Constructed between 2589 and 2504 B.C., the Egyptian pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure, built in that order, are a testament to ancient planning and engineering.
How these pyramids were built is a source of speculation and debate. Many researchers believe that a ramp system of some form was used to move the blocks into place during construction. When the pyramids were completed they were encased in white limestone, most of which is lost today.
Recent research suggests that when the blocks were being moved across the desert, a small amount of water was put on the sand in front of them, making them easier to move. Additionally, archaeologists have found new evidence that Giza had a bustling port, allowing goods to be shipped to the site from across Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean.
Despite the differences among the three pyramids (Khufu’s pyramid, the “Great Pyramid,” is several times the mass of Menkaure’s) the southeast tips of each pyramid align together almost precisely. Each pyramid had a mortuary and valley temple, with a causeway connecting them. They also had smaller pyramids referred to as satellite or queens’ pyramids.
The Sphinx, an enigmatic monument usually associated with king Khafre, stands watch near his valley temple. In addition, tombs sprawling to the east and west of Khufu’s pyramid contain the remains of officials, royal relatives and others who had the privilege to be buried there.
To the south of the Sphinx is the “Wall of the Crow,” which is 656 feet (200 meters) long and 32 feet (10 m) thick. South of the wall is a settlement that archaeologists sometimes refer to as “the lost city.” This city has barracks that may have housed troops. Recently, archaeologists have discovered a mansion in the city that would have been used by senior officials. The pyramid workers may have lived in simpler housing located by the pyramids themselves.
Recent research has also revealed evidence for a massive catering operation that kept people at Giza fed.