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Pyramids of Giza: History, Facts & Location

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  • 0:00 Background
  • 0:37 Three Pyramids, Three Pharoahs
  • 1:25 Historical Significance
  • 2:00 Evidence of a…
  • 3:12 Pyramids Before and After Giza
  • 4:23 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrew Peterson

Andrew has a PhD and masters degree in world history.

The Pyramids of Giza are one of the most famous monuments in the world. In this lesson, learn how, when and why the famous pyramids were built and their significance to Egyptian history.

Background

The Pyramids of Giza are the largest and most recognizable pyramid structures in the world. They were built to honor certain Pharaohs of the fourth ruling dynasty of Egypt during a period known as the Old Kingdom. The Old Kingdom was the first great era of Egyptian civilization and lasted from 2686 to 2181 BCE. The pyramid complex at Giza consists of three main pyramids as well as the famous Sphinx statue. Today, Giza is located just outside of Cairo, Egypt.

Three Pyramids, Three Pharaohs

The pyramid of Khufu is the largest of the three pyramids at Giza and holds the record for the world's largest stone structure, standing over 480 feet high. It was built during the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu, the second Pharaoh of the fourth dynasty. The second largest pyramid at Giza is that of Khufu's son, Khafra. The famous Sphinx statue is believed to have also been constructed to honor and resemble the Pharaoh Khafra and stands beside his pyramid. The third and smallest of the main pyramids at Giza is that of another Pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty, Menkaure. It stands at just over 200 feet high. Each of these pyramids form the center of their own complex of structures, which includes smaller tombs, chambers, work camps and cemeteries for lesser elites.

Historical Significance

Pyramids were constructed throughout Ancient Egyptian history as a means for Pharaohs to display their power. Upon the death of a Pharaoh, his body was mummified and entombed, sometimes in a pyramid or in an adjacent tomb, along with valuable possessions and often times even mummified servants and pets for use in the afterlife. It was believed that a Pharaoh was a semi-divine being who ruled on Earth during life and then passed into an afterlife amongst the gods. Religion stood at the very center of Egyptian society, and the Pharaoh served as both a religious and secular leader.

Evidence of a Sophisticated Society

Large pyramids like those at Giza are evidence that ancient Egyptian society was well organized, prosperous, and very hierarchical. Such pyramids could not have been built without massive inputs of labor from tens of thousands of workers laboring for years on end. Similarly, such labor could not have been marshaled without strict oversight and a rigid social hierarchy.

The actual task of constructing the pyramids would have required extensive planning and organization. The giant stone blocks used to build them weighed several tons and were transported over great distances to the building site using riverboats and specially constructed ramps. Labor was likely seasonal, as many working on the pyramids had to tend to their crops during the spring and summer.

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