Pyramids of Giza

Pyramids of Giza, Munkaure (left), Kjafre (center)) Knufu's (right)

Knufu Pyramid

Khufu's, originaly Khnum-Khufwy (4th Dynasty 2551-2528 BCE), which means '[the god] Khnum protect me'. He was the son of Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres I, and is believed to have had three wives. He is famous for building the Great Pyramid (2550-2460 BCE) at Giza, one of and the only surviving seven wonders of the world, but apart from this, we know very little about him. 

Khufu came to the throne, probably during his twenties, and at once began work on his pyramid. The entire project took about 23 years to complete, during which time 2,300,000 building blocks, weighing an average of 2.5 tons each, were moved. His nephew Hemiunu was appointed head of construction for the Great Pyramid. Khufu was the first pharaoh to build a pyramid at Giza. The sheer scale of this monument stands as testament to his skills in commanding the material and human resources of his country. It is now believed the pyramids were built using conscripted labor rather than slaves.


Architecture and Engineering

The pyramid necropolis of Khufu was erected at the north-east section of the plateau of Giza. It is possible that the lack of building space, the lack of local limestone quarries and the loosened ground at Dahshur forced Khufu to move north, away from the necropolis of his predecessor Sneferu. Khufu chose the high end of a natural plateau, so that his future pyramid would be widely visible. Khufu decided to call his necropolisAkhet-Khufu (meaning "horizon of Khufu").

The Great Pyramid has a base measurement of ca. 750 x 750 ft and today a height of 455.2 ft. Once it had been 481 ft  high, but the pyramidion and the limestone casing are completely lost due to stone robbery. The lack of the casing allows a full view to the inner core of the pyramid. It was erected in small steps by more or less roughly hewn blocks of dark limestone. The casing was made of nearly white limestone. The prisms for the casing were finely polished at their displaying site. The complete freshly set casing made the pyramid shimmer in bright natural lime white. The pyramidion could have been covered with electrum, but up to this day there is no archaeological proof for that. The inner corridors and chambers have walls and ceilings made of polished granite, one of the hardest stone known at Khufu's time. The used mortar was a mixture of gypsum, sand, pulverized limestone and water.

The monument has its original entrance at the northern side and contains three chambers: at the top, the burial chamber of the king (king's chamber), in the middle, the statue chamber (erroneously called queen's chamber), and an unfinished subterranean chamber (underworld chamber) under the foundation of the pyramid. Whilst the burial chamber is identified by its large sarcophagus made of granite, the use of the "queen's chamber" is still disputed – it might have been the serdab of the Ka-statue of Khufu. The subterranean chamber remains mysterious. It was left unfinished; a tight corridor heading south at the western end of the chamber and an unfinished shaft at the eastern middle might point out that the subterranean chamber was the eldest of the three chambers and that the original building plan contained a simple chamber complex with several rooms and corridors. But for some unknown reasons the works were stopped and two further chambers had been built inside the pyramid. Remarkable is the so-called Great Gallery leading to the king's chamber: It has a niched ceiling and measures 28.7 ft in height and 151.3 ft in length. The gallery has an important static function, it diverts the weight of the stone masses above the king's chamber into the surrounding pyramid core.

Khufu's pyramid was surrounded by an enclosure wall, each wall 33 ft in distance from the pyramid. At the eastern site, directly in front of the pyramid, the mortuary temple was built. Its foundation was made of black basalt, a great part of which is still preserved. Pillars and portals were made of red granite, the ceiling stones made of white limestone. Today nothing is left over from the temple. From the mortuary temple a 0.43 miles long causeway once headed to the valley temple. The valley temple was possibly made of the same stones as the mortuary temple, but since even the foundation is not preserved, the original form and size of the valley temple remain unknown.

At the eastern site lies the East Cemetery of the Khufu-necropolis, containing the mastabas of princes and princesses. Three small satellite pyramids, belonging to the queens Hetepheres (G1-a), Meritites I (G1-b) and possibly Henutsen (G1-c) were erected at the south-east corner of Khufu's pyramid. Close behind the queen's pyramids G1-b and G1-c the cult pyramid of Khufu was found in 2005. At the southern site lie some further mastabas and the pits of the funerary boats of Khufu. At the western site lies the West Cemetery, where the highest officials and priests were interred.

A possible part of the necropolis of Khufu is the famous Great Sphinx of Giza. It's a 241 x 66.6 ft  large limestone statue in shape of a recumbent lion with the head of a human, decorated with a royal Nemes-headdress. The sphinx was directly hewn out of the plateau of Giza and originally painted with red, ocher, green and black. Up to this day it is passionately disputed who exactly gave the order to build it: the most possible candidates are Khufu, his elder son Djedefra and his younger son Khaefra. The difficulties for a correct allocation lie within the total lack of any perfectly preserved portrait of Khufu. The faces of Djedefre and Khaefra are both pretty similar to that of the sphinx, but they also do not perfectly fit. Another riddle is the original cultic and symbolic function of the sphinx. Much later it was called Heru-im-Akhet (Hârmachís; "horus at the horizon") by the Egyptians and Abu el-Hὀl ("father of terror") by the Arabians. It might be that the sphinx -as an allegoric and mystified representation of the king- simply guarded the sacred cemetery of Giza.




Thank you for visiting my website. My name is Mark Smith and I reside in Stevensville, Michigan my wife and two children. I have been interested in Architecture since my boyhood days; however, because of my families business—a lumberyard—I never really got a chance to pursue my dream until later in my career. Read more...


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