In the fourth dynasty, three large stone pyramids were built at Giza. The design of these pyramids was based on the pyramids that had been built before. These are the largest and sturdiest pyramids that were ever built in ancient Egypt.
The first and largest pyramid was built for the pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops).
The second largest pyramid was built for Khufu's son, Khafra (also known as Chephren). In addition to the usual parts of a pyramid complex, Khafra's pyramid is guarded by a huge sphinx.
Learn more about the sphinx
Finally, the third largest pyramid was built for the pharaoh Menkaure (also known as Mycerinus).
The ancient Egyptians continued to build pyramids for their pharaohs after the Giza pyramids were built. However they were never as big or well-designed as the Giza pyramids.
The plateau of Giza lies to the west of Cairo and there sits the last Ancient Wonder of the World, the great pyramid of Cheops.
The ancient Egyptians built their tombs on the west side of the Nile River and their temples on the east. This practice corresponded to the rise and setting of the sun which represented the cycle of life itself. The east signified rebirth and the west signified death. With the tombs on the west or left bank, the spirits of the dead would be ready to journey into the cycle of life. The Egyptians believed strongly in the afterlife and made complete preparation for this journey.
The three pyramids are actually tombs of three pharaohs of the Old Kingdom. The first pyramid, the largest, was built by King Cheops for his royal body and it took 100,000 men twenty years to complete. There were close to 2 1/2 million blocks of limestone used each weighing approximately two tons. It was originally 146 m high and the side of its square base was 250 m long. In 1954, Kamal al-Mallakh, Director of Antiquities of the Pyramids Area, discovered two rectangular pits cut into the rock on the south side of the Cheops Pyramid. Covered by 41 large limestone blocks, each weighing about 18 tons, was the Cheops wooden boat. This was one of the most important archaeological finds in Egypt as this boat is the most ancient vessel found in perfect condition anywhere in the world. It is over 4500 years old. A second vessel is currently be excavated. The ships were used by the pharaohs to enable their soul to travel to heaven in an everlasting trip within the sun procession.
The second pyramid, the tomb of King Chephren, appears to be the largest, but actually it was constructed on a plateau. King Chephren tried to cast his tomb with granite; however, the job was not completed. You can see evidence of this attempt on the top third of the pyramid. The Sphinx is believed to be a valley temple of King Chephren with the body of a lion and a human head representing King Chephren.
The third pyramid belonged to King Mycerinus. The complex contained the usual valley temple, causeway and funerary temple. A sarcophagus and mummy were also found in the tomb as well as three queen pyramids on the southern side of the structure.
Pyramids were built with great precision. Each was oriented
on the four cardinal points. The funerary temples were built on the east side
of the pyramid with a chamber for a statue of the deceased king inside. The
like image statue was important as the spirits needed to verify they were in
the correct tomb. The entrances always faced north and a chamber for the sarcophagus
was always on the west side of the pyramid.