Wondering Egypt

Great Pyramid of Khufu
By Ethan Gelber & the BikeAbout team
  |  Gorp.com
The Great Pyramid of Khufu (BikeAbout.)

Just on the southeastern edge of Cairo, not more than a few hundred meters from the modern buildings of the suburb of Giza, lie three huge pyramids. The tallest and oldest of these pyramids is called the Great Pyramid, or Khufu's pyramid. Built nearly 46 centuries ago to house the tomb of the Pharaoh Khufu, this structure originally stood 147 meters high (481 feet) with each side of its base measuring 230 meters (756 feet — that's 2-1/2 American football fields). Its base covers 5 hectares (13 acres).

The Great Pyramid once had a smooth limestone covering, but that and the very top of the pyramid (which was probably coated in platinum) have long since fallen away. Still, after over 4500 years it's only lost nine meters (35 feet) in height. A lot of blocks. Experts estimate that the Great Pyramid contains well over two million limestone blocks, each weighing between two and fifteen tons apiece. A quick calculation in our heads (2-1/2 million blocks weighing about 3 tons apiece) left us with the mind-numbing estimate that the pyramid weighs at least fifteen billion pounds! Then add that it took an army of 100,000 slaves — working without the aid of any animals — twenty years (actually they only worked during the three or four month-long flood season every year) to complete Cheops' pyramid, and you come up with a bunch of numbers that are nearly overwhelming.


Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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