Built From about 2700 to 2500 BC
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Built: From about 2700 to 2500 B.C.
Location: Giza, Egypt, on west bank of Nile River near Cairo
History: The Egyptian Pyramids are the oldest and only surviving member
of the ancient wonders.
Of the 10 pyramids at Giza, the first three are held in the highest
regard. The first, and largest, was erected for the Pharaoh Khufu. Known
as the Great Pyramid, it rises about 450 feet (having lost about 30 feet
off the top over the years) and covers 13 acres.
It's believed to have taken 100,000 laborers about 20 years to build the
mammoth Khufu pyramid, using an estimated 2.3 million blocks. By one
theory, crews dragged or pushed limestone blocks up mud-slicked ramps to
construct the royal tombs.
Many scholars think the pyramid shape was an important religious
statement for the Egyptians, perhaps symbolizing the slanting rays of
the sun. Some speculate the sloping sides were intended to help the soul
of the king climb to the sky and join the gods.
Who Built the Pyramids?
The question of who built the pyramids, and how, has long been debated
by Egyptologists and historians. Standing at the base of the pyramids at
Giza it is hard to believe that any of these enormous monuments could
have been built in one pharaoh's lifetime. Herodotus, the Greek
historian who wrote in the 5th century B.C., 500 years before Christ, is
the earliest known chronicler and historian of the Egyptian Pyramid Age.
By his accounts, the labor force that built Khufu totalled more than
100,000 people. But Herodotus visited the pyramids 2,700 years after
they were built and his impressive figure was an educated guess, based
on hearsay. Modern Egyptologists believe the real number is closer to
Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass have been trying to solve the puzzle of
where the 20,000 - 30,000 laborers who built the pyramids lived. Once
they find the workers' living area, they can learn more about the
workforce, their daily lives, and perhaps where they came from. Mark has
been excavating the bakeries that presumably fed this army of workers,
and Zahi has been excavating the cemetery for this grand labor force. It
is believed that Giza housed a skeleton crew of workers who labored on
the pyramids year round. But during the late summer and early autumn
months, during the annual flooding of the fields with water from the
annual innundation of the Nile flooded the fields, a large labor force
would appear at Giza to put in time on the pyramids. These farmers and
local villagers gathered at Giza to work for their god kings, to build
their monuments to the hereafter. This would ensure their own afterlife
and would also benefit the future and prosperity of Egypt as a whole.
They may well have been willing workers, a labor force working for ample
rations, for the benefit of man, king, and country.
The following interviews with Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass address the
controversial question of who actually built the pyramids at Giza:
MARK LEHNER, Archaeologist, Oriental Institute of the University of
Chicago, and Harvard Semitic Museum
NOVA: In your extensive work and research at Giza have you ever once
questioned whether humans built the pyramids?
LEHNER: No. But have I ever questioned whether they had divine or super
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Giza Plateau, Egyptian pyramids, Mark Lehner, Great Pyramid of Giza, Khufu, Zahi Hawass, Giza, Pyramid, Egyptian pyramid construction techniques, Pyramid G1-b
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