The Giza Plateau is a geological structure dominating the Nile Valley, 25Kms south of Cairo. It is on this plateau that the three famous pyramids, emblems of ancient Egypt, were built.
who built these pharaonic monuments in ancient Egypt?
The plateau is home to 3 distinct funeral complexes, each with a main pyramid and annexed pyramids. The oldest of the three main ones is also the largest, and is attributed to Pharaoh Cheops. The second in size is to Khephren, son of Kheops and the third to Mykerinos, son of Kephren.
It should be noted that between Cheops and Khephren there was another pharaoh, half-brother of Khephren but who did not have a great role in the history of ancient Egypt. He did not leave a funerary complex at Giza.
Are we sure the pyramid monuments were created by these pharaohs?
An important element to consider is the low reliability of the attribution of each pyramid to a pharaoh. While it is nowadays obvious that they date from the mid-sixteenth century and that they were built to serve as tombs, the assignment of each pyramid to its pharaoh is not self-evident. Nowadays it is thought that Cheops, Khephren and Mykerinos are indeed the holders, but the evidence that attests to this is fragile. We are not safe from a discovery that would call them into question. For example, the Great Pyramid was attributed to Cheops because a cartouche with his name was found in the discharge chamber above the king’s chamber. But is this enough to make him the owner of the pyramid?
According to archaeologists, yes, because engraving a name in a monument was not insignificant for the time, it was a sacred act in relation to the divine. So the presence of his name may make the pyramid associated with this pharaoh, but perhaps we will discover later that this vision of things is wrong. It is therefore very likely that these three assignments are correct, but let’s not be surprised if this point of view needs to be revised.
Comparison between the three pyramids
The three funeral complexes at Giza are similar in the sense that they are all composed of the same elements: A pyramid serving as a tomb surrounded by an enclosure wall, a high temple adjoining the enclosure, a covered causeway connecting the high temple to a low temple, and one or more annexed pyramids. That of Cheops also contains pits containing a funerary boat.
The differences are mainly related to the size of the pyramids and their finish, as the temples are roughly comparable. The covered causeways are not the same length of course, but there are no essential differences between those of the three pharaohs.
- Current heights : 138.00 m
- Construction heights : 146.60 m
- Base widths : 230.45 m
- Volumes : 2 592 350 m3
- Current heights : 136.40 m
- Construction heights : 143.87 m
- Base widths : 215.16 m
- Volumes : 2 211 096 m3
- Current heights : 65.50 m
- Construction heights : 66.00 m
- Base widths : 104.6 m
- Volumes : 235 183 m3
How do they fit into time?
The Giza Necropolis was used during the 4th Dynasty, i.e. in the middle of the 26th century. The previous one had favoured Saqqarah, further south. However, Giza was used before Dynasty IV, and tombs from Dynasties I, II, and III have been documented there.
The presence of smooth-faced pyramids here is not insignificant. This is the ultimate stage in the evolution of the tombs of the pharaohs, an evolution that includes 4 stages (the mastabas became stepped mastabas that became step pyramids that became smooth faced pyramids). The three pyramids of Giza are thus the culmination of this evolution, they are all smooth faced pyramids.
It should be known that when Cheops made his pyramid, the first one to be built at Giza, he did not have much antecedent: His father had built the first pyramid with smooth faces in Egyptian history, but it was a failure, he had to finish it by limiting the inclination, which gave the rhomboidal pyramid. So he made a second pyramid, the “red pyramid”, which he could finish normally: It was the first successful attempt. Right after, Cheops built the largest pyramid in Egypt.
Were they tombs?
Although it has long been argued that the purpose of the pyramids was exclusively to serve as tombs, there are a number of facts that suggest that this is not necessarily the case, a hypothesis that would call into question many studies, but is worth asking. The facts are as follows:
- None of the pyramids of Egypt have been discovered with a body inside. This argument is largely contradicted by the fact that most of the tombs are known to have been looted during their histories, mainly as a result of the religious upheavals of the Fifth Dynasty, but this idea does not explain the total absence of funerary remains in the pyramids.
- Egyptian tombs always contained figures of Neteru, offerings, or inscriptions, all of which are remarkably absent from the oldest pyramids (they of Giza, Dahshur, and Meidum).
- Architecturally, the ancient pyramids, those of Giza, Dahshur and Meidum, have perfect interior passages that are extremely small, unlike the other Egyptian tombs whose passages are large enough to allow the passage of a body, or even a sarcophagus.
- Pharaoh Snefrou had three pyramids built. If they were tombs, why build three?
These few arguments obviously do not call into question the numerous studies that tend to prove that the pyramids were tombs, but this assertion could one day be invalidated.