Image Courtesy: Olaf Tausch

Though its establishment about 4,500 years ago astound historians and architects till this date, there are several theories that try to provide a possible explanation about its creation. One such theory is that most part of the pyramid was constructed from inside out.

An increasing number of architects and Egyptologists now believe that the construction of the pyramid was done in two phases; first the bottom third, which constitute about 67% of the pyramid’s volume, was built by dragging stones with the help an external ramp. However, in the second and last phase, Egyptians worked their way up from inside using a spiraling internal ramp, fitting blocks of stones into places.

Based on the available knowledge about the Great pyramid, French architect, Jean-Pierre Houdin came up with his the internal ramp theory and has collaborated with a special engineering team at Dassault Systems to develop a 3d model of the entire construction process. According to Houdin, his theory would be the most economical way to reconstruct the pyramid if we ever decide to do so.

Read: 10 Famous Ancient Roman Architecture Designs

2. And How Much It Would Cost?

Estimating how much it would cost to construct a life-size replica of the Great Pyramid today is not that easy, however we might have something here. According to an article on Livescience, it would cost near $5 billion to build a modern Pyramid of Giza.

Based on Houdin’s estimation, it would take about 2,000 workers and 5 years of time to complete the entire structure with the help of cranes and other sorts of modern machines. The $5 billion of estimated cost is based on the amount of capital spent to erect the Hoover Dam on Colorado river

1. Interesting ‘Short Facts’

Orion pyramidsThe Giza pyramids superimposed over the 3 major stars in Orion Constellation | Image Courtesy: Davkal

The three largest pyramids of Giza, namely the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Menkaure and the Pyramid of Khafre almost perfectly align with the stars in the Constellation of Orion. This alignment is a now a crucial aspect of a popular hypothesis known as the Orion correlation theory.

The theory argues that there is a connection between the stars in the Constellation Orion and the three largest pyramids of Giza complex and that the Ancient Egyptian engineers were aware of this.

Read: 9 Ancient Examples of Green Architecture and Technology

You can call it a geometrical masterpiece or just another coincidence, the entrances of all three pyramids, including the Great Pyramid’s faces the true north or Geodetic north. All other sides of the pyramids face other cardinal directions.

Do you know that originally the Pyramid was covered with smoother limestone casing surface, which are now removed and what we see today is only the core structure.

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