The Great Pyramid of Giza

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By Elizabeth Sauter

The Great Pyramid is seen to the right of the Great Spyhinx of Giza[1].
The Great Pyramid of Giza is part of the Giza Pyramid Complex and is the largest of the three pyramids there, located in Giza, Egypt. It was built as a tomb for the Pharaoh Khufu, built over a period of twenty years. Archaeologists have studied the Great Pyramid for centuries and have learned widely accepted facts about how these pyramids were constructed, who built them, and why the ancient Egyptians built the Pyramids. However, some people disagree with what these scholars have found over many years of study. One of the loudest and best-known proponents is Erich von Däniken, a Swiss author. von Däniken and his followers believe that the ancient Egyptians did not have either the technology or the ability to construct these pyramids. However, the evidence produced by professional scholars disprove von Däniken's belief.

Background

What It Is

The three Pyramids at the Giza pyramid complex were built primarily during the Old Kingdom, with the first one being built in 2611 BC and the last one being completed by 1292 BC at the latest[2]. The ancient Egyptians believed that their pharaoh was divine, so these large pyramids were built in order to be a final resting place where he could be remembered as majestic and to hold everything he would need in the afterlife[3]; the Giza Complex also had different religious aspects that could be used to help the Pharaoh after his death[4]. Specifically, the Great Pyramid was built for the Pharaoh Khufu over a period of twenty years[5].

Construction

The Great Pyramid of Giza was built with a relatively large number of construction workers, though the number is often debated upon[6]. The stones were quarried and moved from these known locations and moved on sledges to the Giza Plateau[7]. To get the blocks of limestone up the side of the pyramid, there were ramps and men hauled the slabs up with ropes[7]. Since limestone is a soft stone, the ancient Egyptians presumably used flint tools to get the slabs out of the quarry[8].

Context of the Site

The Great Pyramid of Giza was first excavated in 1880 AD by Sir Petrie[5]. Since then, more excavations have been done at the Giza Plateau. These excavations have helped archaeologists confirm that these pyramids were used as tombs for pharaohs[4]. In the pyramid complex, some unassembled boats were found, presumably to bring the Pharaohs to the afterworld[4]; however, not too much is known about the inside of the Pyramid[9].

Pseudoarchaeological Arguments

Alternative Views on Its Construction

A majority of anthropologists and historians, if not all, believe that Egyptian workers helped to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. However, this widely held theory is not believed by some people; they, instead, have put forward their own theories as to how the Great Pyramid must have been built. The most common one was first put forward by Erich von Däniken in his 1968 AD book "Chariot of the Gods."

Astronomical Reasons

In "Chariots of the Gods," von Däniken puts forward that the pyramids lined up with the stars. von Däniken stated that the star Sirius could not possibly have lined up with the Nile flood unless it was simply a coincidence or there was something else that helped them learn about the stars. Along with that, he points out that Ra, one of their gods, was the god of the sun and, coincidentally, the height of the Great Pyramid multiplied was the distance to the sun. Not only that, but he also points out the fact that the Great Pyramid is located on the median and divides continents as well. von Däniken suggested that this precise knowledge of the earth could only mean that beings, not the Egyptians, who had intimate knowledge of the earth and the continents could have built the Pyramid where it is[10].

Length of Construction with Egyptian Tools

von Däniken also doubted the length of time that it took for the Egyptians to build the Great Pyramid of Giza. With the tools, including the rollers that they had, and manpower, it would take just over half a millenium for it to be built. von Dänkiken said that there are no good solutions to the problems with the Egyptian's tools that they used. He also claimed that there is nothing known about how, when, or why the pyramids at Giza were built, and these ancient Egyptian temples, cities, and tombs seemed to come from nowhere. He doubted that Egypt could have created these amazing things with no prehistory and with simple tools, which would mean that these sculptures would take years to build without advanced technology[10].

No Evidence of Workers

The book also claimed that there is no evidence of workers. With no grain storage or evidence of huts that he could find, von Däniken insinuated that there were no Egyptian workers and that outside forces had to help them[10].

Burial Items

von Däniken found it hard to believe that the Egyptians would build massive tombs for their kings. He also noted that it was unusual for the ancient Egyptians to bury jewelry and money with their dead. However, he did suggest that the gods planted the idea in the Egyptians' heads that after many years, their bodies would be given new life and these burial items would be used in their second life[10].

Is Evidence Being Hidden?

Another part in the book, von Däniken suggests that the literal, physical evidence could not actually mean what many people believe it to mean. He goes on to suggest that some ancient Egyptians had some hidden knowledge, unbeknownst to present day scholars, that they eventually hid in places like the pyramids or temples[10].

An Archaeological Response

Archaeological Reasons for the Egyptian Builders

There have been many archaeological studies and digs done in Egypt, especially in the Giza Complex, and there is plenty of evidence that the ancient Egyptians did build the Great Pyramid themselves.

Astronomy

The ancient Egyptians spent a lot of their time studying the stars. It helped them to know how much time had passed, especially for agricultural reasons so they would know when they should begin planting[11]. Archaeologists have found artifacts and drawings of an object called a merkhet[12] and it enabled the ancient Egyptians to determine which way was North. They figured this out just based upon the North Star and could observe some other stars when they came into alignment with the merkhet[13]. Even von Däniken conceded that the Egyptians had plenty of time to study the stars[10]. The ancient Egyptians were incredibly aware of the passage of time because they knew how to study the stars, so they would not have needed outside forces to help them understand the relationship between stars and time.

Construction Time

The Egyptians were incredibly good with the tools that they had, and also had a large enough workforce for them to be able to create all of their temples and statues in a relatively short amount of time. Most of the workers came and worked for the government during the time of the year when the Nile River was flooded and they did not have to work on the farms[14]. There were also many workers who were skilled at certain jobs, such as sculptors and artists as well. Not only that, but there were architects who planned the building of the pyramid. The Egyptians were used to their tools and knew how to use them, and there are plenty of murals of them using their tools as well. They had levers to use, boats to move the other blocks[15], and plenty of other tools that they used to help build the pyramid.

Workers and Where They Resided

There is plenty of evidence that the Egyptian workers resided at the Giza Complex. There are plenty of different buildings that archaeologists believe that the workers lived in[15]. Not only that, but there are also bakeries and sewer systems that the workers had in their living areas as well[6]. And lastly, they had also found tombs that the workers had been buried in as well, and some of the skeletons had been found to have medical care, which helps prove that the workers were well taken care of; because of this, they were most likely Egyptian or they might not have been as well taken care of if they were not native Egyptians[4].

Burial Items

The Egyptians brought these items into their tombs so they would have them in the afterlife[16]. If they believed that it would be useful for them in the afterlife, they would have it buried with them in their tombs[17]. Because of this, they would have any money, servants, clothing, recreational activities, and many other items that the dead person used during his or her lifetime buried with them so they would be able to enjoy them or use them once the deceased person reached the afterlife.

Evidence

Ancient Egyptian society has been studied for many years. Many historians and anthropologists agree on numerous facts and theories about that society. Because of things like the Rosetta Stone and other artifacts, there have been numerous breakthroughs that have helped scholars better understand what the Egyptians were writing and their society. The evidence, which von Däniken believes could not be “that absurd” and how there is very little evidence on how it was built[10], is there on wall paintings and writings, which is how many historians and anthropologists learn about the Egyptian society in the first place.

Importance of Archaeological Facts

This belief that ancient astronauts or aliens posing as gods to build the Pyramids for the ancient Egyptians is incredibly damaging in a few ways. First off, it insinuates that the work numerous generations of historians and anthropologists have done in Egypt is, essentially, all for naught[18] as these pseudoscientists twist or ignore evidence and facts in order to forward their narrative of anyone but the Egyptians could have built the Great Pyramid of Giza.

However, this narrative from these so-called scientists has a more damaging aspect to it: It is also incredibly racist. Egypt, and, naturally, Africa, has an incredibly long history and had plenty of time for humans to learn how to make tools and create massive temples and other wonderful cultural artifacts. Many proponents of this ancient astronaut or alien belief would have no problem believing and arguing that Europeans were able to build the large, intricate cathedrals, buildings, and other artistic things but would turn around and defend their belief that the ancient Egyptians were too primitive to be able to know how to tell time based on the stars and build a Pyramid and other temples[18]. To them, it is unbelievable that African societies would have the ability to produce such beautiful monuments, leading them to believe that conventional scientists are hiding historical evidence of aliens from the public[18].

Conclusion

While some believe that the ancient Egyptians could not have built the Pyramids on their own, this can be disproven by archaeology. It was built by Egyptian workers, who lived in the huts in the complex. They had plenty of time to learn about the stars on their own time, and they were incredibly good with the tools that they had. The burial items were part of their religion, and the evidence is exactly what it means. It is time to give the ancient Egyptians the credit that is due to them.

References

  1. Forsberg, Brett. "Scientists use Lasers to Find Hidden Room inside the Great Pyramid of Giza." EDGYLABS, Edgy Labs, LLC, 26 Aug. 2017, https://edgylabs.com/scientists-use-lasers-to-find-hidden-room-inside-the-great-pyramid-of-giza. Accessed 28 Nov. 2017.
  2. Harrison, George. "How were the Egyptian pyramids built? When and why were they constructed, how many are there and who built them?" The Sun, News Group Newspapers Limited, 28 Oct. 2017, https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/4524622/egyptian-pyramids-built-construction-egypt/. Accessed 31 Oct. 2017.
  3. "Egyptian Pyramids." History, A+E Networks, 2009, www.history.com/topics/ancient-history/the-egyptian-pyramids. Accessed 31 Oct. 2017.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Hawass, Zahi. Currrent World Archaeology, edited by Emma Watts-Plumpkin, 8 Nov. 2003, https://www.world-archaeology.com/features/pyramids-excavation-and-preservation/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mark, Joshua J. "Great Pyramid of Giza." Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited, 19 Dec. 2016, https://www.ancient.eu/Great_Pyramid_of_Giza/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Ojibwa. "Ancient Egypt: Misconceptions About the Pyramids." Daily Kos, Kos Media, LLC, 29 Sept. 2013, https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2013/9/29/1242266/-Ancient-Egypt-Misconceptions-About-the-Pyramids. Accessed 2 Nov. 2017.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Dunham, Dows. "Building an Egyptian Pyramid." Archaeolgoy, vol. 9, no. 3, 1956, pp. 161-63, www.gizapyramids.org/pdf_library/dunham_arch_9_1956.pdf. Accessed 2 Nov. 2017.
  8. Stocks, Denys A. Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt. New York City, Routledge, 2003, www.sci-lib.net/index.php?act=attach&type=post&id=14668. Accessed 2 Nov. 2017.
  9. Hawass, Zahi. "Secrets of the Great Pyramid." Dr. Zahi Hawass, www.drhawass.com/wp/secrets-of-the-great-pyramid/. Accessed 1 Nov. 2017.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 10.5 10.6 von Däniken, Erich. Chariots of the Gods? Effone Electronici Press, 1968, pp. 74-121, anthropology.msu.edu/anp364-fs17/files/2012/08/Erich.Von_.Daniken.Chariots.Of_.The_.Gods_.BD_.pdf. Accessed 2 Nov. 2017.
  11. "Egyptian Astronomy." Explorable, Explorable, https://explorable.com/egyptian-astronomy. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  12. "Astronomy." Egyptian Civilization, Canadian Museum of History, www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/civil/egypt/egcs03e.shtml. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  13. MessageToEagle. "Merkhet – An Ancient Egyptian Timekeeping Instrument." MessageToEagle, MessageToEagle, 15 Jan. 2016, www.messagetoeagle.com/merkhet-an-ancient-egyptian-timekeeping-instrument/. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  14. Rymer, Eric. "Workers in Ancient Egypt." History Link 101, History Source LLC, historylink101.com/n/egypt_1/a-workers.htm. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  15. 15.0 15.1 Webster, Gary. "Aliens or Egyptians - Who Really Built the Pyramids?." HopeChannel, HopeChannel, 1 Mar. 2016, https://www.hopechannel.com/read/aliens-or-egyptians-who-really-built-the-pyramids. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  16. "The Afterlife in Ancient Egypt." NOVA, PBS, 3 Jan. 2006, www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/afterlife-ancient-egypt.html. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  17. "Burial Practices, Afterlife, & Mummies." Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Rosicrucian Order, www.egyptianmuseum.org/burialpracticesgallery. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Benoit, Julien. "Outlandish theories that aliens built the pyramids are rooted in racism." Quartz, Quartz, 18 Sept. 2017, https://qz.com/1080076/racism-is-behind-outlandish-theories-about-africas-ancient-architecture/. Accessed 3 Nov. 2017.