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Ancient sites are an integral part of our society. Not only do they provide us with crucial insights about past events that occurred but give us a greater understanding of how communities lived their everyday lives. In order for us continue to appreciate these Ancient sites, it is of upmost importance that we join together to try and save them for others to experience. The Pyramids of Giza is one magnificent site, consisting of three pyramids each built under the reign of three different Pharaoh’s, constructed from roughly 2550 to 2490 BC. The methods used to preserve, conserve and reconstruct have had various successes as well as failures along the way. Its current preservation is a testament to the work of the original builders, whose innovative ideas created the only Ancient wonder of the world, still standing, however issues still plague the safekeeping of the Pyramids. The organisation UNESCO has enhanced the preservation of the site, and through this has caused limited access for tourists in order to conserve the Pyramids of Giza. Finally, it is between 2000 to 2011, that we see the initiatives of museums reconstructing the site, with the help of The Giza Project so others are still able to learn about it without having to actually visiting it.
In the 4th Dynasty of Egypt in circa 2250 BC, the three Pyramids of Giza were built during a time of intense construction. The pyramids were erected by three pharaoh’s, Khufu, who built the tallest pyramid, known as The Great Pyramid of Giza. Khafre, who built the second pyramid of Giza in circa 2520 BC, as well as the Sphinx and finally the third pyramid which was significantly smaller than the other two, built by Menkure circa 2490 BC.
It is still unknown as to who actually built the Pyramids of Giza, although a popular theory such as one from Ancient Greek historian Herodotus (circa 450 to 435 BC), described the pyramid builders as slaves. Another theory from Pilny(20AD), thought the third pyramid was built by a woman called ‘Rhodopis’, once a slave-courtesan of Aesopus. However, archaeologist Zahi Hawass confirmed the theory to be a myth. According to Hawass these graves of the pyramid builders were discovered in 1990 by a tourist and revealed the workers were in fact buried in tombs. This proves that they were not in fact slaves but hired skilled and intelligent workers who unfortunately died during the process of constructing the pyramids. In honour of their hard work they were buried in tombs near the pyramids.
It has been shown in the very beginning through the Egyptian worker’s innovative and bright ideas, they were able to preserve the site through learning from past mistakes when building the second pyramid in circa 2520 BC and the third pyramid in circa 2490 BC. One particular challenge they faced was freeze thaw from cold weather. Moisture would get into cracks of rocks causing expansion and eventually erosion, and as a result damage the pyramid. Through this, they realised if they wanted the pyramids to last longer, they had to construct joints that were tight enough so water could not get in. As a result of this, they applied this method to The Great Pyramid being the last pyramid they built, and in addition used a stone like granite; a material tough enough to not allow water to pass through. Through this example we can see how these workers continuously improved and educated themselves when constructing the pyramids, and there was a great amount of pride and vigilance that went into the building of these monuments.
The technique of preservation can be shown through the organisation UNESCO, when in 1979 the Pyramids of Giza were listed on The World Heritage List. They were listed under the following criterions (i), (iii) and (vi), being that it ‘represents a masterpiece of human creative genius’, it ‘bears a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared’ and finally to be ‘directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance.’ The four main sites UNESCO was concerned about included protecting the Sphinx, the Cheops complex at Giza and the pyramids of Kephren and Mykerinos. In May 1990, an advisory committee composed of Egyptian experts met to decide what measures were going to be put into place to help with issues surrounding the pyramids such as the uncontrollable development of modern buildings, walls and fences of the nearby village, as well as the growing number of tourists visiting the sites.
As a result of the significant influx of tourists around the site, conservation has taken place in the form of limiting access for tourists to visit certain parts of the pyramids. Another technique used to help conserve the site is a limit imposed on the number of tickets sold in a day to reduce the amount of congestion when entering some of the smaller pyramids. The effect of tourists having limited access has allowed for less damage and enhanced longevity of the site.
Furthermore, the initiatives of museums reconstructing the Pyramids of Giza is shown through 3D technology that has allowed for tourists to still learn about the site, without having to visit it. From 2000 to 2011, the Giza Project at Harvard University under the direction of Peter Der Manuelian and Philip J, partnered with an institution Dassault Systèmes in Paris, in order to build a 3D virtual reconstruction of the Giza Plateau. This reconstruction hopes to show how it might have looked when first built, providing new ways to sightsee, explore and essentially learn about the pyramids. With the help of Egyptologists Nicholas Picardo and Rachel Aronin and the team´s technical artists, the project ensures that the structures of the pyramids as well as temples tombs and objects are depicted in an accurate light. Through the use of updated data from more than a century’s worth of maps, photos expedition diaries and other materials, the Giza Project hopes to effectively replicate that of the original site. This updated data was based upon excavations led by George A. Reisner between 1902 and 1947, in which time support was granted by Harvard University and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston.
Finally, when evaluating how effective the methods were in preserving, conserving or reconstructing the Pyramids of Giza, it is clear to see the attempts to save the site. Through the innovative method of the skilled workers to successfully preserve the site, the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List, limiting access to tourists and finally virtual reconstruction, these methods have dramatically impacted the longevity of the site, and as a result have allowed the only wonder of the Ancient world, to still stand today.
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