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The Pyramids of Egypt


    On a fifty mile stretch of the Nile Valley, West of the river Nile, near the ancient Memphis, over seventy pyramids were built as tombs for Egyptian Kings. It took over a thousand years to build them. Of these, three great pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure at Giza are of gigantic proportions. They are the largest pyramids and world famous. Hence "The Pyramids of Egypt" are also called "The Pyramids of Giza". These three great pyramids were built for the three pharoahs - Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus. The largest of the three Giza Pyramids is the Pyramid of Cheops or Pyramid of Khufu and it is called, "The Great Pyramid". It has a base area of 570,000 square feet (53,000 square meters). It contains 2,300,000 lime stone blocks each weighing 2.5 tones and measuring about three feet in each direction.

    The construction of the great pyramid is also famous for its accuracy. At the base the average length of the four sides is 755 feet (230.12 meters). The difference between the shortest baselines is just eight inches (20 centimeters), and the four corners make almost perfect right angles to within a fraction of one degree. By observing the stars, the builders of the Great Pyramids were able to align its sides to face the cardinal points of the compass, also to within fractions of a degree. With an angle of elevation of 520 the Great Pyramid rises to a height of nearly 490 feet (150 meters).

    Sir Flinders Petrie, the great archeologist, calculated that 100,000 men transported the blocks to the site and another 4000 worked on the actual construction.



    The actual constructional methods were simple, yet accurate. To level the Pyramids bedrock foundation, the base area was surrounded by mud and then filled in with water. Trenches were dug in the rock floor at equal depth from the rock surface. Then the water was run off and the rock chipped away to the level of the trenches. This was how they leveled the foundation to the accuracy of half an inch.

    The limestone blocks used for construction were quarried in the Mokkatam Hills. The Egyptians in those days had no pulleys or cranes to lift the heavy stone blocks. They used an inclined plane - a long ramp built to cover one side of the pyramid. Legend and popular belief also suggests that the Egyptians might have used levitation (mental powers) to move these heavy stones for building.

    The inside of the pyramid was built around a vertical core of masonry. The core was then cased with limestone blocks to give a stepped effect. The steps were then filled in with 'packing blocks' and lastly the sides were dressed with smooth facing stones.

    In the centre of the great Pyramid lies Cheops burial chamber. Built of granites it measures 34 by 17 feet (10.5 by 5.3 meters) and is 19 feet (5.8 meters) high. The Kings Granite sarcophagus (Coffin) still lies in the room's west side. From the entrance on the North face of the Pyramid, a corridor descended into the foundation rock, leading to an uncompleted burial chamber. This continues into a wide ascending passage, called the grand gallery at the top of which is the King's burial chamber.

    Cheop's Pyramid is surrounded by rows of low, flat tombs called 'mastabas' and three small pyramids in which his family and high officials were buried. By the south wall is an underground chamber, discovered in 1954, which contained Cheop's funeral ship (Egyptians believed the spirit had to travel to reach heaven and they provided a ship to sail, food, clothes and even buried servants to help him), untouched since being placed there 4600 years before.

    The Pyramid of Chephren, the second great pyramid, lies to the South-West of the great Pyramid and is only slightly smaller 460 feet (140 meters) high and 709 feet (216 meters) square, with a slightly steeper angle of elevation. Unlike Cheops Pyramid, which has the top limestone facing completely stripped off, the Pyramid of Chephren has its limestone facing intant.

    The third and the smallest Giza Pyramid, lies South-West of the Pyramid of Chephren. It is the Pyramid of Mycerinus. It is 354 feet square (108 meters) and 230 feet (70 meters) high, and needed less than 1/10th of the limestone used for each of the other pyramids. It was faced both in pink granite and limestone.

    Apart from its pyramids. "The Sphinx" is the most famous feature of Giza. It is carved out of rock in the form of a lion with a human head. It was a portrait of Chephren. It was also considered to be representing the Sun-God and was worshipped.

    The Sphinx is 66 feet (20 meters) high and 240 feet (73 meters) long. It guards the way to the Pyramid of Chephren. The evolution of the Pyramids is related to the Egyptian Sun Worship. For them a Pyramidal shaped stone represented the Sun God and was called, "ben ben".

    Its slanting sides represented the sun's rays and was regarded as the stairway for the dead king to reach heaven. The Egyptians believed that the soul of the deceased takes time to reach the heavenly destination after death and they did their best to help their pharoahs, even after life. They treated and worshipped their kings life Gods.

    In the burial chamber along with the mummyfied (preserved) dead body in it's sarcophagus, great treasures of Gold and Silver were kept along with large supplies of food and clothing. Sometimes even the personal servants were also buried along with the Pharoah so that they can serve him in the afterlife also.

    The walls of the burial chambers were elaborately decorated with paintings and pyramid texts in hierographics. They consisted of collection of Egyptian mortuary prayers, hymns and spells intended to protect a dead King or Queen and ensure life and sustenance in the life after death and even some magical spells.

    Egyptians had many Gods, in human, animal and material forms representing the powers of nature and abstract ideas. These Gods were also painted on the walls of the burial chambers.

    Also, "The book of the dead" was placed beside the dead body. It contained spells written on papyrus (paper). These texts constitute the oldest surviving body of religious and funeral writing available to modern scholars. The famous pyramids of Giza still stand as a monument to the great civilization of the Egyptian Pharoahs many centuries ago.


























































































































































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