AlgonquinCollegeLogo Small World - Big Picture
The Pyramids of Egypt

Pyramids of GizaAsk anyone what they know about Egypt and the answer you will most likely get is the Pyramids! Egypt is home to as many as 100 pyramids and the greatest and most famous of them all are the Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramids of Giza, which are located just outside of Cairo, comprise of the Great Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu), the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. The Great Pyramid of Giza is in fact one of the worlds oldest and last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Do you know when were these pyramids built and why?

The History of the Pyramids

An increasing amount of research continues to be done concerning the history of the pyramids. Here is a summary of what some of the research reveals about the long history of the pyramids.  

  • Why were the pyramids built?

Great Pyramid of Khefren, funerary templePyramids were mainly built as tombs for burying the kings and queens of Egypt during a specific period of time in Egyptian history. This Pyramid Age began with the 3rd dynasty reign of Djoser. The Pyramid Age is known to have lasted from 2650 BC to 1514 BC, covering a number of Egyptian dynasties. Ancient Egyptians believed that when their pharaoh died, his spirit (ka) remained with his body. They believed that if the body was not cared for sufficiently, the dead pharaoh would not be able to fulfill his duties as the king of the dead. If this ever happened, it was believed that Egypt would experience disaster. To avoid such occurrences, the Egyptians worked hard at preserving the bodies of the former pharaohs in tombs (mastabas). During this Pyramid Age, pyramids were primarily built to preserve the kings and queens.

  • Who built the pyramids?

Some believe that aliens built the pyramids, but there is not a shred of evidence that proves that anyone other than humans did it. In fact, archealogical research over the last few centuries reveals quite clearly that Egyptians built the pyramids. Some of the Egyptian workers were employed by pharaohs while others were conscripted for a certain amount of time from local villages. Research indicates that both men and women worked on the pyramids, in various capacities.

  • How were the pyramids built?

The pyramids were built using a number of different stone materials.  Somewhat rough, low grade limestone was used to construct the pyramid core. To cover the inner walls, some fine white limestone and pink granite was used.  This material was then transported by man power, on wooden sledges to the sights of the pyramids. These enormous blocks were then raised to the height of the pyramids using ramps. Some graffiti is found in the walls of some pyramids, such as in the Pyramids of Giza. This indicates that some of the builders had a sense of pride in the work they were doing. "Friends of Khufu," "Drunkards of Menkaure," are amongst some of the things they wrote, indicating their loyalty to the pharaohs.

The Pyramids of Giza

Pyramid of KhefrenThe Pyramids of Giza are comprised of the Great Pyramid of Giza (the Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure). They all lie in Giza Necropolis, bordering the present Cairo. Surrounding the pyramids, there are various mortuary temples and smaller pyramids for the wives of the kings. For instance, next to the Great Pyramid of Gaza, there are three smaller pyramids for the wives of King Khufu.

Below are some highlights of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

  • The Great Pyramid of Giza (the Pyramid of Khufu)
    The Great Pyramid of Giza is also known as the Pyramid of Khufu. It was built for King Khufu (4th Dynasty). As it is the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is one of the oldest structures on earth. As the largest of the three pyramids of Giza, it is the best known manmade structure in the world. It was not the first pyramid to be built yet it is continues to be intact for almost 4000 years. This pyramid measures 481 feet and covers 13 acres of land and has about 2.3 million stone blocks. This pyramid and its complex continue to receive a huge amount of investigation and controversy.
  • The Pyramid of Khafre
    The Pyramid of Khafre was built for King Khafre (4th Dynasty), who was one of the successors of Khufu. This pyramid appears to be the largest of the three because it has steeper walls and it is located on an elevation. Also because Great Pyramid of Giza has lost nearly 30 feet of material from its tip, Khafre is seemingly taller.

  • The Pyramid of Menkaure
    The Pyramid of Menkaure was built for King Menkaure, who was Khafre’s successor. This pyramid is the smallest of the three, with a height of 65-66 meters, only one-tenth of the mass of the Pyramid of Khufu. Next to this pyramid, there are three Queens Pyramids, which are attributed to Menkaure’s main consorts.

    Although the Pyramids of Giza are the most well-known of all pyramids of Egypt, they are not the only important pyramids of Egypt. For instance, the Step Pyramid of Djoser (Sakkara) is the first pyramid built in Egypt. Other pyramids surrounding the Dahshur area show the evolution of pyramids and the problems the pyramid builders faced as they struggled to construct the first smooth sided pyramid. Many Pyramids were built and they were most often decorated with inscriptions and different scenes on their walls. As pyramid contruction contiued over time, their design and appearance evolved. Not all the changes were visible in outward appearance, but rather in the way that they were built and the theology surrounding their construction.

And remember, if you get the chance to visit Egypt’s precious pyramids, enjoy the scenery and absorb the history of these monuments.


Back to Learning Resources Page