The Giza Necropolis is approximately twenty kilometers from Cairo, Egypt, on the Giza Plateau, west of the town of the same name. It was first employed during the second dynasty, and pottery from the reign of Nynecher was discovered. It is home to the famed pyramids erected by the fourth Cheops dynasty’s pharaohs, Kefren and Mycerinus.
The Giza necropolis is ancient Egypt‘s biggest, containing tombs reaching back to the early dynasties. During the fourth dynasty, the pyramid of Cheops, also known as the Great Pyramid, the pyramid of Khafre, and the relatively small pyramid of Menkaura were erected, along with several other minor subsidiaries, burial temples, Valley Temples, wharves, processional roads, and pits containing ceremonial solar boats; the Great Sphinx of Giza was also carved into the plateau’s rock.
Associated with these royal monuments are several mastaba of royal family members, others awarded by the pharaoh to officials and priests, and some later monuments tied to the religion of ancestors.
The core of one of the three major pyramids has been intact, but only a portion of its lining, polished limestone or pink granite, has been saved, since these pieces were taken to construct structures in the adjacent city of Cairo.
The pyramid of Khafre (Kephren) seems to be the tallest, but this is due to its location on the Giza plateau; in reality, it is the one assigned to Jufu (Cheops) that is the tallest and most voluminous. The Great Pyramid was regarded one of the Seven Wonders of the World in antiquity, and it is the only one that still stands.
Giza had several hundred tombs during the end of the Old Empire, during the sixth dynasty.
Facts about the Giza Necropolis:
The necropolis covers 160 km2 on both sides of a wadi, with the pyramids on one side and a vast area inhabited with aristocratic mastabas next to them. The funerary structures and the sphinx are located on a plateau. More specific tombs may be found on the opposite side of the wadi, on certain hills.
It is located to the north and is comprised of the Great Pyramid (or Pyramid of Cheops), the three queens’ pyramids, a satellite pyramid, two funerary temples, the Temple of the Valley, a road that connects both structures, tombs or graves with solar boats, mastabas of nobles and courtiers, and multiple mastabas organised in three cemeteries. Among these mastabas is the tomb of Hemiunu, the Great Pyramid’s builder.
Cheops was the one who picked the Giza region to begin construction on his burial complex, which was around 40 kilometres distant from his father Sneferu’s pyramid. To prevent a slope like Dashur’s, a level platform was erected over the rock, leaving a natural rock mass within the pyramid made with local limestone pieces laid in horizontal rows.
Gypsum mortar was also placed on the facing stones to help them move. Finally, the construction was encased with white Tura limestone, however just a few pieces survive near the pyramid’s base.
When the pyramid was constructed, its circumference was paved, reaching a wall that surrounded the whole region and measuring roughly 10 meters wide. Only a portion of the north side of this pavement survives. The pyramid’s interior is divided into three rooms.
According to Ludwig Borchardt’s opinion, the three chambers were erected as a result of design revisions during construction. The subterranean room seems to have been abandoned since it was never completed.
It is only accessible through a tiny corridor. The queen’s chamber is positioned in the pyramid’s central axis and is almost done; it was closed to put a pharaoh statue.
The king’s chamber is encased in red granite blocks, and above it are five discharge chambers with a final sloping roof that assists to spread the structure’s weight. This structure was incredibly original, and there is no precedence for anything like it.
Pyramids of the Queen
Cheops had three further pyramids erected on the eastern side of the main pyramid, which were thought to protect the mummies of the queens. These structures are known in Egyptology as GIa, GIb, and GIc: “G” of Giza, “I” of Cheops’ pyramid, and “a, b, c” by the sequence in which they are organised, from north to south.
Their bases are square. In terms of measurements, their edges are the sixth part of Cheops’ and have a slope of roughly 52o. The inner core was staggered, with each one having a varied amount of steps.
The three pyramids contain relics of their polished limestone coverings, and they all feature an interior corridor along the central axis that leads to the funeral chamber. Another funerary structure worth mentioning is Hetepheres I’s tomb.
Western Cemetery’ of Giza Necropolis
The western cemetery is the biggest in the necropolis and comprises several mastaba dating from the fourth to sixth dynasties. Archaeologists divide their work into three categories:
The so-called “staircase” cemetery, which is situated near to the pyramid and consists mostly of the graves of the priests in charge of burial ceremonies.
The “mastabas village” region, which has the best-built structures, the city of Jufu Hemiunu (G4000), and the biggest of them, the G2000. Finally, towards the western end, there is a cluster of miniature mastabas.
Southern Cemetery’ of Giza necropolis
It is located close south of the Great Pyramid of Jufu and is dominated by nine huge mastabas, some of which have been ascribed to Menkaura figures.
There are additional tombs from the fifth and sixth dynasties among them. The spectacular mastaba of the city of the fifth dynasty, Seshemnefer IV, is located to the southeast of this cemetery. The entrance is flanked by two obelisks and accessed through a ramp flanked by two obelisks.
Eastern Cemetery’ of Giza Necropolis
This section of the necropolis was set aside for royal family burials and is positioned near to the queens’ pyramids. Among the mastabas are those of Jufu’s sons Kauab (G7120 and G7110), Dyedefhor (G7220 and G7210), and Jufujaf (G7140 and G7130).
A limestone coffin adorned with palace façade themes was discovered in mastaba G7340. The mastaba of Anjaf and his wife Hetepheres (G7510) is the biggest and dominates the necropolis’ eastern edge. During its excavation, a painted limestone bust of Anjaf, considered a masterpiece of Old Empire sculpture, was discovered.
Funeral Complex of Khafre
The Khafre burial complex is considerably better preserved than Khufu’s, with a stunning temple coated in pink Aswan granite and linked to the Temple of the Valley by a 495-meter-long paved path. The satellite pyramid, five moats with solar boats, and more than a hundred enormous chambers, considered warehouses or workshops at the service of the artists, are located to the south of the pyramid.
In a southwesterly orientation, Kephren’s pyramid is aligned with his father Cheops’ pyramid. It’s a bit smaller, although it may seem taller since it’s on higher terrain. It is Egypt’s second-largest pyramid, at 143.5 meters tall. Tura’s limestone coating is intact on the outside, in the upper zone of his vertex.
Near the base, there are additional remnants of the granite face. On the north side, there are two entrances with descending corridors: one at 11.50 meters from the base level and the other almost at ground level. The inner construction differs much from that of Cheops and is more akin to that of Djedefra in Abu Roash.
The lower tunnel leads to a 1.7-meter-high horizontal corridor. A room with a sloping ceiling, farther down the passageway, is said to have been used to keep the offerings. Ascending the corridor, one finds the connection with the other corridor of the top entrance: both merge in the burial chamber at this point.
The ceiling is slanted and supported by stone beams, and the sarcophagus is composed of black granite and has a two-piece lid. Belzoni was able to access the room in 1818, but the pharaoh’s mummy was missing, replaced with the remnants of an ox bone.
Egyptologist Rainer Satldemann hypothesises that these bones were a later offering placed in the coffin after the pharaoh’s corpse was taken.
The Valley Temple is situated adjacent to the Great Sphinx. It is in excellent condition, with the pillars and lintels almost intact. The structure is made of big chunks of limestone from local quarries and is coated with pink Aswan granite from roughly 800 kilometers away. It features a square floor design and each side is little more than forty meters long.
The temple’s two doors were flanked by two eight-meter-long sphinxes that resembled lions, and the door jambs were most likely constructed of cedarwood. Auguste Mariette, a French archaeologist, found, among other things, the renowned statue of Khefren under Horus’ care, constructed of green diorite, which is currently housed in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum.
The sculpture is 168 cm tall and is almost complete. Khefren wears the royal scarf, the “nemes,” over his head, and a falcon, Horus’ symbol, defends him with its wings at the rear. He sits on a throne, his arms shaped like lions, and the “Sematary” sign of the union of Upper and Lower Egypt appears at his sides.
Complex of the Great Sphinx
The Great Sphinx is a statue carved into a ledge of limestone on the Giza Necropolis. It is about 57 metres long and 20 metres tall. 8 It’s thought to be part of the Jafra burial complex, which it would symbolise.
A temple dedicated to him was constructed nearby during the Old Empire, while another was built farther north, in front of the sphinx, during the New Empire. A processional route connects both to the Pyramid of Khafre.
Thutmose IV (1425-1417 BC) reconstructed it. When he assumed the throne, he constructed a chapel between the lion’s paws and placed a massive granite stele in the center, known as the Dream Stele.
The poem narrates the account of Thutmose IV, a prince who fell asleep near the Sphinx while on a hunting excursion and in his dream, the Sphinx came to him and promised him the thrones of Upper and Lower Egypt in exchange for repairing the monument.
Thutmose IV’s sacrifices and libations to the Sphinx are likewise etched on the stele. During the XVIIIth Dynasty, his worship was resurrected. Amenhotep II constructed a new temple in the northeast, devoted to the sphinx, similar to Horemjet (Horus on the horizon).
Some inscriptions on additional steles constructed on the occasion of royal visits under this dynasty, and subsequently during the New Empire, refer to the Sphinx sanctuary as Setepet (The Chosen One).
Menkaura Funeral Home and Cemetery
The overall structure resembles a pyramidal complex. The pharaoh’s pyramid, a temple dedicated to the dead monarch on the east side of the pyramid, and a Temple of the Valley, all linked by a 600-meter procession path. This route is parallel to the pyramid’s axis, as opposed to its predecessors, which created an angle. Other graves of princes and queens surround it.
In addition to the three queens’ pyramids erected to the south of the pharaoh’s, to the southeast of the burial temple, there is a necropolis for the priests dedicated to the king’s worship, near to the quarry used for the monuments’ construction. Throughout the Ancient Empire, the religion of Menkaura was preserved.
The Menkaure pyramid is positioned at one extremity of the Giza Necropolis, facing south. It is the smallest of the three major pyramids. Its structure was coated in limestone and red granite, which was a more costly material. The entrance is on the north side of the building.
It features a 31-meter-long descending tunnel with a 26-degree gradient. The passage leads to a chamber known as the panel chamber due to the presence of a series of false doors; from here, a horizontal passage leads to a rectangular antechamber, where there is another ascending passage towards the pyramid’s center, but it is unfinished due to its construction being abandoned.
The burial chamber is located in the center of the floor of this antechamber and may be accessed by a very short tunnel. The burial chamber is a rectangular hole in the rock with a curving granite ceiling. Before entering the chamber, on the right, there is a room with six niches carved quite deeply into the north and east walls.
The basalt sarcophagus found in the burial cave was lost when the ship Beatrice was wrecked off the coast of Cartagena (Spain) on October 13, 1838. A wooden tomb containing some bone remains was also discovered, although it was dated far after Mycerinus’ reign, some eighteen hundred years later.
Jentkaus Funeral Home
Another necropolis is located north of the Menkaura road and is dominated by the tomb of Queen Jentkaus I, which is frequently referred to as the Fourth Pyramid of Giza.
It features a tiny funerary temple to the east of the tomb, which is accessible by a causeway that connects it to the landing stage close to the Temple of the Valley of Menkaura. There are no ruins of her own Valley Temple, implying that the queen had to share the one in Menkaura.
A city of priests was erected next to the highway and spreads into the desert surrounding some fields. The queen was worshipped throughout the fifth and sixth dynasties, according to the pottery discovered.
When Jentkaus married Userkaf and legitimised his ascension to the throne as a Great Royal Wife, it seems that the objective was to stress the significance of Jentkaus, a relative of the final pharaohs of the fourth dynasty and a connection with those of the fifth.