(Last updated on: 02/04/2020)
When we think of Egypt, and especially Ancient Egypt, some things just spring to mind instantly: pharaohs, mummies and of course, pyramids. We learnt sooo much during our travels through Egypt! Here are 10 fascinating Egyptian pyramid facts to blow your mind…
1. There’s a lot of them!
There are actually anywhere between 80 and 120 pyramids in Egypt. Built as tombs for pharaohs and queens, the pyramids date back to the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom. They are all different shapes and sizes. Most people are only familiar with the iconic pyramids in Giza, but we actually enjoyed exploring lots of the lesser-known and less touristy ones too.
More pyramids are actually being discovered by archaeologists as the years go on and you can visit sites where pyramids are currently being uncovered, which is pretty cool!
2. They are all on the West Bank of the River Nile
All of the pyramids were built on this side of the river. This means they were (and are) closer to the setting sun and therefore to the mythological realm of the dead.
The West Bank is also home to valleys, villages, shrines, temples, ancient workstations and more.
Some of the world’s most important archaeological sites are located here.
Bonus Egyptian pyramid facts: because of this association with death the sun was said to die in the west each night – and the souls of the pharaohs were said to connect with the setting sun.
3. We don’t know for sure how they were built
Was it aliens? Most likely not, although that is a favoured theory among a lot of people. It seems to be just an extraordinary feat of building work, likely carried out by members of the lower classes.
Graves of pyramid builders were discovered in the 90s: simple tombs with bread and beer for the afterlife, meaning it is unlikely that the builders were slaves as has been suggested in the past.
According to artwork discovered on a wall, the process of moving the slabs to the building area may have been as simple as pouring water onto sand which makes it easier to pull large slabs on stone. This is because the friction is reduced.
Sadly, not much else is known about how the Egyptians built the pyramids. If only they’d left behind a diagram…
4. The Great Pyramid of Giza can tell the time
The most famous pyramids are those at Giza, and the star of the show is known as the Great Pyramid. It was the tomb of a Fourth Dynasty pharaoh named Khufu, and is the only one of the original Seven Wonders of the World to be left relatively intact. And it can tell the time!
Because of its size, it acts as a sundial. There are marks in the stone, and the shadows are used to tell the time.
Not only that, the Great Pyramid also helped the Ancient Egyptians define the solar year. This is because it can also signal equinoxes and solstices.
5. The oldest pyramid in Egypt was built in the 17th Century BC
The Pyramid of Djoser is part of the Saqqara necropolis site. This is the second most famous pyramid location in Egypt, and lies northwest of Memphis. It is a step pyramid and has 4 sides with 6 tiers, and is said to be the oldest pyramid in Egypt.
Djoser was the first king of the Third Dynasty. He was around in approximately 2670 BCE, meaning the pyramid itself dates back to just after this. Djoser is also said to be first king to build in stone!
6. The pyramids in Giza have their own guard
You might recognise him – he’s called the Great Sphinx, and he is largest monolith statue in the world. Made of limestone, the statue represents the mythical creature known as a sphinx: the body of a lion and the head of a human.
He is 73 metres long (240 ft) and 20 metres high (66ft). He is believed to have been built by the Old Kingdom Egyptians during the reign of Pharaoh Khafre, and is said to have the pharaoh’s face. You can learn more about the Sphinx HERE.
There are also many human guards around the pyramids, watching over tourists and making sure that everyone is behaving appropriately. They are, however, corrupt in some instances and will accept bribes to turn the other way and let tourists climb and clamber all over these precious buildings…
7. In the 12th century, the pyramids at Giza were almost destroyed
Al-Aziz, a Kurdish ruler and the second Ayyubid Sultan of Egypt, tried to demolish the pyramids. Given their size, he gave up – the task was simply to big for him. However, he did manage to leave a big hole in the north face of Menkaure’s Pyramid.
He wanted to destroy them because he saw them as ‘instruments of idolatry’ and they clashed with his faith.
8. The pyramids at Giza align with the stars
Whether intentional or not, the three pyramids at the complex in Giza line up precisely with the constellation of Orion. These stars were associated with Osiris, Ancient Egyptian god of rebirth and the afterlife.
As the pyramids are basically fancy tombs, it makes sense that they are linked to life after death and being reborn – so the star alignment could well have been intended by the builders, or those who commissioned the pyramids to be built.
9. The inside of a pyramid is often cooler than outside
Egypt gets remarkably hot. However, the pyramids – especially the ones that aren’t as heavily frequented by tourists – can offer some reprieve from the heat. If you do visit a pyramid that’s busy and full of visitors, though, the opposite can happen!
The Great Pyramid actually maintains a constant temperature. In its King’s Chamber, it’s always 20 degrees celsius (68 degrees F) no matter how hot it is outside. This is said to be earliest example of air conditioning in history…
10. They really are the centre of the world
To put it scientifically, the Great Pyramid and the other pyramids at Giza are located exactly where the longest line of longitude and the longest line of latitude meet.
This is the exact centre of all landmass on earth!
A theologian and Lutheran minister, Dr Joseph Seiss from Maryland, USA, discovered this in 1877. Nobody is entirely sure why they’re located where they are, and what exactly it means – but it’s one of the more interesting Egyptian pyramid facts nonetheless!
There you have it: 10 fascinating Egyptian pyramid facts. Maybe you already knew all of them, or maybe this has been a learning curve for you. Either way, everyone can agree that pyramids are pretty cool…