Mankind has always been compelled to build monuments. Whether for religious, political, or pragmatic reasons, structures from throughout history stand as representations of the civilizations and people that built them. One of the greatest and most iconic is The Pyramids of Giza.
The Pyramids of Giza were built over a 20 year period around 2500 B.C. They are the oldest and only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest man-made structure in the world at 455 feet for 3,800 years until the Lincoln Cathedral in England was completed in 1311. The Pyramids are a wonder of ancient engineering, made of 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite, with some weighing as much as 80 tons each. The Pyramids are geometrically perfect, directly aligned with the four compass points within fractions of a degree of accuracy. While scavengers have left us with the the rugged exterior we see today, the original polished limestone casing stones would have given each triangular face a flawless appearance while they glistened in the desert sun.
The Pyramid complex was built as a burial site for a number of different Egyptian kings (referred to as Pharaoh) of the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, most notably the Pharaoh Khufu for whom the largest Pyramid was built for. Not only was the Pharaoh the supreme political leader and owner of all land, he (or she) was also the chief priest and religious leader, the intermediary between the people and the Egyptian pantheon of gods. While not considered to be an explicit incarnation of a deity, the people considered them divinely appointed as administers of the maat, a term given to the gods’ divine order of truth, justice, and cosmic order established at creation. This centralized theocracy paired with the economic and agricultural stability of Nile River created a remarkably stable civilization in the ancient world. This stability allowed the ancient Egyptian culture to expand beyond mere survival, and develop art, science, architecture, and linguistics that rivaled the ancient cultures of Greece and Rome, yet preceded them by thousands of years.
People groups have been recorded living in the fertile Nile River delta since the beginning of recorded history. The first kingdom was founded in 3150 B.C. by King Menes, with successive dynasties ruling Egypt for over 3000 years, making it one of the longest unified civilizations in history. The marvels of this ancient civilization where hidden to western civilization until the groundbreaking discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799, breaking the code of Hieroglyphic and Demotic scripts and launching the modern study of Egyptology. The discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922, launched a frenzy of “Tut-mania” in the 1920s that revitalized western interest in the era and cemented Ancient Egypt as an icon of popular culture.
Great civilizations throughout history have left monuments that attest to their greatness. The vast majority have been erected to celebrate accomplishments, demonstrate piety, or symbolize dominance. However the irony of these monuments is how their physical permanence bring more attention to what does not remain, than to what does. We must recognize that while inanimate stone objects may stand thousands of years, the powers that established them have faded into dust. It is through the study and preservation of these monuments we learn the lessons of history, and remind ourselves of the true and eternal things that truly stand and never fade away.