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The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza (also called the Pyramid of Khufu and the Pyramid of Cheops) is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis 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. Egyptologists believe that the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops in Greek) over an approximately 20 year period concluding around 2560 BC. Initially at 146.5 metres (480.6 ft), the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years, the longest period of time ever held for such a record. 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.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

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. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the only pyramid in Egypt known to contain both ascending and descending passages. The main part of the Giza complex is a setting of buildings that included two mortuary temples in honor of Khufu (one close to the pyramid and one near the Nile), three smaller pyramids for Khufu's wives, an even smaller "satellite" pyramid, a raised causeway connecting the two temples, and small mastaba tombs surrounding the pyramid for nobles.

It is believed the pyramid was built as a tomb for fourth dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu and was constructed over a 20 year period. Khufu's vizier, Hemon, or 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 royal cubits, 230.4 metres (755.9 ft) long. A royal cubit measures 0.524 metres.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. Based on these estimates, building this in 20 years would involve installing approximately 800 tonnes of stone every day. Similarly, 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 done by Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie in 1880-82 and published as The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh. Almost all reports are based on his measurements. Many of the casing stones and inner chamber blocks of the Great Pyramid were fit together with extremely high precision. Based on measurements taken on the north eastern casing stones, the mean opening of the joints is only 0.5 millimetres wide (1/50th of an inch).

The pyramid remained the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years,unsurpassed until the 160-metre-tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed c. 1300. The accuracy of the pyramid's workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length. The base is horizontal and flat to within 21 mm.The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points (within 4 minutes of arc)based on true north, not magnetic north, and the finished base was squared to a mean corner error of only 12 seconds of arc.The completed design dimensions, as suggested by Petrie's survey and subsequent studies, are estimated to have originally been 280 cubits high by 440 cubits long at each of the four sides of its base. The ratio of the perimeter to height of 1760/280 cubits equates to 2 Pi to an accuracy of better than 0.05% (corresponding to the well-known approximation of Pi as 22/7). Some Egyptologists consider this to have been the result of deliberate design proportion. Verner wrote, "We can conclude that although the ancient Egyptians could not precisely define the value of Pi, in practice they used it". Petrie, author of Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh concluded: "but these relations of areas and of circular ratio are so systematic that we should grant that they were in the builder's design". Others have argued that the Ancient Egyptians had no concept of pi and would not have thought to encode it in their monuments. The creation of the pyramid may instead be based on simple ratios of the sides of right angled triangles (the seked).

The Great Pyramid consists of an estimated 2.3 million limestone blocks with most believed to have been transported from nearby quarries. The Tura limestone used for the casing was quarried across the river. The largest granite stones in the pyramid, found in the "King's" chamber, weigh 25 to 80 tonnes and were transported from Aswan, more than 500 miles away. Traditionally, ancient Egyptians cut stone blocks by hammering wooden wedges into the stone which were then soaked with water. As the water was absorbed, the wedges expanded, causing the rock to crack. Once they were cut, they were carried by boat either up or down the Nile River to the pyramid. It is estimated that 5.5 million tons of limestone, 8,000 tons of granite (imported from Aswan), and 500,000 tons of mortar were used in the construction of the Great Pyramid.

Great Pyramid Facts

1. The Great Pyramid was built for the Pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566BC-4th Dynasty)
2. Khufu was the son of Sneferu.
3. The pyramid is situated at Giza, near Cairo.
4. It is regarded as a 'true pyramid' with smooth sides, the steps having been covered with a limestone casing.
5. It has an angle just short of 52 degrees.
6. It is the most popular attraction in Egypt.
7. It is built mostly of limestone.
8. Its original height was 146.6m. Its present height is 138.75m.
9. Its base is 230 metres square.
10. Estimated volume = 2,521,000 cu m.
11. The pyramid contains a staggering 2.3 million blocks of stone.
12. Its estimated weight is 6.5 million tonnes.
13. The average weight of each stone was 2.5 tonnes.
14. But some weigh as much as 50 tonnes!
15. The stones were pulled on wooden sledges. 16. It's thought that over 4000 skilled stone masons worked on the pyramid.
17. And possibly 100,000 farmers joined them during the inundation period. (Annual flooding) As reported by the Greek historian, Herodotus.
18. However, the Egyptologist, Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie thought a more realistic number would have been between five and six thousand. (Who knows?)
19. The inundation period lasted for three months.
20. Living quarters and workshops had to be specially built for the men and women.
21. The workers were paid with food and drink rations.
22. Approximately 100,000 bundles of onions and 200,000 loaves of bread were supplied daily to feed the workers three times a day.
23. The workers received one day off in ten.
24. Finest limestone, brought from the quarries at Tura, was used for the outer casing that filled in the steps of the pyramid.
25. This limestone was ferried across the Nile from the East Bank.
26. The fine limestone was stolen from the pyramid and used to build parts of Cairo.
27. The burial chamber and inner passages are made of granite.
28. The burial chamber ceiling consists of nine slabs of granite with a combined weight of approximately 400 tonnes.
29. This granite was shipped from quarries at Aswan, some 800 kilometers away. (500 miles)
30. The pyramid took over 20 years to complete (As reported by Herodotus)
31. Herodotus also tells us that prior to this, it took ten years to prepare the ground, waterways, underground chambers, ramps etc.
32. The Great Pyramid is arguably the most accomplished engineering feat of the Ancient World.
33. Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie conducted an extensive survey of the pyramid site in 1881.
34. The Greeks called Khufu; 'Cheops'.
35. The Great Pyramid is named, 'Khufu belongs to the Horizon'

The oldest wonder of the ancient world, the stunning Giza pyramids continue to provoke wonder. The wispy golden sands and the enchanting camels inspire the imagination to times gone by. The Sphinx has watched many civilizations over human history rise and crumble. The pyramids are estimated to consist of millions of limestone blocks. For nearly 3,800 years, the pyramids remained the tallest man-made sculpture in the world. From any perspective the pyramids will simply awe. Built as tombs for the ancient kings and queens, the pyramids will always represent power and beauty.