The Great Sphinx in Cairo
A stunning limestone statue depicting a reclining sphinx, the Great Sphinx of Giza, also known as the Sphinx of Giza is a representation of a king with the body of a lion, a firm demonstration of his power. During antiquity, the lion was considered a symbol of royalty and a symbol of the horizon. The combination of this fierce creature with the head of a pharaoh has been one of the most iconic and enduring monuments from Ancient Egypt. The colossal statue carved completely out of limestone is located in Giza at the Pyramids Plateau dating back to the reign and rule of King Khafre. It details his face and is undeniably one of Egypt’s most famed landmarks. It is believed that the Great Sphinx was built during the time of Kahfre, the kind who built the second great pyramids. The Sphinx Temple and the Great Sphinx are positioned right next to Khafre’s valley temple and the lower part of the pathway that leads up to Khafre’s mortuary temple and the second great pyramids. The valley temple was completed before the carving of the Great Sphinx and its temple. The Great Sphinx with its careful carving and massive size has dazzled the imaginations of travelers and scholars alike for centuries.
Pyramid Complex of Khufu
The largest of the three pyramids of Giza, also known as the Great Pyramid, stands at a height of 146 meters. It stood as the tallest structure in the world until 1221 C.E when Old St. Paul’s Cathedral was built in London. However, unlike the enduring lifespan of the pyramids, the steeple of the cathedral collapsed only 350 years later. Although the soaring height of the pyramid is quite awe-inspiring, the precision of the design and execution is what has enamored and puzzled curious scholars and travelers for centuries. The wide base of more than 230 meters per side with the greatest discrepancy in length being a mere 4.4 cm, this astonishing fear would be difficult to recreate even in today’s modern world. The chambers and passageways inside the pyramid are exquisite and feature numerous eccentric features. There is even a peculiar unfinished chamber with no known function as well as various air shafts that filter out from the pyramid’s upper chambers.
Khufu Boats for The Afterlife
The mortuary complex of Khufu also features seven massive boat pits. Five of these pits are east of the pyramid, with a brick-lined design. They were probably used to transport the king in the Afterlife. These types of boat burials have a long and enduring history. Another fleet consisting of 14 similar pits along with wooden boats averaging 60 feet long were found at a Dynasty 1 mortuary in Abydos, believed to be the earlier cemetery of ancient Egypt’s royalty. However, usually, just like the case with Khufu, the pits were merely shaped like boats instead of containing real wooden boats.
Pyramid Complex of Khafre
Khafre was the son of King Khufu also known as Cheops. He was the builder of the second-largest pyramid at Giza, built at a higher elevation, making it appear to be as tall as the Great Pyramids. It measures 143.5 meters in height, with a core made of locally-sourced limestone. The tip of the pyramid still has the polished blocks of stunning limestone that at a time once covered the entirety of the structure. The exquisite white stone was quarried in Tura, a place just south of modern-day Maadi. The interior is not as complex as Khufu. It only features a single burial chamber, a small chamber, and two passageways. However, the mortuary temple at the base was more complex than Khufu’s, filled with more than 52 life-sized images. It is among the best-preserved mortuary temples of the Old Kingdom. During the reign of Khafre, mortuary temples began becoming more complex, introducing new elements that would later become the norm for the later Old Kingdom. A distinct feature of Khafre’s complex is an enormous statue sitting beside the valley temple, the Great Sphinx. The valley temple is constructed out of huge limestone blocks covered in granite with alabaster floors and wide walls framed by granite pillars. The niches along the walls once held statues of the king but now they are on display in the Egyptian Museum. One of these statues is the famed granodiorite statue of Khafre with Horus in falcon sitting behind his head. It is considered one of the most masterful pieces of art to come out of Ancient Egypt.
Pyramid Complex of Menkaure
The builder of the third and smallest pyramid is Menkaure. It is believed that he was the son of Khafre. The base area of his pyramid is about a quarter of the size of the other pyramids and has a height of 65 meters. The size reduction was due to a number of factors such as the limited space on the Giza Plateau, the dearth of limestone, and the substation of granite which was sourced from far away in Aswan. The granite blocks are also much harder to shape. Only the bottom of the stone was made of granite, the rest of the structure was made out of limestone. Three smaller pyramids can be seen juxtaposed to the third pyramid as well. These were used as burials for his queens. The pyramid complex was not completed in Menkaure’s lifetime and a lot of the pyramid’s granite casing blocks were not smoothed. His mortuary and valley temples were originally supposed to be made of limestone blocks encased in granite but were actually finished with whitewash mudbrick. Despite these shortcomings, the mortuary cult of Menkaure carried on for 300 more years following his death.
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