Who Built the Pyramids of Giza? Three Pharaohs

By Margaux | Updated Oct. 27, 2022

The three famous Pyramids of Giza were built by three pharaohs that succeeded each other: Pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Khafre was the son of Khufu, and Menkaure was the son of Khafre, so technically the three Pyramids of Giza were built by three generations of the same family as their tombs.

Of course, the pharaohs did not build the pyramids by themselves, so read on to find out more about who was in charge of the construction, and who the people were that actually put all of the stones together to form these magnificent monuments.

Khufu's Pyramid Was Built by Khufu in The Old Kingdom

 The Pyramids of GizaThe Pyramids of Giza

Khufu's Pyramid, also known as the Great Pyramid of Giza because it is the largest of the three pyramids on the site, was built by Khufu, who was the son of Sneferu, the founding pharaoh of the Fourth Dynasty of Egypt during the Old Kingdom.

The Fourth Dynasty of Egypt in the Old Kingdom is often referred to as a "golden age", due to it being a period of peace, with the advancement of having a concentrated government, as well as prosperity as a result of increased trade with other countries, evidenced in documentation found from this time period. The dynasty is dated from approximately 2613 BC until approximately 2494 BC, and a lot of monuments date back to this time. Most famously, of course, are the Pyramids of Giza.

Khufu's Vizier (Hemiunu) Designed the Khufu's Pyramid

A Smaller Pyramid near the Giza PyramidA Smaller Pyramid near the Giza Pyramid

Khufu's fame stems mostly from his pyramid — the Great Pyramid of Giza, on the northeastern side of the Giza plateau, where he was buried following his passing. The pyramid was built of an estimated 2.3 million blocks, which were quarried locally at Giza, and construction was completed in 2560 BC.

The Great Pyramid has three smaller pyramids near it which are also associated with the pyramid, and three pits for boats, which each contained a ship, two of which were recovered intact and can soon be seen at the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza (which is opening in November 2022).

The design of the pyramid was envisioned by the vizier of Khufu, Hemiunu. The vizier held an important position, being the main executor of duties of the pharaoh, laying down codes of behavior. This position is sort of comparable to today's position of vice president. Due to their important role, viziers usually inherited the position from their fathers in a similar way that pharaoh-ship was passed down from father to son.

You can read more about the vizier's role in society and the other important positions that were held in ancient Egypt's social hierarchy and how they related to each other in this piece about the Egyptian social pyramid.

Relative reading: What is the Egyptian Social Pyramid? — Pharoahs to Slaves

The Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure

Pyramid of Menkaure and Pyramids of QueensPyramid of Menkaure and Pyramids of Queens

The other two pyramids on the site at Giza are the Pyramid of Khafre and the Pyramid of Menkaure. While not as large as the Great Pyramid of Giza, these were also huge architectural projects, measuring at 136 meters (446 feet) and 61 meters (200 feet) tall respectively.

It is likely that these two pyramids were also built by their pharaoh's viziers, in a similar manner to which the pyramid of Khufu was built. A little less is known about this, however, with more information being available on Hemiunu, Khufu's vizier, because more archaeological evidence was found in his tomb, including a statue of him.

Suggested reading: The Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu Pyramid): How to Visit It

The Workforce Used to Build the Pyramid

In order to actually built the pyramid, a workforce of an estimated 20,000 to 36,000 people was likely to have been used. Some experts think these were slaves taken from wars with Nubia and Libya, while others argue that they were paid laborers after discoveries were made of nearby settlements where workers would have lived while they were building the pyramids.

Excavations on this site have revealed a burial ground with thousands of workers who died with deformed bones and broken limbs as a result of the construction of the pyramid. This site, at about a kilometer from the pyramid (0.6 miles), gave a lot of insight into how difficult and heavy construction was. Workers died at an average age of 30 to 35 years, compared to 50 to 60 years which was the average life expectancy for nobility at the time.

It is believed that more workers would come during the months that the Nile flooded the fields, as a result of the lack of work available on the fields. Farmers were thus also believed to have been a part of this workforce, and there were likely beliefs that contributing to the work at the pyramids would also help their own prosperity in their afterlife.

Other archaeologists are excavating remains of a bakery that was found nearby which was likely responsible for feeding this huge number of workers. Once more work has been done there, it can hopefully shed some more light on how those that built the pyramids lived.

Visiting Information: How to Visit the Pyramids of Giza

Visit the Giza PyramidsVisit the Giza Pyramids

Ticket prices to visit the Giza Pyramids come in at 200 Egyptian pounds (10.2 US dollars) per person, with additional fees to either approach the Sphinx or enter the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, or the Pyramid of Menkaure:

Sphinx of Giza: 80 EGP or 5 US dollars

Entry to the Great Pyramid: 400 EGP or 20.4 US dollars

Entry to the 2nd or the 3rd pyramid: 100 EGP or 5.1 US dollars

During your visit, we recommend bringing plenty of water, sunscreen, and wearing suitable footwear as you'll be walking around a lot. To help you prepare and plan your visit and make the most out of your time in Giza, we have written about the top tips to keep in mind for your trip to Giza.

Suggested reading: 15 Top Egypt Travel Tips

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