This series of blog posts is based on the book 100 Wonders of the World by Michael Hoffman and Alexander Krings.
The Giza Necropolis stands on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. This complex of ancient monuments includes the 3 pyramids known as the Great Pyramids, along with the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx.
It is located some 8 km (5 mi) inland into the desert from the old town of Giza on the Nile, some 25 km (15 mi) southwest of Cairo city centre.
One of the monuments, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is the only remaining monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
The Great Pyramids consist of:
- the Great Pyramid of Giza (known as the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops or Khufu)
- the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) a few hundred meters to the south-west
- the relatively modest-sized Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos) a few hundred meters further south-west
Cheops was the father of Kafre who was the father of Menkaure.
The Great Sphinx lies on the east side of the complex, facing east. Current consensus among Egyptologists is that the head of the Great Sphinx is that of Khafre.
Along with these major monuments are a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as "queens" pyramids, causeways and valley pyramids.
The most active phase of construction here was in the 23rd century BC. It was popularised in Hellenistic times when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Today it is the only one of the ancient Wonders still in existence.
At the time of their construction and for many years after, the Pyramids of Giza were the tallest structures on the planet. Khufu's pyramid originally rose 479 feet but has been reduced to 449 feet with the loss of its limestone casing. Khafre's Pyramid had stood 471 feet at its completion while Menkaure's Pyramid stands at a modest 218 feet. In 1300 AD the Great Pyramid was surpassed as the tallest structure in the world by England's Lincoln Cathedral but to this day remains the most massive structure on Earth.
Due largely to 19th-century images, the Pyramids of Giza are generally thought of by foreigners as lying in a remote, desert location, even though they are located in what is now part of the most populous city in Africa. In fact, urban development reaches right up to the perimeter of the antiquities site.
Researchers have long been impressed with the precision with which the pyramids of this complex were created. The base of the Great Pyramid forms a nearly perfect square, with only a 19-cm (about 7.50-in) difference between its longest and shortest side.
Researchers estimate that 2.3 million blocks were used to build the Great Pyramid, with an average weight of about 2.5 metric tons per block.
When Greek historian Herodotus visited Giza in 450 BC he was told by Egyptian priests that "the Great Pyramid had taken 400,000 men 20 years to build, working in three-month shifts 100,000 men at a time." Evidence from the tombs indicates that a workforce of 10,000 labourers working in three month shifts took around 30 years to build a pyramid. Most of the workers appear to have been from poor families. Farms supplied the labourers with 21 cattle and 23 sheep daily.
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Giza Necropolis. Wikipedia.