Giza lies outside of Cairo, Egypt, and is home to one of the most iconic structures of early civilization on earth, the Pyramids of Giza. These magnificent pyramids are the most famous of all of Egypt’s pyramids, largely because of the scale of their construction, which occurred from about 2550 to 2459 BC. This period was the time when human civilization was not developed especially in masonry. The Pyramids of Gaza are the oldest among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The materials used to build the pyramids included limestone, pink granite, basalt, and mud bricks.
Limestone was one of the materials used to build the Pyramids of Giza. It formed the bulk of the materials used in the construction of the pyramids and rough limestone was utilized in the core of the pyramid. White limestone, which is finer, was used to coat the interior walls and as the main material for the outer casing. The low-grade limestone that was used in the core of the pyramids is found huge quantities in Egypt, and it was found near the building sites during the pyramid construction era. Workers extracted the stone in blocks by marking out crevices with just enough room for them to be cut into blocks and transported to the sites. Tools used in this case included chisels, pickaxes, and hammers made from granite.
The fine white limestone for the interior décor and the mortuary temples was slightly hard to extract and had to be sourced further away from the building sites. This type of limestone was found deeper beneath the soil surface in regions including the West bank of the Nile in the hills of Muqattam in the present day regions of Maasara and Tura. The workmen would excavate the soil and dig tunnels to reach the deposits which would be as deep as 160 feet below the surface. Huge pieces of stone were then dug up to be divided into blocks which were then transported on wooden sledges towed by oxen on a path paved with mud from the Nile to make movement easier to the construction site.
The granite was used in conjunction with limestone to cover the interior walls of the pyramids though much more sparingly since it was distributed in several parts of South of Egypt and was not as close as the limestone quarries were to the building sites. Pink granite is thought to have been mined in Aswan which had some quarries.
Basalt is also known as alabaster and it was often used to cover the floor of the pyramid. It was extracted from open pits or underground deposits, particularly from an Oligocene flow where there was once a lake that connected to the Nile. During this time the basalt was transported on the lake and into the Nile to its shores where it was moved to the construction site of the pyramids.
Mud bricks were perhaps the most common building material in all of Egypt. In the pyramids it was used to build the walls, these were fired in an oven as a measure to make them last longer.
Like the Eiffel Tower of France and the Colosseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Giza are a defining landmark in Egypt and an important part of the culture of the people of Egypt. The impressive architecture that began years ago is proof of the heights of human achievement of the past.
About the Author
Benjamin Elisha Sawe holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Statistics and an MBA in Strategic Management. He is a frequent World Atlas contributor.
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