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What was the Great Pyramid of Giza? - Part 7 of the "Seven Wonderful Wonders" Series

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

There were seven wonders of the ancient world. Seven wondrous buildings that blew the socks off (Okay, probably not socks back then. Let's say sandals were getting blown off instead) anyone who saw them. In our ‘Seven Wonderful Wonders’ series, here on the Imagining History Blog, we’ll be checking out each of these marvels of human engineering and ingenuity.


We’ve already had a look at the other six wonders; the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Temple of Artemis, the Statue of Zeus, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.


For our final blog in the mini-series, we’ll be visiting the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that is still standing today; the Great Pyramid of Giza.


The Great Pyramid of Giza - the only Ancient Wonder of the World still standing today.

What’s the Great Pyramid of Giza then?

The Great Pyramid of Giza is an Ancient Egyptian pyramid structure with a square base and four triangular sides that meet at a point at the top. It is the biggest pyramid in Egypt and was the tallest building in the world for about 3000 years after it was built. It stands near Giza in northern Egypt.


Khufu's empty sarcophagus in the King's Chamber of the Great Pyramid - spooky eh? Courtesy Andrew Currie

Who was it built for?

The Great Pyramid was built for a bloke called Pharaoh Khufu. It’s also known as “Khufu’s Pyramid” and Khufu himself would have called it “Khufu’s Horizon”. It was built to honour Pharaoh Khufu and was also meant to be his tomb and final resting place after he died. But, confusingly, Khufu’s mummified body isn’t actually inside the pyramid. The pyramids were broken into by ancient tomb robbers and all of Khufu’s treasure was stolen. Perhaps the tomb robbers took his body too? Gross!


How long ago was it built?

Building work on the Great Pyramid of Giza was finished in the year 2,560BC. That’s over 4,500 years ago.


Whoa! And it’s still standing today?

I know! Isn’t it mind-blowing? It’s the last of the seven wonders to still stand in the modern day. And historians believe that the pyramid could keep standing for another 100,000 years (you know, providing nothing dramatic happens in the meantime, like a giant earthquake or the apocalypse or a giant lava monster climbing up from the centre of the earth to destroy life as we know it).


The Grand Gallery - a huge corridor in the centre of the pyramid. Courtesy of Keith Adler

I heard it was built by aliens. Could this be true?

Ancient Alien Theorists say yes but everyone else says no. It’s incredibly unlikely!


So why do people say it might be alien-made?

There are many unexplainable mysteries about the pyramid and how it was built that still puzzle historians today. For example, the four sides of the pyramid are exactly aligned with the four directions of a compass; north, south, east and west. And all four base corners of the structure are exactly 52 degrees. Historians have no idea how the Ancient Egyptians achieved all this with their bronze-age technology and equipment.


That’s why some people put it down to aliens. Because who doesn’t love a good ancient conspiracy theory, eh?


A diagram of the inside of the Great Pyramid of Giza. You can spot the King's Chamber, the Queen's Chamber and the incomplete Lower Chamber underground. The rest is limestone!

What’s inside it?

Not a lot actually. For starters, it’s not hollow like you’d expect. It’s pretty much made up of dense limestone blocks all the way through it. Except for a couple of chambers and corridors.


There’s the King’s Chamber near the top that contains Khufu’s sarcophagus (which mind-blowingly is too big to fit through the corridors of the pyramid so they must have built the pyramid around it!). Then there’s the Queen’s Chamber further down, which actually would have housed all of Khufu’s treasure, rather than any actual queens. And finally, there’s a mysterious chamber at the bottom that seems to have been left unfinished.


What? There are two more huge pyramids? And more little ones? AND a camel?!

I heard there was more than one pyramid at Giza?

You’re right. There are three main pyramids at Giza (and a camel too), each built by (and for) a different Pharaoh. The pyramid built by Pharaoh Khufu is the biggest and oldest of the pyramids, now called the Great Pyramid. The other two belonged to Khufu’s son, Khafre and Khafre’s son, Menkaure.


There are also a whole bunch of other smaller pyramids and temples at the Giza Plateau for other members of the royal families. Plus there are some exciting monuments, like the Great Sphinx.


A Map of the Giza Plateau featuring all three major pyramids, a bunch of little pyramids and SO MUCH OTHER STUFF! Courtesy of MesserWoland

And you mentioned that this pyramid is still standing today?

Yes! In fact I think we’ve mentioned this 3 times now – but who’s counting? The Great Pyramid of Giza still stands on its rocky plateau near Giza on the west bank of the River Nile in northern Egypt. You can go visit it yourself and even buy a ticket to take a tour inside the pyramid too!


Awesome! But can I climb it?

No. Well, you could but you’d get arrested for it. There was a time in history when tourists could totally climb the pyramid. But if you do it now you’d end up in prison for 3 years. So I wouldn’t recommend it.


Want to find out more about the Great Pyramid of Giza? Check out our blog of quick fun facts to impress your teacher with here!



 

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