The oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is also the only structure still standing today. The Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt is a testament to human ingenuity.
Napoleon Bonaparte once said that “from the top of these pyramids 40 centuries look down on us.” And it’s true, the Great Pyramid was built in the early 26th century BC. The fact that it’s still standing today is a miracle in itself.
What was the purpose of the Great Pyramid?
The Great Pyramid was built as great tomb of Pharaoh Khufuwho reigned during Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty (2575–2465 BCE), a golden age of great architectural feats.
Little is known about Khufu except that he was the second king during the Fourth Dynasty and that his full name was Khnum-Khufu, or “Protected by Khnum.” Ancient records indicate that he probably reigned for about three decades, during which he extended Egypt’s borders to the Sinai Peninsula.
Khufu’s son Khafre built the second of the Great Pyramids as well Great Sphinx of Giza, although his brother Jedefre may also have built it. The Sphinx is known as one of the largest sculptures in the world. The third of the three pyramids was built for Menkaure, the grandson of Khufu.
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How was the Great Pyramid built?
Standing at 450 feet high, The Great Pyramid is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids. Egyptologists still debate how humans – without any modern construction equipment – could have built one of the largest structures the world has ever seen.
It is believed that approx 20,000-30,000 workers puzzled together 2.3 million blocks of limestone weighing between two and 15 tons each. A layer of smooth limestone would have originally covered the structure, as seen on the cap of Chefren’s pyramid nearby.
Most of the structure is hard limestone except for two small chambers named after the king and queen, and an underground chamber with several air shafts. The underground chamber is usually where remains were laid to rest, but in the case of the Great Pyramid it appears to be unfinished.
The the body of Khufu instead, it was probably placed in the king’s chamber, although the only part still present is the sarcophagus. His mummified body has never been found and is believed to have been stolen by tomb robbers. Unlike the pyramids that would follow, the interior of the chamber is bare and not decorated with hieroglyphs. There are no queens in the queen room either. Khufu’s queens, possibly more than one, are believed to have been housed in mini-pyramids in the area.
The ruins of an ancient port discovered in 2013 it may have been a bustling hub of activity used to provide pyramid workers with the supplies needed to carry out construction.
Shrouded in mystery
Yet the Great Pyramid of Giza is shrouded in quite a bit of mystery given how little we know and understand about how it was built. The only thing we know for sure is that it is a solid part of the structure that, unlike the other monuments, still exists today.
The other six wondersincluding the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Colossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria—fell either by war, fire, or natural disaster, and most of all that we know of them today comes from ancient texts in which they are mentioned.
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Although the Great Pyramid may lack some of the embellishments of the pyramids that would follow, we should still be in awe of the people who built a structure that stands strong nearly 4,500 years later.