Coordinates: 29°58′34″N 31°7′58″E / 29.97611°N 31.13278°E / 29.97611; 31.13278

Giza pyramid complex

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Giza pyramid complex
Pyramids of the Giza Necropolis.jpg
The three main pyramids at Giza, together with subsidiary pyramids and the remains of other structures
Giza pyramid complex is located in Egypt
Giza pyramid complex
Shown within Egypt
LocationGiza, Greater Cairo, Egypt
RegionMiddle Egypt
Coordinates29°58′34″N 31°7′58″E / 29.97611°N 31.13278°E / 29.97611; 31.13278
PeriodsEarly Dynastic Period to Late Period
Site notes
Part of"Pyramid fields from Giza to Dahshur" part of Memphis and its Necropolis – the Pyramid Fields from Giza to Dahshur
CriteriaCultural: i, iii, vi
Inscription1979 (3rd Session)
Area16,203.36 ha (162.0336 km2; 62.5615 sq mi)

The Giza pyramid complex (also called the Giza necropolis) in Egypt is home to the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx. All were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of ancient Egypt, between c. 2600 – c. 2500 BC. The site also includes several temples, cemeteries, and the remains of a workers' village.

The site is at the edge of the Western Desert, approximately 9 km (5.6 mi) west of the Nile River in the city of Giza, and about 13 km (8.1 mi) southwest of the city centre of Cairo. It forms the northernmost part of the 16,000 ha (160 km2; 62 sq mi) Pyramid Fields of the Memphis and its Necropolis.

Many books and articles written by Egyptologists who worked at the site are freely available on the Digital Giza website.

Maadi settlements

The earliest settlement of the Giza plateau predates the pyramid complexes. Four jars from the Maadi culture were found at the foot of the Great Pyramid, likely from a disturbed earlier settlement.[1] Further Maadi settlement near the site was uncovered during work on the Greater Cairo Wastewater Project.[2] Recent reassessment of the radiocarbon dating puts the Maadi culture's Maadi|eponymous settlement to c. 3800 – c. 3400 BC, which is also the likely maximum possible range for the Giza remains.[3]

Pyramids and Sphinx

Giza pyramid complex (map)
Aerial view from north of cultivated Nile valley with the pyramids in the background (1938)
Pyramids of Ghizeh. 1893. Egypt; heliogravure after original views. Wilbour Library of Egyptology. Brooklyn Museum
The Great Pyramid and the Great Sphinx of Giza in 1914 (Autochrome Lumière)
The complex in 1955
View from top of the Great Pyramid to the Pyramid of Khafre

The Giza pyramid complex consists of the Great Pyramid (also known as the Pyramid of Cheops or Khufu and constructed c. 2580 – c. 2560 BC), the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) a few hundred metres to the south-west, and the relatively modest-sized Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos) a few hundred metres farther south-west. The Great Sphinx lies on the east side of the complex. Consensus among Egyptologists is that the head of the Great Sphinx is that of Khafre. Along with these major monuments are a number of smaller satellite edifices, known as "queens" pyramids, causeways, and temples.[4]

Khufu's complex

Khufu's pyramid complex consists of a valley temple, now buried beneath the village of Nazlet el-Samman; diabase paving and nummulitic limestone walls have been found but the site has not been excavated.[5][6] The valley temple was connected to a causeway that was largely destroyed when the village was constructed. The causeway led to the Mortuary Temple of Khufu, which was connected to the pyramid. Of this temple, the basalt pavement is the only thing that remains. The king's pyramid has three smaller queen's pyramids associated with it and three boat pits.[7]: 11–19  The boat pits contained a ship, and the two pits on the south side of the pyramid contained intact ships when excavated. One of these ships, the Khufu ship, has been restored and was originally displayed at the Giza Solar boat museum, then subsequently moved to the Grand Egyptian Museum.[8][9]

Khufu's pyramid still has a limited number of casing stones at its base. These casing stones were made of fine white limestone quarried from the nearby range.[4]

Khafre's complex

Khafre's pyramid complex consists of a valley temple, the Sphinx temple, a causeway, a mortuary temple, and the king's pyramid. The valley temple yielded several statues of Khafre. Several were found in a well in the floor of the temple by Mariette in 1860. Others were found during successive excavations by Sieglin (1909–1910), Junker, Reisner, and Hassan. Khafre's complex contained five boat-pits and a subsidiary pyramid with a serdab.[7]: 19–26 

Khafre's pyramid appears larger than the adjacent Khufu Pyramid by virtue of its more elevated location, and the steeper angle of inclination of its construction—it is, in fact, smaller in both height and volume. Khafre's pyramid retains a prominent display of casing stones at its apex.[4]

Menkaure's complex

Menkaure's pyramid complex consists of a valley temple, a causeway, a mortuary temple, and the king's pyramid. The valley temple once contained several statues of Menkaure. During the 5th Dynasty, a smaller ante-temple was added on to the valley temple. The mortuary temple also yielded several statues of Menkaure. The king's pyramid, completed c. 2510 BC, has three subsidiary or queen's pyramids.[7]: 26–35  Of the four major monuments, only Menkaure's pyramid is seen today without any of its original polished limestone casing.[4]


The Sphinx partially excavated, photo taken between 1867 and 1899

The Sphinx dates from the reign of king Khafre.[10] During the New Kingdom, Amenhotep II dedicated a new temple to Hauron-Haremakhet and this structure was added onto by later rulers.[7]: 39–40 

Tomb of Queen Khentkaus I

Khentkaus I was buried in Giza. Her tomb is known as LG 100 and G 8400 and is located in the Central Field, near the valley temple of Menkaure. The pyramid complex of Queen Khentkaus includes her pyramid, a boat pit, a valley temple, and a pyramid town.[7]: 288–289 

Workers' village

One face of the Pyramid of Khafre at Giza, as seen from Khafre's valley temple
Giza pyramid complex seen from above

The work of quarrying, moving, setting, and sculpting the huge amount of stone used to build the pyramids might have been accomplished by several thousand skilled workers, unskilled laborers and supporting workers. Bakers, carpenters, water carriers, and others were also needed for the project. Along with the methods used to construct the pyramids, there is also wide speculation regarding the exact number of workers needed for a building project of this magnitude. When Greek historian Herodotus visited Giza in 450 BC, he was told by Egyptian priests that "the Great Pyramid had taken 400,000 men 20 years to build, working in three-month shifts 100,000 men at a time." Evidence from the tombs indicates that a workforce of 10,000 laborers working in three-month shifts took around 30 years to build a pyramid.[4]

The Giza pyramid complex is surrounded by a large stone wall, outside which Mark Lehner and his team discovered a town where the pyramid workers were housed. The village is located to the southeast of the Khafre and Menkaure complexes. Among the discoveries at the workers' village are communal sleeping quarters, bakeries, breweries, and kitchens (with evidence showing that bread, beef, and fish were dietary staples), a copper workshop, a hospital, and a cemetery (where some of the skeletons were found with signs of trauma associated with accidents on a building site).[11] The metal processed at the site was the so-called arsenical copper.[12] The same material was also identified among the copper artefacts from the "Kromer" site, from the reigns of Khufu and Khafre.[13]

The workers' town appears to date from the middle 4th Dynasty (2520–2472 BC), after the accepted time of Khufu and completion of the Great Pyramid. According to Lehner and the AERA team:

The development of this urban complex must have been rapid. All of the construction probably happened in the 35 to 50 years that spanned the reigns of Khafre and Menkaure, builders of the Second and Third Giza Pyramids.

Using pottery shards, seal impressions, and stratigraphy to date the site, the team further concludes:

The picture that emerges is that of a planned settlement, some of the world's earliest urban planning, securely dated to the reigns of two Giza pyramid builders: Khafre (2520–2494 BC) and Menkaure (2490–2472 BC).[14][15]

Radiocarbon data for the Old Kingdom Giza plateau and the workers' settlement were published in 2006,[16] and then re-evaluated in 2011.[17]


As the pyramids were constructed, the mastabas for lesser royals were constructed around them. Near the pyramid of Khufu, the main cemetery is G 7000, which lies in the East Field located to the east of the main pyramid and next to the Queen's pyramids. These cemeteries around the pyramids were arranged along streets and avenues.[18] Cemetery G 7000 was one of the earliest and contained tombs of wives, sons, and daughters of these 4th Dynasty rulers. On the other side of the pyramid in the West Field, the royals' sons Wepemnofret and Hemiunu were buried in Cemetery G 1200 and Cemetery G 4000, respectively. These cemeteries were further expanded during the 5th and 6th Dynasties.[7]

West Field

The West Field is located to the west of Khufu's pyramid. It is divided into smaller areas such as the cemeteries referred to as the Abu Bakr Excavations (1949–1950, 1950–1951, 1952, and 1953), and several cemeteries named based on the mastaba numbers such as Cemetery G 1000, Cemetery G 1100, etc. The West Field contains Cemetery G1000 – Cemetery G1600, and Cemetery G 1900. Further cemeteries in this field are: Cemeteries G 2000, G 2200, G 2500, G 3000, G 4000, and G 6000. Three other cemeteries are named after their excavators: Junker Cemetery West, Junker Cemetery East, and Steindorff Cemetery.[7]: 100–122 

East Field

The East Field is located to the east of Khufu's pyramid and contains cemetery G 7000. This cemetery was a burial place for some of the family members of Khufu. The cemetery also includes mastabas from tenants and priests of the pyramids dated to the 5th Dynasty and 6th Dynasty.[7]: 179–216 

Cemetery GIS

This cemetery dates from the time of Menkaure (Junker) or earlier (Reisner), and contains several stone-built mastabas dating from as late as the 6th Dynasty. Tombs from the time of Menkaure include the mastabas of the royal chamberlain Khaemnefert, the King's son Khufudjedef (master of the royal largesse), and an official named Niankhre.[7]: 216–228 

Central Field

The Central Field contains several burials of royal family members. The tombs range in date from the end of the 4th Dynasty to the 5th Dynasty or even later.[7]: 230–293 

Tombs dating from the Saite and later period were found near the causeway of Khafre and the Great Sphinx. These tombs include the tomb of a commander of the army named Ahmose and his mother Queen Nakhtubasterau, who was the wife of Pharaoh Amasis II.[7]: 289–290 

South Field

The South Field includes mastabas dating from the 1st Dynasty to 3rd Dynasty as well as later burials.[19] Of the more significant of these early dynastic tombs are one referred to as "Covington's tomb", otherwise known as Mastaba T, and the large Mastaba V which contained artifacts naming the 1st Dynasty pharaoh Djet.[20][19] Other tombs date from the late Old Kingdom (5th and 6th Dynasty). The south section of the field contains several tombs dating from the Saite period and later.[7]: 294–297 

Tombs of the pyramid builders

In 1990, tombs belonging to the pyramid workers were discovered alongside the pyramids, with an additional burial site found nearby in 2009. Although not mummified, they had been buried in mudbrick tombs with beer and bread to support them in the afterlife. The tombs' proximity to the pyramids and the manner of burial supports the theory that they were paid laborers who took pride in their work and were not slaves, as was previously thought. Evidence from the tombs indicates that a workforce of 10,000 laborers working in three-month shifts took around 30 years to build a pyramid. Most of the workers appear to have come from poor families. Specialists such as architects, masons, metalworkers, and carpenters were permanently employed by the king to fill positions that required the most skill.[21][22][23][24]


There are multiple burial-shafts and various unfinished shafts and tunnels located in the Giza complex that were discovered and mentioned prominently by Selim Hassan in his report Excavations at Giza 1933–1934.[25] He states: "Very few of the Saitic [referring to the Saite Period][26] shafts have been thoroughly examined, for the reason that most of them are flooded."[25]: 193 

Osiris Shaft

The Osiris Shaft is a narrow burial-shaft leading to three levels for a tomb and below it a flooded area.[27] It was first mentioned by Hassan, and a thorough excavation was conducted by a team led by Hawass in 1999.[28] It was opened to tourists in November 2017.[29]

New Kingdom and Late Period

The Dream Stele between the Sphinx's front legs

During the New Kingdom Giza was still an active site. A brick-built chapel was constructed near the Sphinx during the early 18th Dynasty, probably by King Thutmose I. Amenhotep II built a temple dedicated to Hauron-Haremakhet near the Sphinx. As a prince, the future pharaoh Thutmose IV visited the pyramids and the Sphinx; he reported being told in a dream that if he cleared the sand that had built up around the Sphinx, he would be rewarded with kingship. This event is recorded in the Dream Stele, which he had installed between the Sphinx's front legs.

During the early years of his reign, Thutmose IV, together with his wife Queen Nefertari, had stelae erected at Giza.

Pharaoh Tutankhamun had a structure built, which is now referred to as the king's resthouse.

During the 19th Dynasty, Seti I added to the temple of Hauron-Haremakhet, and his son Ramesses II erected a stela in the chapel before the Sphinx and usurped the resthouse of Tutankhamun.[7]: 39–47 

During the 21st Dynasty, the Temple of Isis Mistress-of-the-Pyramids was reconstructed. During the 26th Dynasty, a stela made in this time mentions Khufu and his Queen Henutsen.[7]: 18 


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External links