The Great Pyramid of Giza

 

One of the most famous structures on the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world is The Great Pyramid of Giza.  What makes this structure the most recognizable on the list?  Not only is this pyramid the oldest structure on the list, but it is the only structure that still remains.  The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest man made structure in the world for 3800 years which is not only a testament to its durability but to its mark as one of the most remarkable structures built.  It is no wonder that The Great Pyramid of Giza was placed on the list of the seven wonders of the ancient world.   
The Great Pyramid of Giza is a fairly typical pyramid.  It is not decorated with reliefs or inscriptions, and it is built in the same shape as all other pyramids.  The Pyramid of Giza was not the first pyramid to be built, yet this pyramid has become one of the most famous structures in the world.  Why has this particular pyramid gained all the fame and glory?  The Pyramid of Giza, though not much larger than most pyramids, is in fact the largest pyramid ever built.  This pyramid exemplifies the advancements and accomplishments of architecture in Egypt.  The pyramid is large, precise and required an overwhelming amount of organization.  It is not the pyramid that is so fascinating, but it is the process and method used to create it.  Even today, Egyptologists are not completely sure how The Great Pyramid of Giza was built.     

In about 2,550 B.C. Pharaoh Khufu ordered the building of his tomb on the plateau of Giza which lies on the outskirts of Cairo.  The tomb was designed to protect the Pharaoh’s body as well as his possessions.  This would ensure a safe trip with all his belongings into the afterlife. Some believe that Khufu’s vizier, Hemiunu, was the architect of the pyramid whose seated statue was found in the tomb at Giza, but it is not known for sure.  The pyramid took just under 30 years to build. The pyramid consists of 2 million limestone blocks each weighing from 2.5 to 15 tons. The corners of the base of the pyramid coincide almost exactly with the four cardinal points, and the base is level to within in an inch.  The pyramid is estimated to stand 481 ft tall.  Right by The Great Pyramid of Giza lay three smaller pyramids which are believed to hold the Pharaoh’s queens.  The second largest pyramid as well as the sphinx was commissioned by Pharaoh Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, in 2520 B.C..  It appears at first that this pyramid is the largest, but do not be fooled.  Pharaoh Khafre built his tomb on a plateau 33ft higher most likely to out due his father.  The last and smallest pyramid was built by Pharaoh Menkaure around 2490 B.C.. 

Much like most old kingdom pyramids, the inside of The Great Pyramid of Giza consists of three chambers.  The entrance is on the north face of the pyramid and placed up high.  The entrance leads to a passageway that descends 191 ft through the pyramid into an underground chamber.  There is a passageway from this chamber that is wide enough for only one man, but it leads to a dead end.  On the east-west central axis of the pyramid remains the Queens Chamber which was misnamed by early explorers.  This chamber was sealed off from the rest of the pyramid and is now believed to once be the location of the king’s ka (spirit) statue.  Connected to the descending passage, there is an ascending passage as well.  The ascending passage is only big enough to crawl in (approx 1m high and 1m wide).  This passage leads you to the Grand Gallery which ultimately leads you to the Pharaoh’s Chamber.  All that remains in the Pharaoh’s Chamber today is Khufu sarcophagus.  The room is built in red granite, and it is believed that the pyramid was built around the sarcophagus.  Also discovered were airshafts in the pyramid.  The four airshafts are believed to be “escape routes” for the Pharaoh’s soul.  Two of the airshaft point to Orion and the other two point towards the polar stars.      

The Pyramids were commissioned by the Pharoah, but the Pyramids were built by the people.  With little tools or technology, the Egyptians were able to move heavy blocks of stone as far as 500 mi as well as place the blocks on top of one another so that the pyramid would reach 481ft tall.  It is a mystery even today how the Egyptians maneuvered these heavy blocks, but some theories have been drawn.  Many believe that the stones were carried using wooden sleds, levers and papyrus twine to the pyramid using ramps.  The gradual ramps were made of mud, stone and wood.  The ramps were used to move the blocks not only to the pyramid but around and up it as well.  The Nile River was also used in transporting materials and equipment.  Over 100,000 laborers worked on the project.  The people that built the pyramid were skilled and well-fed builders who lived in nearby cities.  Help from many communities across Egypt most likely occurred to create the pyramid.      
Originally, the pyramid had casing stones of highly polished white limestone lying on the outside of the pyramid.  However in the Middle Ages, massive earthquakes loosened the casing, and the materials were reused for other projects.  Erosion, grave robbers as well as tourists have also attributed to the Pyramid’s deterioration over the years.  However, steps have been made to protect the pyramid.  Now the pyramids are protected by organizations, Egyptologist and the people so that it may remain unharmed for future generations to see.

Originally, The Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a symbol of Egypt’s wealth and power.  Now, the pyramids are a symbol of Egypt and its rich history and culture.  The Great Pyramid of Giza is a testament to the intelligence and technological advancement of Egypt’s ancient civilizations.  Pharaoh Khufu was able to create one of the largest structures in the world as well as one of the oldest.  The pyramid was an amazing feat of ancient civilization which is why it made the list as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. 


Work Cited


Clayton, Peter A., and Martin Price. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. London, England: Routledge, 1998. Print.

"Destination: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S.,         World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 16 Mar. 2010.<http://www.cnn.com/TRAVEL/DESTINATIONS/9705/seven.wonders/pyramids.html>.

"NOVA Online/Pyramids/History of Giza." PBS. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/pyramid/explore/gizahistory.html>.

"Pyramids at Giza, Great Pyramid, History, Information, About, Photos -- National Geographic." National Geographic - Inspiring People to Care About the Planet Since 1888. Web. 16 Mar. 2010. <http://www.nationalgeographic.com/guides/history/ancient/giza-pyramids.html>.

Photos sources in order shown: http://www.richard-seaman.com/Wallpaper/Travel/MiddleEast/GizaPyramids1.jpg , http://www.planetware.com/i/photo/giza-pyramid-of-cheops-interior-egy139.jpg , http://www.thousandthingstodo.net/images/stories/articles/Pyramide_Kheops.jpg

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