What are the Pyramids of Giza?
The three Pyramids of Giza were built as tombs by three kings (or Pharaohs) of ancient Egypt. They were constructed on the Giza plateau during the fourth dynasty of Ancient Egypt's Old Kingdom by the Pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre, and Menkaure, son of Khafre. The Giza plateau also has many other smaller pyramids and temples, as well as monuments like the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Who Built the Pyramids of Giza?
Anceint Egypt. The first pyramid was built by Pharaoh Kufu around 2550 BC. Kufu's pyramid is also known as Great Pyramid, and it's the largest among the three, with an imposing height of 146.5 meters. It stood as the tallest structure in the world for nearly 3800 years. It took around 20 years to complete, and it's still unknown how Egyptians pulled off a massive construction.
The second pyramid was built for Pharaoh Khafre, son of Khufu. The construction of this pyramid, and the Great Sphinx, began around 2520 BC. The third, and smallest, pyramid was built during the reign of Pharaoh Menkaure and was completed around 2510 BC.
Pyramids of Giza Construction
How the ancient Egyptians constructed the Giza pyramids is a matter of debate. The Great Pyramid of Khufu alone used over 2 million blocks of stone, each weighing between 25 to 80 tons. The three pyramids were mostly built using quarried at Giza, though they also used granite from Aswan and higher quality limestone from the nearby port city of Tura.
These stones were cut to be the same size and transported by boat down the Nile. Finally, they were assembled using ramps and levers to create the pyramids, masterpieces of technical skill and engineering.
The Pyramids were constructed by tens of thousands of workers and laborers, not slaves as it was once believed. Experts hold that there was a workforce of roughly 20,000 to 40,000 during peak seasons. Worker graffiti shows that they were divided into groups of 40 men and then subdivided into teams of 10.
Today, you can still visit the remis of the worker’s village where they lived during the construction of the pyramids. There is also evidence that the village was home to support personnel such as bakers, physicians, priests, and more.
When was the Giza Necropolis Built?
The oldest of the pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Giza was built during the reign of the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, between 2550 and 2560 BC. That makes it about 4,500 years old. The second pyramid to be built, the Pyramid of Khafre, was completed in 2570 BC, and the last pyramid to be built was that of Menkaure between 2510 and 2500 BC.
Many of the tombs and cemeteries at the Giza Complex were added to after the construction of the pyramids, even during the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties (c. 2500 - 2180 BC).
Who Built the Giza Necropolis?
The Pyramids of Giza were built as royal tombs for three pharaohs from Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty (which lasted from 2575–2465 BCE). The northernmost and oldest pyramid was built for Khufu, who was the second king of this dynasty of rulers.
The middle pyramid was built for Khafre, one of Khufu’s sons, and the fourth king of this dynasty. Finally, the southernmost and last pyramid was built by Khafre’s son and successor, Menkaure.
Around these three main pyramids are a number of smaller subsidiary pyramids belonging to various royal women, including Khufu’s mother Hetepheres, and his wife Henutsen, as well as Khentkaus, daughter of Menkaure.
History of the Giza Necropolis in a Nutshell
c. 2600–2500 BC
The Giza Necropolis was once situated near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis. During the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, beginning with the Pharaoh Khufu, a series of rulers, their families, and courtiers began to build tombs there.
The ancient Egyptians believed that when a pharaoh died, they would live on in the afterlife as gods. However, first, their spirit needed to be able to reunite with their body. And to ensure this, they built enormous pyramids so that their spirits would be able to find them again. They also served as a place to store all the luxuries they wanted to use in the next world.
A number of pyramids were constructed before the mighty Pyramids of Giza. Early Egyptian rulers were buried in flat mounds known as mastabas. The mounds gradually grew taller and taller. Eventually, the Pharaoh Djoser built a Step Pyramid at Saqqara around 2670 BC. Around 2630 BC the Pharaoh Snefru, father of Khufu (who built the Great Pyramid) built the first true pyramid, the Red Pyramid at Dashur.
Inspired by this, Khufu, and later his son Khafre, and grandson Menkaure, built the three largest pyramids at the Giza Necropolis.