The most famous Egyptian pyramids to be built are the Great Pyramids of Giza, located in the outskirts of present-day Cairo. There are over 100 Egyptian pyramids of various sizes, and over 50 more in neighboring Sudan. However, the three Great Pyramids of Giza earn their fame by being the largest of these.
In the most popular pictures of the Pyramids of Giza, like the one shown below, the middle pyramid, that of Khafre (Chephren), appears larger due to the angle and because it was built on higher ground. The largest pyramid is actually the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), the one on the left.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu
Contrary to popular belief, not all the Great Pyramids of Giza are considered part of the Seven Wonders of the World. Only the largest, the Great Pyramid of Khufu, is a member, and is the only one of the Seven Wonders that still stands. Egypt was also home to another of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was destroyed long ago.
The Pyramid of Khufu has a height of 145 m (475 ft) and a base area of 52,400 sqm (562,500 sqft). That area is large enough to fit over 20 Olympic-size swimming pools! And for thousands of years, until the rise of modern-day skyscrapers, the pyramid was the tallest building in the world.
What makes the pyramid an architectural triumph and one of the Seven Wonders of the World is the fact that the rocks used in its construction each way more than 2 tons. And there are more than 2 million of those rocks.
Greek travelers to ancient Giza wrote that it took a hundred thousand slaves 20 years to construct the pyramid. However, since they visited Egypt more than 2 thousand years after the Egyptian pyramids were built, the truth of their accounts are suspect. Modern engineers estimate that it would likely take less people and less time to build the pyramid using technology that was available at that time.
Treasures of the Pharaoh
The Pyramid of Khufu was built by the Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) in the 4th Dynasty circa 2560 BC, making it over 4500 years old! It is widely accepted that the pyramid was built to bury Pharaoh Khufu when he died. However, many other conspiracy theories abound as to why the pyramids were built, ranging from astronomical observatories to alien artifacts.
Since Egyptian Pharaohs were noted for being buried with their great treasure, Arab conquerors attempted to gain entrance into the Pyramid of Khufu in order to plunder it.
They managed to find a few narrow passages that led both up into the center of the pyramid, and down beneath the massive structure. However, all they managed to find at the end of these passages were empty chambers. No mummies or treasure was found in the pyramid.
During the Arabs' excavation of the Pyramid of Khufu, they encountered various boulders and slabs that were used to seal the passages and chambers within the pyramid. They also found hidden doors. This probably fueled the many myths about the Egyptian pyramids being booby-trapped, and where a grave robber who managed to get in would never get out alive.
A 17th century Englishman managed to uncover another shaft connecting the passages, but still no treasure was to be found.
Two conclusions can be derived from this. One, ancient tomb raiders have long since plundered all the treasure from the pyramid, leaving behind nothing but a few empty chambers. Or two, Khufu's mummy and treasure is still cleverly hidden within (or beneath) the Great Pyramid.
Steven maintains the informational website Wonders of Ancient Egypt at http://www.nekhebet.com . Do visit if you want to find out more about the wonders of Egypt such as the Pyramids and the Lighthouse; or mysteries such as mummifcation and conspiracy theories; or its religion and history.