is located on the west bank of the Nile, opposite Egypts
modern day capital of Cairo. 17 kilometres to the north of
Saqqara and some 8 kilometres to the south of Abu Rawash,
it is part of the northernmost extension of the necropolis
of ancient Memphis.
Even though the oldest known tomb is a mastaba dated to the
early 1st Dynasty, the site is mainly known because of the
3 pyramids that were built there during the 4th Dynasty. On
a clear day, these three landmark monuments can be seen from
the Citadel of Saladin, to the east of Cairo.
The site itself has not been fully explored, so it is possible
that older tombs are yet to be discovered. The only traces
of activity between the building of the 1st Dynasty mastaba
and the pyramids are some jar-sealings dated to the first
half of the 2nd Dynasty.
is not known what prompted Kheops, the second king of the
4th Dynasty, to build his funerary monument at
Giza. His father, king Snofru, built two pyramids at Dashur,
some 27 kilometres to the south. A third pyramid, located
at Meidum, even more to the south, is also believed to have
been built by Snofru. It is, however, not unlikely that the
proximity of Kheops palace may have helped determine
the location of his pyramid.
During the reign of Kheops predecessor, the shape of
the royal funerary monument had evolved from a Step Pyramid
to a true geometrical pyramid. The pyramid at Meidum was started
as a Step Pyramid, but somewhere during his reign, Snofru
decided to fill up the steps and build a true pyramid. At
the same time, work had already started at Dashur, at the
so-called Bent and Red Pyramids. The size and shape of Kheops
pyramid was thus the result of an evolution that had started
several generations earlier and which would continue for the
generations to come.
the fact that Kheops pyramid was the result of an ongoing
evolution, its internal design makes it a unique monument.
Contrary to most other pyramids, the burial chamber was not
constructed underneath the monument, but inside it. This too,
however, is likely to have been caused by the changing design
plans of the pyramid: an unfinished room underneath the pyramid
was probably originally intended as the kings burial
chamber. That the Great Pyramid of Giza, as it is called today,
was indeed built by Kheops is shown by its Ancient Egyptian
name, "Kheops is the one who belongs to the horizon".
A graffito identifying a team of workmen responsible for building
the stress relieving chambers above the burial chamber mentions
Kheops name, confirming that he was indeed the pyramids
a funerary monument, the pyramid was part of a larger complex
that was to ensure the kings immortality. The foundations
of a satellite pyramid to the south-east of the main pyramid
were discovered in the 1990s. Although satellite pyramids
were a common feature of pyramid complexes throughout the
Old Kingdom, their actual purpose is still being examined.
The hypothesis that they were used for the burial of a statue
representing the king has gained some acceptance. To the east
of his pyramid, Kheops also built three smaller ones for some
female members of his family. A cache next to the northernmost
queens pyramid contained some furniture that once belonged
to queen Hetepheres I, Kheops mother. It is now on exhibit
in the Cairo Museum. Only traces remain of the mortuary temple
that once stood against the pyramids eastern flank.
A massif causeway once connected it to the valley temple,
which has now disappeared underneath the modern-day village
of Nazlet el-Siman.
Kheops pyramid is surrounded to the east, south and
west by groups of mastaba tombs. The cemetery east of his
pyramid was mainly used for members of the kings immediate
family. Among them, we find the tombs of several of Kheops
children, such as prince Hordjedef and queen Hetepheres II.
High officials and priests used the burial fields to the west
of the pyramid. This cemetery would continue to be used throughout
most of the Old Kingdom, until the 6th Dynasty,
by priests in the service of Kheops mortuary cult.