As one of the seven wonders of the world, the Egyptian Pyramids have fascinated everyone from archeologists to history enthusiasts for centuries. The pyramids are the most recognizable symbol of ancient Egypt, which were built for three generations of pharaohs. Among them is the Great Pyramid, built for pharaoh Khufu around 2570 BC.
Although it is still unknown exactly how the Egyptian Pyramids were constructed, historians believe 100,000 men labored for almost 30 years to create the Great Pyramid. Although looters stole many treasures before the first excavation in 1880, archeologists have discovered many incredible things inside the pyramids. Here’s everything you need to know about ancient Egypt’s most unexpected discoveries.
How Were the Pyramids Built?
While 1998’s The Prince of Egypt might not be 100 percent historically accurate, it gave us some idea about how the ancient pyramids were constructed. The construction of the pyramids is one of history’s greatest mysteries, but researchers have some plausible theories. They found other ways to move the stones without modern technologies, like cranes.
Researchers found a 4,500-year-old ramp system used to haul the massive stones. It’s thought that they used a sled and pulled the stones with ropes. Although no one is fully sure that this was the method, it’s the only evidence they have to explain the construction.
Ahead of Their Time
The first of the main pyramids was built in the early 26th century BC. Although the question of how they were constructed remains a mystery, their construction suggests ancient Egyptians had a firm grasp on the kinds of simple machines that could have helped make this impossible task possible.
Based on findings near the pyramids, some researchers theorized a rope-and-pulley system was employed to build the pyramids. Similar pulley systems were well-documented in Greek technology, but the ancient Egyptians predated them by about 2,000 years. The ancient Egyptians must have been way ahead of their time to build such incredible structures.
What Did the Pyramids Originally Look Like?
If you visit the pyramids today, they blend in with the sandy desert surrounding the ancient site. However, when they were built, they were covered in polished limestone that reflected the Egyptian sun. The stunning pyramids added to the impression of Giza as a magical port city.
As time passed, the smooth white limestone casing was removed and used in other constructions. What is seen today is the underlying core structure. Only a little of the original outer white limestone remains on the top of the pyramid of Khafra, but that remnant doesn’t do their original beauty justice.
How Many Sides Does the Great Pyramid Have?
Despite what you may think, the Great Pyramid has eight sides. The base of the pyramid is a square, but the four sides are evenly split from the base to the top by a very subtle indent. The discovery was made in 1940 by a British Air Force pilot named P. Groves as he flew over the pyramid.
Groves reportedly noticed the site and took a photograph showing shadows that revealed the indentations. This subtle line is only visible from above at dawn and dusk due to the shadows cast on the pyramid. It only adds to the mystery of the pyramid.
Proof of Advanced Tools
Throughout years of research, archaeologists believe the ancient Egyptians had more advanced tools than we thought. Evidence to support these claims was found in Khufu’s sarcophagus. The only object in the King’s Chamber is a sarcophagus made of a single granite block.
Although looters stole most of the contents, the empty sarcophagus has three small holes drilled into it for the now-missing lid to attach. The granite is not perfectly smooth, displaying tool marks matching those of copper saws and hand drills. They would have needed advanced tools to create the tomb.
The Maze Under the Pyramid
Below the sand of the pyramids is what was previously thought to be a mythical structure. The labyrinth is an extraordinary underground complex of chambers and tunnels made of limestone. It was considered a myth until archaeologists discovered the remains of the ancient maze.
The structure has yet to be excavated, but it reportedly stretches 55 miles underneath the pyramid of Hawara. It contained trapdoors and dead ends, but tomb robbers managed to penetrate these defenses. The labyrinth was reportedly built to protect Amenemhet’s burial chamber.
A Secret Chamber
Many things have been discovered inside the Great Pyramid, but a new ultra-powerful scan could reveal the identities of two mysterious voids inside. The larger of the two voids is above the grand gallery and is about 98 feet long, according to previous scans.
Archaeologists are uncertain what they will find in the void, which could be one large area or several small rooms. With these new scans, they hope to find the function of the void. The best outcome is the possibility of finding the opening to the hidden burial chamber of Khufu.
On the Verge of New Discoveries
While several myths and legends surround the Egyptian Pyramids, researchers have little scientific information about their physical properties. Physicists recently started studying how the Great Pyramid would interact with electromagnetic waves. Calculations showed that the pyramid could concentrate electromagnetic energy in its internal chambers and under its base.
The team of physicists constructed a small model of the pyramid to understand the behavior of the radio waves. Interestingly, more energy was found in the chamber where the remains of Khufu and his wife rested. Scientists were convinced the electromagnetic energy came from the sun.
Discoveries Inside the Chambers
Only a handful of artifacts have ever been recovered from the Great Pyramid. Archeologists have found the Dixon Relics, discovered in the Queen’s Chamber. The Dixon Relics are a hook, a granite ball, and a short rod. It’s thought that priests used this as part of a ritual.
Meanwhile, another artifact from the pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara is the statue of Osiris, the Egyptian god of the underworld. It is a notable Egyptian god, and no one expected to find the statue in the crack of a wall.
Mysterious Boxes in the Tunnels
One of the archeologists involved in the Pyramid research, Brien Forrester, made one of the most startling discoveries inside the tunnels. He found 20 rock boxes built from Aswan granite. These boxes were cut with remarkable accuracy, which lends further credibility to claims that the civilization that built the pyramids were far more advanced than we knew.
What is more interesting is that each of these boxes weighs 100 tons. Some speculate that the boxes were burial sites for prized animals and livestock, but these claims cannot be proved. Further speculation persists that the boxes contain some type of energy. But authorities have solidly debunked the claims. The purpose of these boxes are a source of mystery and remain open to speculation.
Some Chambers Generate Heat:
Is this an intentional function of their construction or just an accidental consequence of it? We are not sure; what we are certain of is that some chambers in the Great Pyramid do generate heat while others remain cool. Experts offer the opinion that this could be a result of ancient heat generator technology.
The heating chambers were located at the top of the Pyramid. Because of this, there is speculation that the heat could result from sun rays on the chambers. We are unsure which is true as every chamber seems to contain its mystery. Perhaps the answer is in other chambers.
More Mysteries: Were the Great Pyramids Tombs or Power Plants?
Popular accounts refer to the Great Pyramids as the resting place of Egyptian Kings and Pharaohs. Recent discoveries reveal that the Pyramids might be more than the final resting place for the dead. Some conspiracy theorists assert that ancient Egypt had access to electricity, and the pyramids were giant power plants.
The proof is found in the pyramids themselves. Some etchings show ancient Egyptians holding torches that appear to be powered by an electric source. Water flowing through the underground tunnels can also create an electric current. Additional scientific evidence reveals that the shafts in the pyramids were crafted from slightly radioactive granite; this ionizes the air and creates an environment comparable to a conductive insulating cable.
Built with Air Shafts:
While still on the subject of incredible discoveries, no one knows why the Great Pyramid is the only Pyramid that is built with airshafts. These air shafts were designed to align with the stars, which is a whole new mystery. What is more incredible is how the ancient Egyptians cut such precise shafts without advanced tools? And where did they get the knowledge to place them in alignment with the stars? More mysteries.
In determining the reason for the shaft design, some reference ancient Egyptians’ reverence for the afterlife. They reason that the star alignment shafts have to do with sending the dead to the afterlife. More radical conspiracy theorists suppose that the shafts were used to signal aliens.
The Great Pyramid Doors
If you think you have heard it all, the entrance doors to the pyramids are estimated to weigh an incredible 20 tons, and you could push them open with one shove. Of course, the mind rebels at the thought of a human being able to open a 20-ton door with only a single push. But this is a testament to the incredible construction.
These doors were constructed with such precise balance that it would be possible for you to open them in one shove. The doors were first discovered in the 1800s during the Great Pyramid exploration, and it took very little effort to open them. This begs the question, how did this ancient civilization create such perfectly balanced doors with no advanced technology?
What is in the Big Void?
Another intriguing discovery made in the Great Pyramid is a mysterious chamber with no apparent use. This chamber is called the big void. The chamber is called the big void because it is a large empty room, and it is not connected with any passages inside the Great Pyramid. This makes you wonder why the big void was built and why it was isolated from other chambers. Some speculate that it is to keep something in or prevent people from entering.
Scientists believe the chamber was built as a sort of support to the Pyramid; that is, to relieve some of the weight and prevent the Grand Gallery from closing in. Tourists can access the Grand Gallery if they hunch down through a long tunnel. The big void is almost equal to the Grand Gallery and sits directly above the Grand Gallery.
Lined Up with the Stars:
Ancient Egyptians spent a lot of time studying the constellations and attempting to read the skies; we see some justification for that here. It would seem that ancient Egyptians enjoyed aligning their construction with outer space. The shafts were not the only piece of construction that were aligned with the stars; all three Pyramids of Giza were also aligned with outer space.
The Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure pyramids perfectly aligned with the famous Orion’s Belt stars. The pyramids were aligned with Alnitak, Alnilam, and Mintaka. What makes this discovery puzzling is that the Orion’s Belt wasn’t discovered until 2,000 years after constructing the pyramids. How did ancient Egyptians manage to accurately measure the placement of stars and build their pyramids to align with these constellations?
Are Pyramids Connected with the Sun?
There are various speculations as to who built the pyramids and for what reason. Some believe the pyramids were built by aliens and were supposed to be a beacon to other aliens. Some also believe that it was built by a more advanced human civilization. Others subscribe to the notion that the pyramids were used as power plants in ancient Egypt. If these explanations don’t sound plausible, there’s alternative speculation, which is more interesting.
Some cultural experts speculate that the pyramids were built to help the dead King ascend to Sun Ra, the God of the Sun. This explanation clarifies why the pyramids are in perfect alignment with the stars. And also why tombs are usually filled with objects that could aid the dead King in the afterlife.
Better Precision than the Royal Observatory:
It is possible that ancient Egyptians were more advanced than we knew. Do you know how old Egyptians one-upped modern technology in discovering Orion’s Belt 2,000 years earlier? It has been discovered that the pyramid chambers also point north with much greater precision than the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
The accuracy of this feat is incredible as it points to the use of advanced technology and strategies. And we are not speaking about pointing towards the random or general direction of North, rather the specific direction towards magnetic North. The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, founded in 1675, sets the general time to GTC (Greenwich Mean Time or Prime Meridian Time). Setting up the Royal Observatory alone took several centuries; what technologies and strategies were ancient Egyptians working with to discover the north centuries earlier and with better precision?
Evidence of Mathematical Constants
Again, there is enough evidence to prove that ancient Egyptians had foreknowledge of mathematical constants on late modern discoveries. If you subtract the length of the Great Pyramid from its height, the result you get is 314.16 – 100 times Pi. If you then add the two sides together in meters, the result also equals 100 times Phi. This is known as the Golden Number used in architecture, art, and theology.
This discovery is baffling because Pi was not established as a mathematical constant until 1793, centuries after ancient Egyptians had discovered it. It is important to note that ancient Egyptians used cubits to take measurements, and one cubit is equal to 0.536 meters. This means the circumference of a circle that has the diameter of a single cubit equals Pi. This is proof that ancient Egyptians were capable of and already doing complex mathematical calculations before we even conceived them.
Structures Around the Pyramids:
Necropolis, have you heard of the term before? Necropolis translates into the City of the Dead; it describes the Pyramid’s immediate surroundings or structures. Today, the pyramids stand alone in a desert area, but that was not always the case, as would be later discovered. In their heyday, the pyramids were surrounded by many structures and had people taking care of them. Even today, and despite being surrounded by the Necropolis, the pyramids are still important town structures.
Other structures surrounding the pyramids included temples for honoring the dead rulers and religious buildings dedicated to relevant gods. The priests and staff who worked in the temples and looked after the dead kings after death also lived close to the pyramids. And, of course, the Great Sphinx of Giza was also situated near the pyramids.
Who Built the Great Sphinx?
Like the mystery surrounding the pyramids, no one knows who constructed the Sphinx and why it was built. The Sphinx is subject to a lot of speculations, and conspiracy theorists never stop inventing new stories. Two theories examine the question of who was behind the construction of the Sphinx. The first theory credits the creation of the Sphinx to Khafre, who also built the second-largest Pyramid. If this theory is true, then the Sphinx was built around 2500 BCE.
But some archeologists and scholars determine the Sphinx be of an older time, even older than Khafre himself. On this basis, the second theory credits the building of the Sphinx to Khufu, who was Khafre’s father and also the mastermind behind the construction of the Great Pyramid.
17 New Pyramids in Giza
As if the Great Sphinx was not enough, Giza is about to be the site of 17 new pyramids. Archeologists and scientists, using satellite technology, have uncovered 17 new pyramids around Giza. The satellite, which was used to detect hidden structures underneath the Earth’s surface, also led to the discovery of over 1,000 burial sites hidden in the earth.
Already, crews are on the ground studying and examining two of the newly unearthed pyramids. Even though new pyramids are still being discovered and studied, the oldest one remains the Pyramid of Djoser.
The Pyramid of Djoser
The Pyramid of Djoser is the oldest of all pyramids and is believed to have been constructed in the 27th century BC. This Pyramid is situated in an enclosed courtyard and is surrounded by numerous ritual embellishments and temples. Unlike the Great Pyramid, this is covered by burial sites, graves, and temples for honoring the dead. The body of the Pyramid has also endured a lot of damage as weather conditions have severely corroded it.
The Pyramid of Djoser also features a smaller pyramid structure known as the mudbrick structure. This feature comprises multiple complexes and is unique as it is not present in the structure of other pyramids. A similar concept to other pyramids is a burial chamber, but no body was found in the chamber when the Pyramid was discovered. However, there are indications that the Pyramid may have been King Djoser’s tomb.
A Structure Taller than the Pyramid of Giza
The Pyramid of Giza was the tallest building in the world for a total of 3,871 years. A taller structure was not built until the Lincoln Cathedral in London in 1311 — about 4,000 years after. It is, however, incredible that ancient Egyptians completed the Pyramid of Giza in 20 years, but it took over 200 years for England to finish the construction of the Lincoln Cathedral.
A look at both structures will convince you that the Pyramid of Giza is still the tallest of the two. That was because the Cathedral’s central spire collapsed in 1594, and it was never reconstructed after that. This essentially means the Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world for a total of 238 years. Its importance lies not in the record it set but in the one it broke.
The Last Man Standing:
Of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Great Pyramid is the only one still standing. The Statue of Zeus was destroyed by an earthquake, the same as the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The majestic Temple of Artemis was wrecked and sacked by a Christian mob in 401 CE, and the Colossus of Rhodes was torn down in 654 CE. None of these structures could withstand the full brunt of nature’s wrath like the Great Pyramid and other pyramids.
The Great Pyramid was built between 2584 – 2561 BCE. This ancient structure had the same natural enemies that the other 7 Ancient Wonders of the World had. The only difference is that throughout the centuries, whenever inclement and harsh weather conditions tested it, the Pyramid endured it and came out on top.
On the West Embankment:
Due to certain biases, the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids on the same side of the river Nile — on the west dam. The pyramids were also all facing the sun as it was believed that the sun was the home of the dead. An alternative reason for building pyramids on the west dam is due to fear of grave robbers. Egyptian kings feared being robbed after death, so they took all their wealth to the grave or tomb.
The belief that the pyramids were a safe place to store wealth after death was soon debunked as the wealth only made pyramids a convenient target for grave robbers. The pyramids were designed so that only those who knew their way around the secret passages could reach the burial chambers. But this was not enough to deter grave robbers who still managed to navigate their way around the treasure trove.
Little Afterlife Statues:
Ancient Egyptians had many customs and traditions; perhaps one of the most important is their belief in the afterlife. This is why they bury their dead with things they believe will be useful to them after death. These things include gold, jewelry, clothes, and even food.
Another thing that Egyptians tried to take to the afterlife were little afterlife statues. It is believed that these statues will come to life in the afterlife and take care of all the needs of the dead King. One particular tomb had over 400 of these little statues in it.
A Failed Attempt at Destroying the Pyramids
In the 12th century, Al-Aziz, a Kurdish ruler, aspired to demolish the legacy of the ancient Egyptians. Al-Aziz’s reason for wanting to demolish the pyramids was uncertain, but he went along to implement his plan to destroy the giant structures. He soon found out that any attempt to destroy the pyramids will cost as much as it took to erect them in the first place. He abandoned his mission not long after.
That was not all; before giving up on this dream, Al-Aziz managed to leave his mark on Menkaure’s Pyramid. He left a large slash on one side of the Pyramid; the slash is still visible today. That more damage was not done to the pyramids is a testament to the amount of thought and preparation that went into making them sturdy and unyielding.
Aligned With the Stars, Seen From the Moon:
Scientists estimate that the Pyramids could potentially be seen from the moon due to their reflective surfaces. The pyramids can also be seen in all their glory by people residing in the hills and mountains of neighboring Israel.
Another name given to the pyramids by the ancient Egyptians is “Ikhet,” which means Glorious Light. We would probably never know how brightly the pyramids shine because harsh weather conditions have degraded most surfaces.
Temperature Control Inside the Pyramids:
Do you know that although certain parts of the Pyramid generate heat, the structure itself never goes above a comparatively cold temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit? Official temperature readings reveal that the most common temperature in a pyramid is 68 degrees Fahrenheit. How this is possible is not certain, but we know that while the pyramids themselves are a marvel, they house some intriguing mysteries.
The pyramids also have a ventilation system that is made of airshafts. In case of heat, these shafts are opened to let in cool air and cause a drop in temperature. However, what is incredible is that no matter the temperature outside, the temperature inside the Pyramid is always at 68 degrees Fahrenheit. This marvelous feat of engineering was achieved without advanced technology.
Did Slaves Build the Pyramids?
Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not built with slave labor but by paid workers. Studies reveal that the pyramids were designed and built by paid workers who spent hours working on the structure. The pyramids could only have been built by a specialized labor force — people who had studied architecture and building. These people were paid and appreciated for their skills.
In 2010, archeologists discovered the tombs of paid workers as conclusive evidence that those who worked on the pyramids were not slave workers. These people had their bodies preserved in the sand and were buried with food items explains that they were not poor slaves.
The First Pyramids
Pyramids are geometrical shapes with four sides and a pointed tip that points towards the sky. But not all pyramids have four sides or a pointed tip. The earliest pyramids had flat surfaces and did not resemble typical pyramids with triangular sides. However, like other Pyramids, they were also used as tombs.
The Pyramid of Djoser is the oldest in Egypt, and it also has a flat top. Irrespective of the shape, side, or top of the pyramids, they all contained burial chambers. Flat-top pyramids are known as Mastabas.
The Tombs of the People:
Mastabas are flat-top pyramids; these pyramids have their burial chambers hidden underground. It is not Pharaohs or Kings that are buried in these small tombs but their loyal servants. These servants were not important or wealthy enough to warrant their pyramids, but they were laid to rest in the flat-top Mastabas.
The Egyptian belief influenced this practice in the afterlife. They believe that their buried subjects will serve and tend them in the next world. There was also the belief that these souls will guide the soul of the king to the afterlife.
The Brain Behind the First Pyramid
If you have seen the acclaimed movie “The Mummy,” then you are familiar with Imhotep. Imhotep was a real-life person; he was the brain behind the construction of the first Pyramid. He was also Djoser’s chief minister. Imhotep designed and supervised the building of the first Pyramid from the laying of the first block to the finishing of its pointing tip.
Imhotep was one of the finest architects of his time. Due to his achievements and contribution to constructing the first Pyramid, Djoser commissioned a statue to present Imhotep’s name in the King’s court.
The Egyptian Afterlife:
We have already established the pyramids as the vehicle that guides the king’s and pharaoh’s souls into the afterlife. The afterlife is one of the most important aspects of Egyptian culture; they believe there is life after death. And the afterlife is like you returning home after a long journey.
The Egyptians also believe that life after death is free from all hardships and suffering of any kind. When burying their dead, Egyptians bury them with precious items and things they believe will be useful to the dead or missed by the dead. They do all these to ensure that the dead are comfortable in the afterlife. This is why Pharaohs take all their wealth with them to the grave.