Facts About Pyramids of Egypt

Thousands of years ago, Egypt was home to one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world. Their art and culture continue to fascinate people even today, and one of the most impressive legacies they left behind is their pyramids. The great pyramid of Giza is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World, and the complex of pyramids and other structures on the Giza plateau near Cairo, Egypt, is a World Heritage Site for its importance to history. You might be surprised to learn that these famous pyramids are not the only pyramids in Egypt. In fact, there are more than a hundred of them, most much smaller than the great pyramid, and many very damaged. Ancient Egyptians believed that after death, people would continue to live very much like they had when they were alive, and so they buried people with things that they thought they would need. At first, people were buried in the dry desert sand, but the graves were dug up by wild animals and people who wanted to steal the things they were buried with. Egyptians began to build flat tombs called mastabas out of mud bricks or stone. Then, about four and a half thousand years ago, an architect named Imhotep had the idea to build a stack of mastabas on top of each other, each one smaller than the last. The result was what we call a step pyramid – a giant stairway meant to help the soul of the Pharaoh climb into the heavens.

So began a period of nearly a thousand years of pyramid building in Egypt. After the first step pyramids were constructed, a pharaoh named Sneferu decided that he wanted a smooth-sided pyramid for his tomb. This proved difficult to accomplish, and Sneferu had three pyramids built before he was satisfied. This third pyramid, the Red Pyramid, is believed to be the first true pyramid built in Egypt. The pharaoh who followed Sneferu, Khufu, decided to build his own pyramid, bigger and better than the Red Pyramid. The result was the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid ever built. Construction of the Great Pyramid likely took between 10 and 20 years. It was originally 481 feet or 146.5 meters high, making it the tallest man-made structure on earth for nearly 4,000 years. The building of such an enormous pyramid was a monumental feat. People have wondered for thousands of years how it was possible to build something so huge with the technology available to the ancient Egyptians. The Great Pyramid is estimated to be made of 2.3 million blocks of stone.

The largest of these blocks weigh between 25 and 80 metric tons and were transported from more than 500 miles or 800 kilometres away. The pyramid was originally encased in polished white limestone. Most of these stones have been removed over the millennia, meaning that when the pyramid was new, it would have looked very different than it does today. Khufu had other things built on the Giza plateau, including two mortuary temples, to honour him after his death, and three small pyramids for his wives to be buried in. The other two large pyramids on the Giza plateau were built by Khufu’s son, the pharaoh Khafre, and his grandson, the pharaoh Menkaure. Khafre’s pyramid complex includes a unique feature: the Great Sphinx, a huge guardian statue with the head of a man and the body of a lion. It is one of the oldest and largest statues in the world, measuring nearly 240 feet or 73 meters long from paw to tail, and 66 feet or 20 meters high. Deep inside the pyramids lay burial chambers for the Pharaoh’s body and any treasures and items they would need for the afterlife.

The pharaohs knew that their treasure would be desired by robbers, and so they tried to guard it. Sometimes they used fake burial chambers or hidden passages to try and keep thieves out, but unfortunately, most of their treasures were stolen long ago. Still, the pyramids themselves remain and stand as monuments to these long-dead pharaohs. Millions of people visit them each year to marvel at the ancient tombs and learn about the history of Egypt. I hope you enjoyed facts about Egyptian pyramids today.