Apr 12, 2011

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - Part One

The Great Pyramids consist of the Pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops), the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren), and the relatively modest-sized Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos).

By far the most famous pyramid in Egypt is the Pyramid of Khufu, the biggest, tallest, and most intact. For a period of 4300 years this Pyramid was also the tallest building on earth, until the French built the Eiffel Tower in 1889.

Khufu reigned from around 2589 to 2566 BC and was the second pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty. He was the son of another great pyramid builder, King Sneferu. Although Sneferu was remembered as a benevolent and beneficent ruler, Khufu is believed to have been a more ruthless and cruel despot.

The Pyramid of Khufu is built entirely of limestone, and is considered an architectural masterpiece. It contains around 1,300,000 blocks ranging in weight from 2.5 tons to 15 tons and is built on a square base with sides measuring about 230m (755ft), covering 13 acres. Its four sides face the four cardinal points precisely and it has an angle of 52 degrees. The original height of the Pyramid was 146.5m (488ft), but today it is only 137m (455ft) high, the 9m (33ft) that is missing is due to the theft of the fine quality limestone covering, or casing stones, by the Ottoman Turks in the 15 Century A.D, to build houses and Mosques in Cairo.

The second great pyramid was built by Khafre, Khufu’s son. Khafre was the fourth ruler of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt, ruling from 2558-2532 BCE. His name means "Appearing like Ra.” Like his father Khufu, Khafre was depicted as a harsh, despotic ruler.

Despite this, Egypt was quite prosperous during his reign, with almost no military attacks or campaigns. The culture flourished, however, and the private tombs from his era are beautiful examples of art and architecture. In addition, the worship of the sun god Re was also prospering.

He built his pyramid at Giza next to that of his father. It’s easily recognisable by the layers of its original casing stones that still remain near its summit. This, along with the fact that it stands on a higher part of the plateau, gives the impression that it is taller than the Great Pyramid. This is an optical illusion as it is only 136m (446 ft) tall, with sides of 214.5m (704ft), a surface area of 11 acres and an angle of 53 degrees. It also has lost some of its original height through the years.

Khafre’s son, Menkaure, built the smallest of the three main pyramids on the Giza Plateau. Menkaure was a pharaoh of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt (c. 2532 BC–2503 BC). His name means "Eternal like the Souls of Re".

He is reported by the Greek historian Herodotus to have been a just and pious ruler. He was thought to have disapproved of the conduct of his father and the Egyptians praised him more than any other monarch.

Menakure’s pyramid was only a mere 65.5m (215ft) tall, nowadays 62m (203ft), with sides of only 105m (344ft) and an angle of 51.3 degrees. It is thought that this pyramid was altered during its construction, and made a lot bigger than originally planned. The original, smaller pyramid had a simple descending corridor and burial chamber, but when it was enlarged, a new corridor was built with 3 portcullises and a small panelled chamber. Later still, another burial chamber, along with a storeroom were added at a lower level. This Pyramid, like its 2 neighbours, has a north facing entrance.

1 comment:

Nofretiri said...

I LOVE the pyramids ... they are magical! I'd the great luck to visit the pyramids 2 times: on usual day light with doing a nice horse carriage ride around them and second, after nightfall. It's hard to explain, what you feel. Still that magic and intensity and magic, they radiate. Behind you the lights of the city ... one of my most impressive moments in Egypt! :-)

Thanks for starting that great series with my most favorite wonder!

Salaam Nofretiri, wife of the Great Pharaoh Ramses II.