Compare and Contrast the Three Pyramids of Giza

Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx: Facts about the ancient Egyptian monuments

View from the Giza Plateau of the three pyramids known as Queens’ Pyramids with three smaller three satellite pyramids in front end. In order from left to right: the Pyramid of Menkaure, Khafre and and so Khufu.
(Image credit: WitR via Shutterstock)

Constructed in the 26th and 25th centuries B.C. (roughly 2600 B.C. – 2400 B.C.), the Egyptian pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, built in that order, are a testament to ancient planning and engineering.

The precise years that they were built is somewhat unclear, as those dates depend on when exactly the pharaohs who built them reigned, which is a subject area of debate among scholars. For example, the
Metropolitan Museum of Art

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dates the reign of Khufu every bit existence ca. 2551–2528 B.C., Khafre as being ca. 2520–2494 B.C. and Menkaure’s equally being ca. 2490–2472 B.C. Still, dissimilar sources and scholars take different estimates for when each pharaoh reigned.

How these pyramids were built is also a source of speculation and debate. Many researchers believe that a ramp organisation of some form was used to move the blocks into identify during construction. When the pyramids were completed, they were encased entirely or partly in white limestone, well-nigh of which is lost today.

Research suggests
that when the blocks were being moved across the desert, a minor amount of water was put on the sand in front of them, making them easier to move. In 2018, researchers constitute a
4,500-year-old contraption
in a quarry in the eastern desert that may have been used to aid move blocks upwardly a ramp. The contraption has a cardinal ramp flanked by staircases that have numerous post holes on them. A like contraption could accept been used at Giza, researchers said.

Additionally, archaeologists have found prove that Giza had abustling port, allowing appurtenances to be shipped to the site from across
ancient Egypt
and the eastern Mediterranean. Appurtenances brought in included limestone from Tura (a town in Egypt) and cedar forest from Lebanese republic, researchers have found.

Despite the differences amongst the three pyramids (Khufu’s pyramid, the “Great Pyramid,” is several times the mass of Menkaure’southward) the southeast tips of each pyramid align together nearly precisely. Each pyramid had a mortuary and valley temple, with a causeway connecting them. They also had smaller pyramids referred to as satellites or queens’ pyramids.

The Sphinx, an enigmatic monument normally associated with male monarch Khafre, stands picket about his valley temple. To the south of the Sphinx is the “Wall of the Crow,” which is 656 feet (200 meters) long and 32 feet (10 yard) thick.

South of the wall is a settlement that archaeologists sometimes refer to as “the lost metropolis.” This metropolis has barracks that may have housed troops, Live Science previously reported. Archaeologists have
discovered a mansion
in the city that would have been used by senior officials. The pyramid workers may take lived in simpler housing located by the pyramids themselves. Research has also revealed evidence for amassive catering functioning
that kept people at Giza fed.

cemeteries take also been found
beside the Giza pyramids that were in use for thousands of years – long after construction of the pyramids came to an end. Some of the tombs were used for purple family members and senior officials.

In 2018, archaeologists reported finding the
iv,300year-erstwhile tomb
of a female official. The tomb had wall paintings depicting hunting and fishing scenes, musical and dancing performances, and a pair of monkeys, one of which is dancing in front of an orchestra.

Khufu’s Pyramid

When it was completed by Khufu, the Great Pyramid rose 481 feet (146 m). Today, with the loss of some of the stone, the pyramid is slightly shorter, measuring 455 feet (138 m). It was the tallest building in the world until 1311, when the Lincoln Cathedral’s cardinal tower was completed in England.

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The Great Pyramid is
lopsided with the western side being slightly longer than the eastern side. In 2016 it was calculations past engineer Glen Dash and Egyptologist Mark Lehner revealed that the eastern side was originally between 755.561 and 755.817 feet (230.295 to 230.373 meters) while the western side was between 755.833 and 756.024 feet (230.378 to 230.436 m).

To the southeast of the Cracking Pyramid are 3 smaller pyramids. Two of them are dedicated to Queen Henutsen and Queen Meritites, who were Khufu’due south wives, while another small pyramid was defended to Queen Hetepheres, who was Khufu’s mom, wrote Peter Lacovara, director of the Ancient Egyptian Archaeology and Heritage Fund, in his book “The Pyramids, The Sphinx: Tombs and Temples of Giza

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” (Bunker Hill Publishing, 2004).

7 boat pits have been found at Khufu’s pyramid, 2 on the south side, two on the e side, ii in between the queens’ pyramids and one located beside the mortuary temple and causeway. The best-preserved gunkhole, carefully reassembled from more than i,200 pieces, is 142 anxiety (43 k) long, with wooden planks and oars. The purpose of these boats is a mystery.

Khufu’s pyramid held three chambers. A grand gallery leads up to the king’due south chamber, a red granite room that contains a now-empty royal sarcophagus. The male monarch’s sleeping room was protected by a
archaic machine
that dropped giant blocks in front of the sleeping accommodation to protect it from grave robbers. Ultimately, at some point in artifact, people managed to get into the sleeping room and rob it.

In the center of the pyramid is the so-called queen’s chamber, although it probably never held a queen. Beneath the pyramid is a subterranean chamber, its purpose, similar the queen’s chamber, a mystery.

Both the rex’due south chamber and the queen’south chamber each contain two “air shafts” (although they may not have been used as such). The shafts from the king’south chamber at present lead exterior, while the two from the queen’s chamber terminate after a distance. Robot exploration of the shafts reveal that they atomic number 82 to doors with copper handles and hieroglyphs.

Khufu's Pyramid. Bruce Yuanyue Bi via Getty Images.

The largest of the 3 main pyramids of Giza is Khufu’s Pyramid.

(Epitome credit: Bruce Yuanyue Bi via Getty Images.)

In 2013 archaeologist Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian minister of land for antiquities,told Live Science
that he believes these shafts lead to Khufu’southward real burying chamber. “There is no pyramid of the 123 pyramids in Egypt that accept these type of doors with copper handles,” Hawass said. “Really, I believe they’re hiding something.”

In 2017, scientists scanned the pyramid using muons — high-energy particles that constantly rain down on Earth. Muons act differently when interacting with unlike materials (such as rock versus air). With this assay, the researchers  found
prove of a void
to a higher place the k gallery that is roughly 98 feet (30 meters) long and 20 feet (6 m) in height. Information technology may comprise i or more chambers. They found a 2nd much smaller void across the due north confront of the Nifty Pyramid.

They detected the voids past analyzing muons A
new mission
using more than powerful muon detectors has been approved, and information technology may reveal more than near what the void contains.

The structure of Khufu’due south pyramid circuitous was a massive undertaking. Archaeologist Marking Lehner, who excavates at Giza, estimates that — bold Khufu reigned for nigh 30 years — an estimated 251 cubic yards (230 cubic meters) of stone per day had to be put downwardly. That’southward “a rate of one average-size cake every two or three minutes in a ten-hour day,” he writes in his volume “The Consummate Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries

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” (Thames & Hudson, 2008), adding that estimates for the average size of these pyramid stones are as high as 2.5 tons.

Scholars are learning more than about the workers
who congenital the pyramid. Contrary to popular belief, scholars are confident that the workers who built the pyramids were not slaves. In 2013, an important detect was made when the remains of a
documenting a grouping (sometimes translated as a “gang”) of workers, led by a man referred to every bit Merer, was uncovered from the Red Sea site of Wadi al-Jarf.

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The logbook mentions that the workers helped transport limestone from Tura to the Bang-up Pyramid. The limestone would have been used in the outer casing of the pyramid. The logbook mentions that this “gang” worked all over Egypt throughout much of the year. Scientists continue to analyze and decipher the logbook, and future work may reveal more about this group of workers who helped to build the Groovy Pyramid.

Khafre’s Pyramid

Khufu’s successor, Djedefre, built his pyramid off-site at Abu Roash. The person who succeeded Djedefre, Khafre, returned to Giza and built a pyramid that, today, stands about 446 feet (136 meters) in height, making it somewhat smaller than Khufu’s. It was, nonetheless, built on a slightly higher elevation making it look taller than that.

Khafre’s pyramid would have looked unlike than that of Khufu’south as its outer casing was unlike. Whereas the casing on Khufu’south pyramid was fabricated of limestone the casing on the lower levels of Khafre’s pyramid was made of ruby-red granite while the upper part was made of limestone, wrote Miroslav Verner, the quondam managing director of the Czech Found of Egyptology, in his volume “The Pyramids: The Archaeology and History of Arab republic of egyptsouthward Iconic Monuments, new and updated edition

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” (AUC Press, 2021). Most of this red granite casing no longer exists.

Tourists view the Enthroned Khafre (Chephren) funerary statue of the Fourth dynasty (2613-2494 BC) Ancient Egyptian pharaoh and builder of the second of the Giza Pyramids, on display at the Old Kingdom gallery in the Egyptian Museum in the centre of Egypt's capital Cairo on October 27, 2021. Photo by AMIR MAKAR/AFP via Getty Images.

Tourists view the Enthroned Khafre (Chephren) funerary statue of the Quaternary dynasty (2613-2494 BC) Ancient Egyptian pharaoh and architect of the second of the Giza Pyramids, on display at the Onetime Kingdom gallery in the Egyptian Museum in the centre of Egypt’s upper-case letter Cairo on October 27, 2021.

(Image credit: AMIR MAKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Only one satellite pyramid sits exterior Khafre’s pyramid. Inside, the pyramid’s architecture is simpler than Khufu’s. It has two entranceways, both on the north side, 1 located 38 feet (12 m) in a higher place the base of the pyramid and some other at ground level. “The relatively simple plan of the whole substructure, allow united states of america to conclude that the builders of Khafre’s pyramid may have tried to avert the complications that were encountered in constructing the technically hard, time consuming, and costly organisation of passageways, barriers and chambers in Khufu’due south Pyramid,” Verner wrote in his volume.

Both entrances lead to passageways that ultimately atomic number 82 to the burying chamber. That bedroom contains a ruby granite sarcophagus that is empty, with no traces of the mummy or burial equipment establish, wrote Verner. They may have been robbed in artifact.

His valley temple contains a “slightly larger-than-life” statue of Khafre shown sitting on his throne, wrote Jeffrey Newman, a doctoral candidate in Egyptology at UCLA, in an article published on the American Research Center in Egypt’south

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. Made of a blazon of volcanic rock chosen anorthosite gneiss, the statue “is i of the well-nigh important and iconic surviving sculptures from ancient Arab republic of egypt,” Newman wrote, noting that the sides of the throne contain hieroglyphs that “stand for the rex’s duty to literally ‘bind’ the constituent parts of Arab republic of egypt together under i authority.” The statue is at present in the Thou Egyptian Museum.

Menkaure’s Pyramid

With a height of 215 feet (65 m) and a base of 335 by 343 feet (102 by 105 1000), Menkaure’south is past far the smallest of the three pyramids. Lehner notes that its edifice mass is near ane-10th that of Khufu’s pyramid. Its complex includes three satellite pyramids on its south side.

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The entranceway for Menkaure’s pyramid is located just above footing level, its passages leading to an antechamber and burying chamber. An ornate sarcophagus was establish in the 19th century by Howard Vyse, but it was lost when the send that was taking it to England, the Beatrice, sank.

It’s a mystery as to why Menkaure’due south pyramid is then much smaller than the other ii. It could just be that there wasn’t room at Giza for some other large pyramid or possibly events during Menkaure’south reign prevented him from building another large structure. No future pharaoh would e’er build a pyramid as large as those congenital by Khufu and Khafre.

The Sphinx

The Sphinx laying down in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Kitti Boonnitrod via Getty Images.

The Sphinx laying downward in front of the Bully Pyramid of Giza in Arab republic of egypt.

(Image credit: Kitti Boonnitrod via Getty Images)

All three of Giza’s pyramids had mortuary temples connecting to valley temples through a causeway. However, in the case of Khafre’s pyramid, his valley temple as well has an enigmatic monument nearby known as the Sphinx, with an uncompleted temple dedicated to it.

The Sphinx is a 241-foot (74 one thousand) long monument carved out of the limestone bedrock of the Giza Plateau. It has the face of a man and the body of a lion. The mythical fauna is seen in fine art throughout the ancient Middle East, as well as in Republic of india and Greece. During the jump equinox the dominicus
sets on the shoulder of the sphinx.

The discussion “sphinx,” in Greek can mean “strangler” or “constricted,” writes Carolina Lopez Ruiz, a classics professor at The Ohio State University, in an essay published in the book “Text and Intertext in Greek Epic and Drama: Essays in Honour of Margalit Finkelberg

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” (Routledge, 2020). The face of the giant statue at Giza may have been based on that of Khafre. Efforts to conserve and restore the Sphinx go back at least three,400 years.

What purpose did the pyramids take?

The simplest explanation for the apply of the pyramids is that they were places of burying for their corresponding kings; the discovery of a sarcophagus in all three pyramids backs up this thought. The pyramid complexes, and the grave goods one time located inside them, helped the king arise to the afterlife.

“The pyramid was supposed to be the decease residence of the pharaoh – unshakeable, indestructible, eternal,” Verner wrote in his book. He noted that the temple buildings nearby “were dedicated to the worship of the deceased, which was besides supposed to keep forever…”

Interestingly, the spiritual importance of Giza appears to cross the ages. In late 2010, archaeologists announced the discovery of the remains of about 400 malnourished people, cached with few grave appurtenances, located most the Wall of the Crow. They appointment to between 2,700 and ii,000 years ago, 2 millennia after the pyramids had been built, their burial location suggesting they had a desire to be near Giza.

Today, while people may not worship the pharaohs, the Giza pyramids are a UNESCO world heritage site visited by people from all over the earth.

This article was updated on May six, 2022, by Live Scientific discipline correspondent Owen Jarus.

Boosted resources

  • Aboriginal Egypt Research Associates conducts excavations at the Giza plateau, you can larn more about the work they do on their

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  • The
    Digital Giza

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    project at Harvard too gathers a considerable amount of data on the Giza plateau.
  • Scan Pyramids conducted muon analysis of the Dandy Pyramid and their reports can exist accessed on their

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Jonathan J. Price and Rachel Zelnick-Abramovitz (eds) “Text and Intertext in Greek Epic and Drama: Essays in Honor of Margalit Finkelberg” Routledge, 2020

Lacovara, Peter, “The Pyramids, The Sphinx: Tombs and Temples of Giza” Bunker Colina Publishing, 2004

Lehner, Mark “The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Aboriginal Mysteries” Thames & Hudson, 2008

Verner, Miroslav “The Pyramids: The Archaeology and History of Egypt’s Iconic Monuments, new and updated edition” AUC Printing, 2021

Owen Jarus is a regular contributor to Alive Science who writes about archaeology and humans’ by. He has likewise written for The Independent (UK), The Canadian Press (CP) and The Associated Printing (AP), amid others. Owen has a bachelor of arts caste from the Academy of Toronto and a journalism caste from Ryerson Academy.

Compare and Contrast the Three Pyramids of Giza