The Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza
The Ancient Egyptian
Pyramids of Giza
Each pyramid consists of about two
million limestone blocks that were
transported from quarries both near
and far away.
Some quarries were as far as
500 miles away! That’s the
distance from Crystal Lake to
Pyramids shadowing over the city of Cairo, Egypt.
The three pyramids of Giza are located on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt’s
capital. See how the pyramids overlook the city? All three pyramids
were built for the same family.
King Khufu’s pyramid is also know as
the “Great Pyramid.” It is the largest of
King Menkaure’s pyramid.
He was Khafre’s son
(Khufu’s grandson). Third
King Khafre’s pyramid. He was
Khufu’s son. Second largest.
Menkaure’s pyramid has three smaller
pyramids associated with it. These
were built for his three favorite
The shear size of the pyramids
The “Great Pyramid”
The Great Pyramid (Khufu) was built in 2560-2540
BCE. It took nearly 20 years to build with an
estimated 15 to 40,000 workers!
Some scholars believe that slaves were forced to build the
pyramids year-round, while other Egyptologists believe that
is was actually the work of skilled masons (stone builders),
who only worked on the pyramids for three months at a
time when the Nile River flooded, making farming
Since Egyptians could not work
during the Nile’s flood season,
The Pharaoh (King) hired
skilled masons to work on the
built from 2500-2475
BCE (25 years).
Khafre’s pyramid built from 2550-2530
BCE (20 years).
Khufu’s pyramid built from 2560-2540 BCE
The Sphinx was built for King Khafre’s
pyramid. It has the head of a man,
with a lion’s body.
Do you know why the
nose is missing?
Scholars are still baffled as to how the Egyptians built the pyramids. Some
theories suggest that a series of dirt ramps and wooden scaffolding allowed each
block to be hauled into place.
Each pyramid block was made of
solid limestone and weighed about
two tons. That’s about the weight of
Originally, white limestone blocks
called “casing stones” were fit onto
each layer of blocks, giving the
pyramid a smooth, reflective surface
that would have shined like a mirror
against the desert sands.
The peak of Khafre’s pyramid still
has part of its original layer of
Each casing stone was carefully polished and locked precisely into place, making the
surface of the pyramid completely smooth on all four sides.
In 1300 CE, invading Arabs took over
Egypt and stripped each pyramid of its
limestone casing stones and used them
build the city of Cairo.
Note how smooth the surface becomes
with each casing stone in place.
Many mysteries surround the pyramids of Giza, such as why they were built. Many scholars
believe they were extravagant tombs for the Pharaohs. Despite being solid rock, each
pyramid has small passageways that lead to the King’s chamber-the location of which was
kept very secret- where the mummified Pharaoh was laid to rest.
The Great Pyramid of King Khufu.
King Khufu’s burial chamber.
No hieroglyphics or papyrus writings of any kind were ever found
in either of the three pyramids. This has baffled historians for
centuries. Why weren’t there any hieroglyphics on the walls as in
so many other traditional Egyptian tombs? Were the pyramids
used for something other than a tomb? What do you think?
All three pyramids of Giza were filled with
unimaginable riches, jewelry, gold, precious
stones, statues, and the mummified King
himself. Nothing was ever found in either
The pyramids were meant to prevent thieves
from entering the secret burial chamber.
Workers even built trap doors and false
passageways to confuse future tomb robbers.
Many scholars believe that it was
the pyramid builders themselves
that robbed the tombs, since they
were the only people with the
detailed knowledge of the
The actual pyramid entrance was kept a
secret, then sealed and hidden away with
limestone blocks to keep the entrance from
ever being found. This entrance was
discovered in modern times.
Archaeologists believe that in 820 CE, Arabian invaders
tunneled their way into the Great Pyramid. Did they rob the
tombs of their wealth and secrets?
Arabian tomb robbers’ entrance tunnel
from 820 CE.
Original entrance to King
What other mysteries do the pyramids hold? Were they just
tombs or something more? What is their connection to the
stars and space? How could they have been designed with
such mathematical precision? What motivated the
Egyptian people to build such immense structures? What
would you like to discover about the pyramids?