Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Giza Necropolis

Copyright © Egypt, Cradle of Civilization

"With each new dawn I see the sun god rise from the far bank of the Nile. His first ray is for my face which is turned towards him and for 5,000 years I have seen all the suns man can remember come up in the sky..."

The Sphinx' first words as it stand guarding the Pyramids of Giza. The Giza Necropolis stands on the Giza Plateau, located only a few kilometers south of Cairo, Egypt. The ancient Egyptians called this place imentet, "The West" or kher neter, "The Necropolis". The Great Pyramid of Giza, the relics of a vanished culture, is the only remaining monument of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The Pyramids of Giza are generally thought of by foreigners as lying in a remote, desert location, even though they are located in what is now part of the most populous city not only in Egypt but in Africa. In fact, urban development reaches right up to the perimeter of the antiquities site. The ancient sites in the Memphis area, including those at Giza, together with those at Saqqara, Dahshur, Abu Ruwaysh, and Abusir, were collectively declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.

The opening lines to the Sound and Light Show instantly capture the audience, and why shouldn't they? With the backdrop being the Sphinx and the Pyramids beautifully lite, in the pitch dark, easily make one feel that they have actually been transported back into time.

"You have come tonight to the most fabulous and celebrated place in the world. Here on the plateau of Giza stands forever the mightiest of human achievements. No traveler, emperor, merchant or poet has trodden on these sands and not gasped in awe. The curtain of night is about to rise and disclose the stage on which the drama of a civilization took place. Those involved have been present since the dawn of history, pitched stubbornly against sand and wind, and the voice of the desert has crossed the centuries."

The Pyramids of Giza were built over the span of three generations - by the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops), his second reigning son Khafre (Chephren, Kephren), and Menkaure. But it was Khufu who placed Giza forever at the heart of funerary devotion, a city of the dead that dwarfed the cities of the living nearby. Dominating the sandy plateau his pyramid built around 2530 B.C, is the largest of all the pyramids in Egypt.

On its southwest diagonal is the pyramid of his son Khafre. Although it is smaller, they appear from afar to be of the same size, this illusion is due to its steeper angle, and as it is built on higher ground it infact appears taller. The notion that this was done on purpose to out-do his father's pyramid is obvious!

Further along the southwest diagonal is the smallest of the three great pyramids, that of Khafre's son, Menkaure. It is also the most unusual. As it is not entirely limestone the uppermost portions are made of brick. It is also not along the diagonal line that runs through the Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid, but instead is nearly a hundred meters to the southeast. This error, if an error at all, is of a magnitude not in keeping with the mathematical skill known to have been possessed by the ancient Egyptians.

In the last few years there has been a theory that the three large Pyramids of Giza are actually meant to be in an alignment representing the three "belt" stars in the Orion constellation: Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. This theory is rejected by the majority of Egyptologists, but none the less a point to consider. And while the center of the pyramid does not line up with its larger counterparts, the southeast sides of all three pyramids are in alignment. The sides of all three of the Giza Pyramids were astronomically oriented to be north-south and east-west within a small fraction of a degree.
But who really built the Pyramids? The worker's cemeteries were discovered in 1990 by archaeologists Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner. Contrary to some popular belief, the pyramid builders were not slaves or foreigners. Skeletons excavated from the site show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh's supervisors. The most possible assumption the Pyramids were built by tens of thousands of skilled and unskilled laborers who camped near the pyramids and worked for a salary or as a form of paying taxes until the construction was completed.

But graffiti from inside the Giza monuments themselves have long suggested something very different. They were not the Jews as been said, nor were they people from a lost civilization. And they were certainly not from out of space. They were Egyptian and their skeletons were buried on the plateau, and were examined by scholars, doctors and the race of all the people found completely supports that they were Egyptian.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Much of the work probably happened while the River Nile was flooded. The workmen who were involved in building the Great Pyramid were divided into gangs, groups, four groups, and each group had a name, and each group had an overseer. Undeniable evidence to this is graffiti found in places that were not meant to show such as the inscription above Khufu's burial chamber. The workmen who were involved in building the Great Pyramid wrote the names of the gangs, names like "Friends of Khufu". Plus there was solid evidence from the facilities that the workers were well fed, with a lot of bakeries found and left over bones of fish and cattle. Building the pyramid was a national project of Egypt because everyone had to participate in building it.

After 5000 years this place of ancient worship still stands with all its glory and awe. Defying the elements of nature and time, to this day they still keep from us many secrets. And as the saying goes, "Man fears Time, but Time fears the Pyramids."

About the Author:
Gawhara Hanem