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Khufu's Great Pyramid - Seven Wonders

More than any other ancient peoples, the Egyptians seemed to spend the best years of their lives, and certainly their best efforts, in preparation for death. The greatest toil, and the most perfect resting place, went to the pharaoh. It is a splendid tribute to all that industry that the Great Pyramid of the Pharaoh Khufu at Giza near Cairo is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World that still stands. The Khufu's Great Pyramid is one of the seven wonders of the ancienf world and one of the seven wonders of the world.

It would be difficult to imagine today's world without the Great Pyramid. It is more than 224 metres along each side, and 137 metres high about the height of St Paul's Cathedral in London. It is a solid mass of masonry consisting of 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each about 2 h tonnes and, with the outer casing, weighing altogether nearly 7 million tonnes. All this monumental effort was expended by 100,000 workmen, using no draught animals, no mechanical equipment and only the strength of their muscles to move each block. It took them twenty years to build Khufu's
pyramid, in about 2,700 B.C.

Nearly are two more pyramids, and from an aircraft above them you can see south-wards a whole landscape of pyramids each built to preserve one man's body under millions of tonnes of masonry.

The reason behind it all was that the Egyptians believed their pharaoh was a god son ofRe, the Sun-god. His spirit or soul could not survive in the afterworld unless his body was properly preserved, and for his journey to that world he would need his treasure, furniture, clothing, ornaments and all the regalia of his rank. All these things, therefore, had to be put into the pyramid with his body.

The pharaoh was not alone in needing the things of this world in his next life. The same was considered true of all Egyptians. A schoolboy dying prematurely would be buried with his exercise books; a carpenter with his tools; and for every dead person there would be plates of food in the tomb. So when, thousands of years later they re-emerged under the skilful probing of modern archaeologists, a way of life and a pattern of culture was revealed more vividly than any history book could portray.

We learn, for instance, that the pharaohs and their advisers knew that not even millions of stone blocks were sufficient deterrent to the tomb robbers of their times. Deep inside their tombs we can see how they dealt with the problem of thieves by building dummy corridors. Along these corridors they placed deep pits traps from which there was no escape for any plunderer who fell in. How many ancient thieves died in this grisly way we shall never know, but the death pits are still there and your heart can still miss a beat as you look down to where one false step could lead you.

It is an awe inspiring experience to walk, sometimes crouching, sometimes upright, through the sloping, dimly lit corridor inside Khufu's pyramid, where the pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world 5,000 years ago, intended that no human being should ever walk.

A steep passage leads to the pharaoh's last resting place, a soundless room furnished now with only a huge empty granite coffn. After the size of the pyramid, the room seems strangely small. The passage was sealed after Khufu's funeral by releasing granite blocks that slid into place to form part of the masonry.

What happened to the pharaoh's body? Curiously, from the very earliest descriptions ofthe Great Pyramid, the coffn room has always been described as empty. Perhaps, when the accumulated knowledge of twenty years' hard labour was being passed around by 100,000 workmen, tomb robbers were able to piece together a detailed account of the secret interior structure of the pyramid and work out a plan to rob it.

Perhaps, too, they stole the royal mummy so as to leave no trace of their vandalism. Since Egyptians would consider that as soon as the mummy ceased to exist its soul would die, the irony is that the Great Pyramid was built for nothing.

Khufu's successor, it is believed, was his brother Cephren, who built the second great pyramid at Giza, next to Khufu's. Cephren's face is familiar, for it is the face of the Sphinx. Nearly 5,000 years ago this pharaoh had the Sphinx carved out in his own likeness, to remind Egyptians that their ruler was at one with the gods.

The third pyramid at Giza, the smallest of the three, was built by Menkaura. He is a pharaoh about whom very little is known, except that he reigned for a much shorter period than either of his predecessors Khufu and Cephren.

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