4) The Great Pyramid originally shone like a glassy star.
In a short film made by the Smithsonian Channel, Jacquelyn Williamson, a Harvard University Egyptologist, gives us details on how the ancient craftsmen and artisans carved and finished the humongous blocks of limestone that are also known as ‘casing stones’. These slanting, yet flat-topped blocks were primarily used for the external facades of the pyramid. And, according to the documentary, the stone surfaces were nigh polished to perfection with a range of abrasives like sandstone, brick and fine sand – in a process not only requiring time and effort, but also refined skills of craftsmanship.
The end result of such high levels of polishing yielded immaculately smooth surfaces that were incredibly shiny beyond reckoning. And, considering that there was limited pollution and smog circa 2500 BC (as opposed to our contemporary times), the Great Pyramid of Giza must have been an otherworldly magnificent spectacle during the time of its completion – with ethereal, glass-like facades basking in the glory of the effulgent sun. Quite poetically and rather aptly, the Ancient Egyptians called the Great Pyramid by the name of ‘Ikhet‘, which simply translates to ‘Glorious Light’.
5) The world’s oldest intact ship found inside the pyramid complex!
Marine based contrivances are probably the last thing to expect when viewing and admiring the sandy wastes of the Giza complex. However, in 1954, archaeologists did stumble across a 153 ft (47 m) long boat made from Lebanese cedar; and it was enclosed inside a sealed pit situated at the foot of the Great Pyramid. Known as the Khufu Ship, the marine-craft was laden with grave goods that were intended for the long journey of the deceased’s afterlife. In essence, it was envisaged as a ‘solar barge’, a ritual vessel that would carry the reinvigorated spirit of the Pharaoh across the heavens with the sun god Ra as his ‘mate’.
Other boat specimens have also been found buried inside the complex, with presumably similar ritualistic purposes of afterlife journeys. However, the Khufu Ship still remains the largest and the oldest of these discovered specimens, with its whopping 2,860 sq ft area. In fact, the monstrous ‘artifact’ is actually the world’s oldest intact ship from antiquity, with the preserved remains still proudly displayed at the Giza Solar boat museum.
6) The ‘red’ Sphinx and its scope of mysticism.
The Great Sphinx of Giza might be dwarfed by the trio of pyramids, but the limestone specimen with its human head and lion body, still remains the world’s largest monolithic statue, and also our planet’s oldest known monumental sculptural piece! To that end, the statue measures 241 ft in length, 63 ft in width and an impressive 66 ft in height. And, as expected from the cryptic ambit of the pyramids, historians are still not sure of the actual builder of the Sphinx – with hypotheses ranging from Khapre, who was Khufu’s son (this being the official conjecture put forth by Egyptologists), Khufu himself, to a lesser known pharaoh known as Djedefre, who was Khapre’s half-brother. Such questions are aptly complemented by another crucial query – what actually was the purpose of the Sphinx?
In any case, most archaeologists concur on the assumption that the facades of the Sphinx were originally plastered over, and then painted in a deep red color. And, on an interesting note, in front of the Sphinx is a stele (an erect slab of granite), which records the enigmatic experience of Pharaoh Thutmose IV. According to the account of this ‘Dream Stele‘, after a great hunt, Thutmose fell asleep at the feet of the statue and had a dream that asked him to clear all the sand from the sculpture, and as a wish he would be offered the throne of Egypt. Historical events do seem follow that prophecy, and apparently the monument even became a place of pilgrimage.
Other Sources: ‘Wonders of the World’ by AA Publishing.