The Great Pyramid of Giza and its mysteries

The Great Pyramid of Giza and its mysteries - Culture's Ways

The Great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex bordering what is now El Giza, Egypt. It is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.


What is the Great Pyramid of Giza?

Based on a mark in an interior chamber naming the work gang and a reference to fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10 to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (481 feet), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years. Originally, the Great Pyramid was covered by casing stones that formed a smooth outer surface; what is seen today is the underlying core structure.

Some of the casing stones that once covered the structure can still be seen around the base. There have been varying scientific and alternative theories about the Great Pyramid’s construction techniques. Most accepted construction hypotheses are based on the idea that it was built by moving huge stones from a quarry and dragging and lifting them into place.

There are three known chambers inside the Great Pyramid. The lowest chamber is cut into the bedrock upon which the pyramid was built and was unfinished. The so-called Queen’s Chamber and King’s Chamber are higher up within the pyramid structure.

History and description

It is believed the pyramid was built as a tomb for Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) and was constructed over a 20-year period. Khufu’s vizier, Hemiunu, is believed by some to be the architect of the Great Pyramid. It is thought that, at construction, the Great Pyramid was originally 280 Egyptian cubits tall (146.5 metres (480.6 ft)), but with erosion and absence of its pyramidion, its present height is 138.8 metres (455.4 ft). Each base side was 440 cubits, 230.4 metres (755.9 ft) long. The mass of the pyramid is estimated at 5.9 million tonnes. The volume, including an internal hillock, is roughly 2,500,000 cubic metres (88,000,000 cu ft).

Based on these estimates, building the pyramid in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Additionally, since it consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, completing the building in 20 years would involve moving an average of more than 12 of the blocks into place each hour, day and night. The first precision measurements of the pyramid were made by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1880–82.

Construction theories

Many alternative, often contradictory, theories have been proposed regarding the pyramid’s construction techniques. Many disagree on whether the blocks were dragged, lifted, or even rolled into place. The Greeks believed that slave labour was used, but modern discoveries made at nearby workers’ camps associated with construction at Giza suggest that it was built instead by tens of thousands of skilled workers. Verner posited that the labour was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 100,000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 20,000 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.


One mystery of the pyramid’s construction is its planning. John Romer suggests that they used the same method that had been used for earlier and later constructions, laying out parts of the plan on the ground at a 1-to-1 scale. He writes that “such a working diagram would also serve to generate the architecture of the pyramid with precision unmatched by any other means”. He also argues for a 14-year time span for its construction. A modern construction management study, in association with Mark Lehner and other Egyptologists, estimated that the total project required an average workforce of 14,567 people and a peak workforce of roughly 40,000. Without the use of pulleys, wheels, or iron tools, they used critical path analysis methods, which suggest that the Great Pyramid was completed from start to finish in approximately 10 years.

Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel
text: Wikipedia contributors. “Great Pyramid of Giza.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 15 Sep. 2017. Web. 14 Oct. 2017.

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