King Khufu: Who?

180px-Khufu2.jpgThis might not seem like a very well known character from history, but his tomb attracts several million tourists every year. Khufu, king of Egypt, built the Great Pyramid of Giza in about 2500B.C. His incredible tomb is the only remaining ancient wonder of the world, yet not a whole lot is known about this ancient king. We’ll take a look at Khufu, some of the myths about him and his pyramid, and the problem with some of the sources on him.


Khufu was the king of Egypt during the 4th dynasty. Notice king, not Pharaoh. The name Pharaoh was not used until about 1000 B.C, because the word means “Great House.” Alluding to the temple the king lived in. Saying Pharaoh would be a lot like saying the White House in modern times. For example, the news might say “The White House released a statement today.” The actual White House didn’t(I don’t think so at least), but the leaders did. So Pharaoh Khufu would mean “The Great house Khufu.”

Anyways…. Khufu is most well known for the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Many people say the “Great Pyramids,” but in fact there is only one pyramid called the Great Pyramid(the others are lame(okay not actually, just smaller)).

The pyramid contains so many bricks in it that if it were possible to stack them side by side, they would reach 2/3 of the way around the world. It is believed the pyramid took about 20 years to construct with somewhere between 20,000-100,000 people working on it year round. Now who were those people? Many people think of the Israelite slaves as the builders of the pyramids, but more recent discoveries have found that is not the case at all.

For one thing, the pyramids were built too early for the Israelite people(the pyramids would have been as old to them as the medieval castles are to us). Plus, it appears the workers on the pyramids were treated fairly well. The construction of the pyramids had to be very exact and precise and slave labor would not have been the most reliable. Instead, it seems like it was teams of skilled builders who directed the lower class of Egypt. Also, no it was not aliens. We now know they used levers, pulleys, and ledges built into the pyramid, and they cut these stones off later.

Khufu himself seemed to have been a very benevolent ruler who reigned over a period of great wealth for the people. Or else he was a cruel dictator who caused his people to suffer and there was widespread poverty. Those seem to differ a bit, so it causes a little confusion.

Many Ancient Egyptian sources and traditions paint him as the first image. A great king who brought so much success to Egypt. However, Greek and Egyptian  historians around 300 B.C. all say he was the second image: a cruel, oppressive king. With little archaeological evidence, it is hard to say who is correct, but he had a good reputation throughout much of Ancient Egyptian culture, so it seems difficult to believe he could have been as terrible as Herodotus said he was(who is Herodotus? You’re in luck, I wrote a post about him too).

Khufu ordered the construction of one of the most magnificent structures ever built. We don’t know if he had a great rule blessed by the gods or if he was a terrible ruler, but he has forever changed the landscape of Egypt(literally. That pyramid is 13 acres and 488 feet tall) and greatly improved the tourism industry of Egypt. Khufu may have lived thousands of years ago, but he is a great figure to be remembered and this is his snapshot from history.


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