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Great Pyramid of Giza

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The Great Pyramid of Giza, (sometimes spelled Gizeh) is the oldest and last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the World and the most famous pyramid in the world. It is presumed to have served as the tomb of the Fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (also known under his Greek name Cheops), after whom it is often called "Khufu's pyramid."

Table of contents
1 Age and location
2 Construction
3 Labor
4 Numerical significance
5 Paranormal and prophetical allegations
6 See also
7 External links

Age and location

The most widely accepted estimate for its date of completion is 2570 BC; it is the oldest and largest of the three great pyramids in the Giza necropolis on the outskirts of modern Cairo, Egypt.


Great Pyramid of Giza
From a 19th century stereopticon card photo

Southwest of Khufu's Great Pyramid lies the pyramid of Khafre, one of Khufu's successors who also built the Great Sphinx, and further southwest is the pyramid of Menkaure, Khafre's successor. Both of these are smaller than Khufu's pyramid, even though Khafre's appears taller on some photographs as it is somewhat steeper and built on higher terrain.


At construction the Great Pyramid was 146 metress (481 feet) tall, but due to erosion its current height is 137 metres (451 feet). It covers more than 5.5 hectares (13.5 acres) at the base, which is a square of over 235 metres (775 feet) on each side. For four millennia it was the world's tallest building, not being surpassed until the 160-metre tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in around 1300. The accuracy of work is such that the four sides of the base have only a mean error of 0.6 inch in length and 12 seconds in angle from a perfect square. The sides of the square are aligned quite precisely in North-South respectively East-West direction. The sides of the pyramid rise at an angle of approximately 51°51′.

The pyramid was constructed of limestone, basalt, and granite stones from two to four tonnes in weight each, adding up to a total estimated weight of some 7 million tonnes, and a volume of 2,600,600 cubic metress. It is the largest Egyptian pyramid. (The Great Pyramid of Cholula, in Mexico is larger in volume.) When originally built, the pyramid had inset facing blocks of polished limestone, creating smooth sides; they have since fallen out, or been recycled for other building projects, leaving the underlying step-pyramid structure visible. (The smooth outer cover is still visible at the very top of Khafre's pyramid.)

The Great Pyramid differs in its internal arrangement from the other pyramids in the area. The greater number of passages and chambers, the high finish of parts of the work, and the accuracy of construction all distinguish it. The chamber which is most normal in its situation is the subterranean chamber; but this is quite unfinished, hardly more than begun. The upper chambers, called the king's and queen's, were completely hidden, the ascending passage to them having been closed by plugging blocks, which concealed the point where it branched upwards out of the roof of the long descending passage. Another passage, which in its turn branches from the ascending passage to the queen's chamber, was also completely blocked up. The object of having two highly-finished chambers in the mass may have been to receive the king and his co-regent (of whom there is some historical evidence), and there is testimony to a sarcophagus having existed in the queen's chamber, in addition to the one found in the king's chamber.

On September 18, 2002, archaeologists used a remote-controlled robot to access a hitherto sealed chamber within the pyramid: the robot drilled a hole in a long-sealed door and poked a fiber-optic camera through. Unfortunately, all that was revealed was another closed door.


Herodotus, the Greek historian in the 5th century BC, estimated that construction of the Great Pyramid may have required the labor of 100,000 slaves for 30 years. Polish architect Wieslaw Kozinski believed that it took as many as 25 men to transport a 1.5-ton stone block; based on this, he estimated the workforce to be 300,000 men on the construction site, with an additional 60,000 off-site. More recent research suggests that these may be overestimates, however; mathematician Kurk Mendelssohn, for instance, calculated that the labor force may have been 50,000 men at most, while Ludwig Borchardt and Louis Croon placed the number at 36,000. According to modern Egyptologist Miroslav Verner, the general consensus today is that a labor force of no more than 30,000 was needed in the Great Pyramid's construction.

19th century Egyptologist William Flinders Petrie proposed that the labor force was largely composed not of slaves, but of the rural Egyptian population, working during periods when the Nile river was flooded, and agricultural activity suspended; this theory is accepted by many today. Verner believes that the labor was organized into a hierarchy, consisting of two gangs of 1000 men, divided into five zaa or phyle of 200 men each, which may have been further divided according to the skills of the workers.

Herodotus speculated that the stone blocks used in the Great Pyramid's construction were maneuvered into place by raising them up a succession of short wooden scaffolds. Another possibility, proposed by the ancient scholar Diodorus Siculus, was that the stones were dragged along a system of ramps to the necessary height; this theory is more widely accepted today, though there remains considerable debate over what kind of ramps may have been used. Modern scholar Mark Lehner has speculated that a spiralling ramp, beginning in the stone quarry to the southeast, and continuing around the exterior of the pyramid, may have been used. The stone blocks may have been drawn on sleds, lubricated by water.

The most precisely cut stones were reserved for the outside. Once in place their corners were smoothened to give an almost shiny outer appearance of the pyramid.

Numerical significance

Some of those who have examined the Great Pyramid have made speculations regarding the numerical significance of the dimensions, angles, and ratios present in the structure.

One popular assertion is that the ratio of the pyramid's perimeter to its height times two ( P / ( 2 × H ) ) gives a close approximation of the mathematical value π that is, the height is to the perimeter as the radius is to the circumference of a circle. This characteristic is determined by the linear slope of one of the pyramid's sides; any pyramid with a slope of arctan ( 4 / π ), or approximately 51°51′14″, will have this characteristic.

The sides of the Great Pyramid have this approximate slope; it is peculiar in this respect, as it more closely expresses this slope than any other surviving Egyptian pyramid. William Flinders Petrie determined the weighted mean angle of the north face of the Great Pyramid to be 51°50′40″, within 35 arcseconds, or about 0.01 degrees, of an exact expression of π. Colonel Howard-Vyse, in 1837, discovered two intact and in situ casing stones, from which he determined the slope to be between 51°50′ and 51°52′15.5″, while Charles Piazzi Smyth, Astronomer Royal of Scotland, in 1865 estimated the overall angle to be 51°51′14″, based on measurements of several surviving casing stone fragments and the angle of the pyramid itself. Whether the Great Pyramid's builders intended for the structure to express π is unknown.

Additionally, Smyth claimed that the measurements he obtained from the Great Pyramid indicate a unit of length, the pyramid inch, equivalent to roughly 1.01 British inches, that could have been the standard of measurement by the pyramid's architects. From this he extrapolated a number of other measurements, including the pyramid pint, the sacred cubit, and the pyramid scale of temperature. Applying these to the dimensions of the structure, he inferred the existence of expressions of the polar diameter and mean density of the Earth, the length of a solar day, the distance from the Earth to the Sun, and the precession of the equinoxes. These derivations are frequently regarded by skeptics as having no scientific merit, and of being merely an artificial device for attributing numerical significance to the Great Pyramid's dimensions.

Paranormal and prophetical allegations

As a structure of impressive construction and mystery, the great pyramid has attracted the attention of occultists (as have many other aspects of ancient Egyptian culture). The great pyramid and the Sphinx are often alleged to have been built with mysterious ancient forces rather than human labor and/or by Atlanteans, extraterrestrials, or other mysterious creators.

It has also been alleged that the dimensions and details of the Great Pyramid, properly interpreted, provide prophecies of events in modern times. This theory was first proposed in the 1800s by John Taylor, who believed the pyramid had actually been constructed by the biblical Noah. Charles Piazzi Smyth later elaborated on this theory in his book Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid. No scientific evidence has been found to support these allegations to date. Edgar Cayce was apparently sympathetic to the idea, though his convoluted language makes it difficult to be certain.

See also

External links