An entire funerary complex, called a necropolis, or "city of the dead," can be found in Giza outside of modern-day Cairo. In this complex are located the so-called Great Pyramids of Giza. Traveling from Cairo, one can begin to see these three huge pyramids rising from an entire complex of buildings constructed for three pharaohs from Dynasty 4 of the Old Kingdom. The largest, made for the pharaoh Khufu (ruler from 2589 to 2566 BC), covers 13 acres of solid rubble that rises up along four slanted faces to a height of about 480 feet at the central point. Granite and smooth limestone originally covered each pyramid and some of it remains on the top of the pyramid of Khafra (d. 2532 BC). The smallest pyramid, dedicated to King Menkaura (2532-2503 BC), still has some of the original red granite along its base. These pyramids were made of solid stone, except for the internal burial chamber beneath the pyramid and the various sham chambers, false passageways, corridors, and escape routes that descended diagonally into the pyramid either toward or away from the burial chamber. The original entry, sealed after burial, might well be several stories up on one face of the pyramid, making subsequent entry almost impossible except for the most dedicated tomb robbers.
   Since Ancient Egyptians worshipped a sun god, these pyramids might have symbolized the rays of the sun. The elevated processional path that leads past the monumental Sphinx toward the pyramids follows an east-west direction toward the setting sun. Around the complex is a series of temples, built in the post-and-lintel system and made of granite and alabaster. More recent excavations at the site reveal an entire town built for the manual laborers, who spent a lifetime constructing these monuments. Given that each stone, quarried nearby, might weigh about 2.5 tons, the process of rolling the stones on logs or dragging them on smooth wet sand from the quarry to the pyramid, and then pulling the stones up wooden ramps that sloped to the top, was not only a feat of engineering, but of extremely intense physical labor. It is no wonder the Ancient Greeks considered the Pyramids at Giza one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Historical Dictionaries of Literature and the Arts. . 2008.

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