The city of Giza’s rich history and archaeological significance is second to none. Lying on top of the Giza Plateau, sit some of the most discussed, debated, and enchanting relics of our past. The complex known as the “Giza Necropolis” is home to the storied Three Great Pyramids, the Great Sphinx statue and to an ancient adjoining town, containing a cemetery, a worker’s village and an array of obvious industrial developments uncommon for the time period. The term Necropolis is simply a synonym for burial place and thus, is not referring to the city of Giza itself. This site is vitally important to our history for many reasons, but the most obvious is the fact that it is still standing! What an amazing legacy left by these ancient Egyptians; structures so soundly built that they still grace us with their presence even to this day. The largest pyramid is the “only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World remaining.” 1 (Redford, Donald. Oxford Encyclopedia of Ancient Egypt: Volume II. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2011. 25). The Pyramids and the Sphinx obviously garner the most interest and speculation, so they will be the focus of this article. We can’t begin to discuss the wonder of the Three Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx without first having at least a rudimentary understanding of the city of Giza (the Necropolis) and its surroundings. Giza is located “in Egypt, on the western side of the Nile River. It is approximately five miles from the banks of the Nile River and lies almost directly across the Nile River from the city of Cairo.” 2 (Smith, Graham Elliot. The Ancient Egyptians and the Origin of Civilization. Freeport, NY:
Books for Libraries Press, 1923. 115). The Giza Necropolis is located to the northwest, and on the opposite side of the Nile than the ancient Pharaoh’s capital, Memphis. This area of the world is located in an extremely hot climate, and this fact must only intensify the admiration of the people who built these magnificent structures. One of the fortunate and unique aspects of the area’s rough terrain is that it is “loaded with limestone and dolomites, two essential ingredients in the building of the Three Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx.” 3 (Smith, Graham Elliot. The Ancient Egyptians and the Origin of Civilization. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1923. 188).
To fully appreciate and understand the historical and archaeological significance of the Three Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx we must explain why they were built and what they were used for. Which of the pyramids is biggest? How were they arranged? Another enduring question to answer is one that has plagued historians and archaeologists a like: How were such massive structures completed, and built so soundly, without the use of any heavy machinery? The Three Great Pyramids and the Great Sphinx were built during the “Fourth Dynasty of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.” 4 (History of Giza. (1997). Retrieved September 10, 2013 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova pyramid/explore/gizahistory.html). To be more specific, “the construction of the first of the Three Great Pyramids was believed to have started around 2585-2584 B.C.E.” 5 (History of Giza. (1997). Retrieved September 10, 2013 from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova pyramid/explore/gizahistory.html). To understand why these structures were built, we must first understand that the Egyptians placed a premium on the afterlife and believed a proper resting place ensured a safe and prosperous journey to, and through the hereafter. The Three Great Pyramids were built with the intended purpose of being the final resting places of the Pharaohs. The Pharaohs were seen as gods, or at least an extension of the gods, and these massive pyramids were designed to ensure they enjoyed all the comforts a god deserves, even after death. The Three Great Pyramids vary in size considerably. The largest and most recognizable of the Three Great Pyramids is the