The Pyramids are situated at Giza just outside Cairo and is one of the engineering marvels of all time and the only remaining wonder of the ancient world. Situated on the west bank of the Nile, which is associated with death, the pyramids are generally believed to be tombs for the Pharaohs or a resurrection machine for his rebirth. The first large Egyptian pyramid was the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, built during the third dynasty of the Old Kingdom to protect the body of the king Djoser who died around 2650 BC. The Pyramid was the development of the Mastaba which was a house built over the body. The most prolific builder was Sneferu who ruled from around 2612–2589 BC and built three pyramids. The greatest and most famous however, are the Pyramids of Giza, built near the capital city of Memphis for the fourth dynasty kings Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure who ruled from 2589-2504 BC.
Built on a Plateau they consist of a number of other buildings associated with the preparation and maintenance of the Pharaoh and his afterlife. Such buildings include mortuary temple, where rituals for the dead king and for the Egyptian gods may have been carried out; small subsidiary pyramids and numerous other tombs for the royal family and officials together with storage for objects including pits for funerary boats. The complex consisted of a causeway running to a lower temple at the Nile that acted as an entrance to the complex.
The first and great pyramid was constructed by Khufu (also known as Cheops) the son of Sneferu. Khufu ruled around 2589-2566 when the Old Kingdom of Egypt was nearing its peak of prosperity and could afford the vast amounts of money required to build the pyramid. Constructed of limestone and granite the total weight is 6.5 million tons with some of the 2,300,000 blocks weighing 70 ton. The whole structure reached 140 metres in height and had a base length originally of 230 metres. It is believed that the stone blocks were hauled up gradually sloping ramps, built out of mud, stone, and with wood runners which would be lubricated by water the Sledges pulled by a team of men using ropes of papyrus twine. To complete the face white limestone blocks were placed, smoothed and polished. It is believed that construction took 20 years. The original entrance to the great pyramid is on the North face, 15m high and surmounted by a double vault. The modern entrance is located several metres down, which was forced in the 9th century. Inside the pyramid are a number of chambers and passages. The burial chamber is almost six meters tall, and was built by solid blocks of granite to prevent penetration. The floor is made with blocks of pink granite, which cover 60 square meters. Inside the chamber is the sarcophagus, which was built inside the pyramid during construction as it would have been almost impossible to move it in considering the confined and narrow passage.
The other two pyramids were constructed by Menkaure (also known as Mycerinus), which is the smallest and Khafre’s (who is also known as Chephren) which although looks higher than Khufu’s it is actually half a metre smaller but was built on higher ground. The most distinctive feature of Khafre's Pyramid is the topmost layer of smooth stones that are the only remaining casing stones on a Giza Pyramid. Some believe that the Sphinx has the face of Khafre while others will argue that it was Khufu, and that it was part of Khufu’s pyramid complex, while others believe that it was there before Khufu built his pyramid.
Due to the vast expense, the end of the Old Kingdom and the movement of the capital to Thebes, modern day Luxor, the Pharaohs started to be buried in tombs cut out of the rock in the Valley of the King and the construction of pyramids ceased.
To see more photographs and take a virtual tour of the site click on the photoshow below.