The mathematical and cosmic formulas behind these stone monuments to human accomplishment have intrigued and mystified for thousands of years.
I’d succumbed like so many who had come before me, amazed and enthralled by the sheer magnitude of human endeavor during a period of seemingly limited resources.
Standing in the shadows of the pyramids of Giza, I could hear the song of triumph of a magnificent and enduring civilization that had left an indelible mark on mankind; I could feel their connection to the universe (my universe, too) that had harbored their hopes and dreams.
I could sense eternity considering how long these monuments had stood the test of time; how long they might continue to reach to the heavens.
They whispered a challenge, too, those ancient wonders. “What will you make of your life; what will you leave behind? “
I’ll undoubtedly leave behind a ton of digital images that will require a second lifetime to peruse. In that vein, I thought I might share a few more pyramid pictures and 7 Things you Might Not Know about the Giza Pyramids. What I'll make of my life is still to be determined.
It was the tallest structure in the world for about 3,800 years before construction of the Eiffel Tower. King Khufu’s tomb contains 2.3 million limestone blocks, huge granite stones weighing up to 70 metric tons, and 6 million metric tons of mortar. All told, the 90 million cubic feet of masonry is enough to build 30 Empire State buildings or a road eighteen feet wide and a foot thick from Salt Lake City to New York (2,182 miles).
One more mathy morsel and I promise, I’ll move on to the more mundane. Sorry, my geeky side is also feeling snarky in the midst of all this glorious geometry.
The Great Pyramid, constructed from 2.3 to 2.5 million separate blocks of limestone each weighing tons, is the most accurately aligned structure in existence. Mind you, it was created before slide rules (yes, I’m that geeky and that old to remember using a slide rule), before calculators, before computers! The structure was originally aligned to true north and south, which implies almost perfect right angles at the four corners. Today, the Great Pyramid faces true north with only 3/60th of a degree of error, which simply attests to the earth’s wobble between the two poles.
That evolution began around 3000 BC when sandy mounds of the graves of society’s upper echelons were changed to mudbrick mastabas (low, box-like tombs for Egypt’s upper echelons of society). Thanks to the ingenuity of 3rd-Dynasty King Djoser’s high priest, Imhotep, that mudbrick was changed to stone (2630 BC) and the stacking commenced with successively smaller and smaller mastabas. It doesn’t take a genius to see where all this stacking was going when it came to dynasties, pharaohs and lasting monuments.
The first true pyramid completed in Egypt, the North Pyramid of Dahshur, was built by King Snefru between 2575-2551 BC.
Knufu was the son of Sneferu and Queen Hetepheres I and came to the throne in his early twenties. Greek historian Herodotus did record this about King Khufu: "Kheops brought the country into all kinds of misery. He closed the temples, forbade his subjects to offer sacrifices, and compelled them without exception to labor upon his works. The Egyptians can hardly bring themselves to mention Kheops, so great is their hatred." Herodotus also claimed Khufu prostituted his daughter when he ran short of money.
The Westcar Papyrus (an ancient Egyptian text containing five stories about miracles performed by priests and magicians, stories told at the royal court by Pharaoh Cheops’ sons) does describe Khufu as a traditional oriental monarch: good-natured, amiable to his inferiors and interested in the nature of human existence.
Sounds fuzzy enough for posterity’s sake, wouldn’t you say?
Evidence suggests some of the limestone was cut lose and used during the Middle Ages to build mosques in medieval Cairo.
Tell me in ain’t so!
Based on the theft of all that limestone, it wasn't all that terrifying over the ages. Of course a millennium after it was built this immense stone sculpture (yes, the largest in the world at 128 feet long and 65 feet high at its head) was buried up to its neck in sand.
Around 1400 BC, Thutmose IV of the New Kingdom claimed his legitimacy to the throne of Egypt by clearing the sands.
When Napoleon came through in 1798, the Sphinx was again buried in sand up to its neck. Rumor has it the Great Sphinx lost its nose to Napoleon's troops during target practice. The massive lion with the head of a human remained buried in the sand for another hundred-plus years until the French engineer Emil Baraize succeeded in clearing the sand between 1925 and 1936.
It is believed the Great Sphinx’s was built by Pharaoh Khafra, King Knufu’s son, and modeled on Pharoah Khafra, although in some archeological and geological circles there is speculation the sculpture may actually be 2000 years older.