Monday, April 06, 2009

The Pyramides of Giza


Ok, a little more detail.

First some perspective: The pharaohs in the 26th Dynasty (around 600 BC) wanted to recreate the traditions of the early pharaohs so they did some archeology at the Step Pyramid (built a few miles away and before the Giza pyramids. The Step Pyramid was already 2000 years old. The Step Pyramid was built as a series of steps. Smooth sided pyramids came later.

The Great Pyramid at Giza statistics:
  • over 2 million blocks used to construct it
  • built around 25ooBC
  • when built, it was 485 feet high.
  • tallest building in the world until the 19th century (that make it the tallest building on earth for over 40 centuries.)
  • it and the second pyramid were faced with polished white limestone (you can still see some of it at the base) that reflected the sun. (The third pyramid at Giza was faced with red granite--from Aswan)
  • current theory is that it was built in about 20 years without using slaves.
  • the Giza plateau is an outcropping of bedrock.
  • the bedrock was leveled for construction (to within 1/2 inch over the 13 acre base
  • the four sides are 756 feet long, plus or minus 2 inches (note to my friend Dave the Surveyor--how does this compare with current surveying technology?)
Random thoughts:
The Sphinx was carved out of bedrock. Either about 2500BC or earlier than 5000 BC depending on the theory. The typical annual Nile flood came within a few yards of it.

The crowds going to the small area next the the sphinx are kind of intense.

The city of Cairo comes right up to the edge of the Giza plateau. (There is a building for lease about a block from the Sphinx.)

There is this odd building next to the Great Pyramid. The surprise is that it houses a "sun boat." The sun boat was for the pharaoh to use on his trip to heaven. It was found disassembled in a pit in the limestone next to the pyramid. They put it back together (it had marks on the boards identifying were they went (the equivalent of "insert tab a into slot b"). The only things new in the reconstruction are one oar and the ropes.

We did go to the "Sound and Light Show" at Giza--Coordinated colored lights on the pyramids and sphinx and some "cheese, historically inaccurate" narration. ("Cheese, historically inaccurate" is a quote from a 16 year old who was on our tour with her parents. She was a real ancient Egypt expert and this comment about the Sound and Light Show seems very appropriate.) I think they did update it once a few years ago. It now includes outline images drawn by a green laser. But it was fun to attend. (James Bond fans will remember the opening fight sequence in The Spy Who Loved Me--1977--Roger Moore as 007 appears to take place during the Sound and Light Show. The actually fight was shot in Karnak temple in Luxor.)

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