Update on some of Egypt’s most awe-inspiring antiquities, focusing on the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.
As much as has been gleaned of the purpose and methods of the ancient Egyptians who erected the massive structures on the Giza plateau in the 4th Dynasty of the Old Kingdom (beginning around 2613 b.c.), much speculation remains. Who better, then, to speculate than Hawass (Curse of the Pharaohs, 2004, etc.), secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, who has been working at the site for nearly 20 years? (The U.S.-educated author, however, takes care to credit foreign archaeologists for their significant discoveries and theories.) The kings themselves, principally the three generations of Sneferu, Khufu (known in Greek as Cheops) and Khafre, quite possibly viewed these architectural wonders both as lasting monuments and as a kind of spiritual space shuttle from which an entombed monarch’s spirit would be launched to join the gods among the circumpolar stars that obsessed the ancient astronomers, there to become gods themselves and play a role in maintaining the blessings of Egypt. These extraterrestrial aspirations, Hawass points out, made astronomical and dimensional precision key concerns of the builders: The Great Pyramid is aligned within one degree of true north and is perfectly square at the base within a few centimeters. Beyond the still-sketchy knowledge of intricate royal rites (even the rules for succession to the kingship remain unclear), much new information has been obtained through excavation of the burial and housing sites of those who worked as craftsmen and laborers. These are the “ordinary people” who, Hawass insists, were not slaves (particularly not Jewish slaves) but peasant volunteers doing a civic duty, often on rotation from their inundated farms at times of flooding. Arrays of recently unearthed bake ovens and brewing vessels attest to the vast support system that gave rise to the pyramids.
Debunks myths and adds more intrigue to the Giza legacy.