Pyramids of Giza
The Pyramids of Giza were built to last forever. The quintessential landmark, for many people they're the first thing you think of when it comes to the Egyptian pyramids. Relics of Egypt's mighty kingdom, they have been standing for over 4500 years. They are iconic, irreplaceable, and slightly mysterious.
Like all Egyptian pyramids, the Pyramids of Giza are tombs. The kings of Egypt - the pharaohs - believed that after they died, they would enter the afterlife as Gods. The purpose of the pyramids was to allow pharaohs to prepare themselves for the next life. They erected temples for the existing Gods, and pyramids for themselves.
Inside each of the gigantic Pyramids of Giza are the tools and accessories which the ruler thought they would need to rule in the next life. This included weapons, money, servants and family members who were buried with them. The pyramids range in size from the oldest, which is the largest, to the smallest, which was built almost 100 years later, and is the smallest.
The first Pharaoh to build himself a pyramid was Pharaoh Khufu, whose Pyramid is the largest of the Pyramids of Giza. At its tallest point, the pyramid is 481 feet tall, and used around 2.3 million stone blocks to construct.
The smallest of the Pyramids of Giza is considerably smaller than the first two, but has a much more complicated internal structure. Even today, with all of the miracles of modern technology, this would be difficult to build. Each of the stone blocks weighs between 2.5 to 15 tons.
The second of the Pyramids of Giza was built by Khufu's son, the Pharaoh Khafre. This was built around 2520 BC, and is particularly famous for being the home of the Great Sphinx of Giza, archaeological site.
The Sphinx is a famous Egyptian legend that has endured in the same way the Pyramids of Giza have. Existing in almost all classical literature, the role of the Sphinx changes depending on the story. Unlike the Greek sphinx, which had the body of a lion and the head of a woman, the Egyptian sphinx has the body of a lion, and a pharaoh's head.
It was believed that the Egyptian sphinx was kindly but had incredible strength and power. Often sphinxes were found either side of the entrances to temples, acting as a guardian. The largest and most famous sphinx is that of the second of the Pyramids of Giza. The head of the Great Sphinx now is believed to be the face of Khafre.
The Sphinx may stand sentinel for all of the Pyramids of Giza, a protective guardian of the sacred bodies believed to be buried. The sphinx is positioned between the two pyramids, and could well be the son seeking to protect his father in the afterlife, as well as immortalizing himself.
Each of the huge Egyptian pyramids actually makes up part of what would have been a bigger area that included a palace, temples, boat pits, and many other elements. The scale and dimensions of the building of these pyramids is so spectacular that even today we don't know how it was done.
The details we have about the constructing and plans for the pyramids gives us an incomplete picture of how they came to be. What we do know is how much they tell us about the pharaohs and the way that they wielded their power, as well as what they thought was important.
It was thought originally that the pyramids of Egypt were built by slaves, but thanks to more recent research we know more about the construction workers and builders. They were skilled and well-cared for who had a temporary city built nearby.
Work on the digs has shown that it was an organized structure of workmen and people, who had a lot of resources to hand. It's easy to lose yourself imagining what working on the Egyptian pyramids must have been like, because we know so little about how they were constructed.
To build something that is almost one and a half times the height of the Statue of Liberty would have taken a countrywide contribution of workers, food, supplied and other essentials. People came together in order to show how powerful and godlike their Pharaohs were, and to construct these giant structures in their honor.
When it comes to how we understand so much of Egyptian history, it's thanks to the information we find within the Egyptian pyramids, and particularly the Pyramids of Giza. They allow us to look back in time and see what mattered most to these people. They're not just some burial site though, they have preserved information about what life was like at the time.
Art on the walls of the pyramids shows many and various scenes unfolding that applied to the average Egyptian. This tomb art includes depictions of ancient farmers working their fields and tending livestock, fishing and fowling, carpentry, costumes, religious rituals, and burial practices. We know what was important on the basis of what was depicted.
The inscriptions and writings have also allowed people to research the way that Egyptians communicated and wrote, and how they wrote about the world around them. The Pyramids of Giza has a huge range of information on almost all aspects of civilization.
All of the information that you might want to find out about the Pyramids of Giza and Egyptian Pyramids in general is in the Giza Archives Project. This massive collection of photographs, plans, drawings, object records and translations of diaries gives us a fascinating glimpse into the world of the Pharaohs.
The archive is also incredible because it has allowed us to keep information about artefacts that have been lost, have faded, or have been destroyed. Because of the size of the Egyptian pyramids, it also allows us to see tombs and rooms that aren't open for public access.