GIZA PYRAMIDS (Arabic AHRAMAT AL GIZA)
Three 4th dynasty (c.2613-c.2494 BC) pyramids erected on a plateau on the
west bank of the Nile near al-Jizah (Giza), Egypt; they are included among
the Seven Wonders of the World. The northernmost and the oldest of the group
was built by Khufu (Greek cheops), the second king of the 4th dynasty.
Called the Great Pyramid, it is the largest of the three, the length of each
side at the base averaging 775 3/4 feet (270 meters) and its original height
being 481 2/5 ft. The middle pyramid was built by Khafre (Greek Chephren),
the fourth of the eight kings of the 4th dynasty; the structure emeasures 707
3/4 ft on each side and was originally 471 ft high. The southernmost and
last pyramid to be built was that of Menkaure (Greek Mycerinus), the sixth
king of the 4th dynasty. Each side measures 356 1/2 ft, and the structure's
completed height was 218 ft. All three pyramids were plundered both
internally and externally; and, thus, most of the grave goods are missing,
and the pyramids no longer reach their original heights; the Great Pyramid,
for example, is now only 451 2/5 ft high.
Each monument originally consisted of not only the pyramid itself, which
housed the body of the deceased king, but also an adjoining mortuary temple
and a sloping causeway leading from the mortuary temple to a valley temple
near the Nile. Close to each temple were one or more subsidiary pyramids
used for the burials of members of the royal family.
To the south of the Great Pyramid near Khafre's valley temple lies the Great
Sphinx. Carved out of a knoll of rock, the Sphinx has the facial features of
King Khafre, but the body of a recumbent lion; it is approximately 240 ft
long and 66 ft high.
In 1925 a pit-tomb containing the transferred burial equipment of Khufu's
mother Queen Hetepheres, was discovered near the upper end of the causeway
of Khufu. At the bottom of a deep stone-filled shaft was found the Queen's
empty sarcophagus, surrounded by furniture and articles of jewelry attesting
to the high artistic ability and technical perfection of the 4th-dynasty
Surrounding the three pyramids are huge fields of flat-topped funerary
structures called mastabas, used for the burials of relatives or officials
of the kings. At Giza, beside the core mastabas of the 4th dynasty, arranged
in a grid-pattern, numerous mastabas were also found, which date from the
5th and 6th dynasties (c.2494-c.2181 BC), as well as several that belonged
to the 3rd dynasty (c. 2686-c.2613 BC).
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