What the Great Pyramids of Giza Originally Looked Like

Ask any­one who’s trav­eled to the Great Pyra­mids of Giza: no mat­ter how many times you’ve seen them in pho­tographs or on tele­vi­sion, you’re nev­er real­ly pre­pared to come face-to-face with them in real life. But you can get fair­ly close to at least the appear­ance of real life by see­ing the Pyra­mids in 4k res­o­lu­tion, as they’re pre­sent­ed in the video above from trav­el, archi­tec­ture, and his­to­ry Youtu­ber Manuel Bra­vo (pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture for his expla­na­tion of Fil­ip­po Brunelleschi’s dome atop the Flo­rence Cathe­dral). This isn’t just vaca­tion footage: Bra­vo tells the sto­ry of the Pyra­mids, puts them in con­text, and even incor­po­rates vir­tu­al re-cre­ations of what they would have looked like in their hey­day.

We know the Pyra­mids as icon­ic ruins, undoubt­ed­ly mighty but also seri­ous­ly dilap­i­dat­ed. When they were built in the 26th cen­tu­ry BC, they were cov­ered in white lime­stone exte­ri­or shells, giv­ing them the strik­ing­ly smooth if chro­mat­i­cal­ly reversed appear­ance of a 2001-style mono­lith — a char­ac­ter­is­tic that no doubt encour­ages cer­tain the­o­rists who imag­ine the con­struc­tion process as hav­ing been exe­cut­ed by beings from out­er space.

The tech­ni­cal­ly inclined Bra­vo pre­sum­ably has lit­tle time for such notions, fill­ing the video as he does with details about the archi­tec­ture and engi­neer­ing of the Pyra­mids, many of them thor­ough­ly human in nature, such as the delib­er­ate­ly con­fus­ing pas­sage­ways meant to throw off plun­der­ers.

Along with high-res­o­lu­tion footage and ren­der­ings of what the Pyra­mids looked like then and look like now, Bra­vo also includes his own on-foot explo­rations, show­ing us cor­ners of the com­plex (and one espe­cial­ly claus­tro­phobe-unfriend­ly tun­nel) that we don’t nor­mal­ly see unless we take a tour our­selves. This close-up per­spec­tive gives him the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect the mod­ern human expe­ri­ence of these ancient mon­u­ments to their vast scale and his­tor­i­cal­ly dis­tant con­cep­tion. To be awed and even over­whelmed is per­haps the most nat­ur­al response to the Pyra­mids, and for some, it’s worth the trip to expe­ri­ence that feel­ing alone. For oth­ers, answer­ing the ques­tion of exact­ly how and why they awe and over­whelm becomes the work of a life­time.

Relat­ed con­tent:

A Walk­ing Tour Around the Pyra­mids of Giza: 2 Hours in Hi Def

Take a 360° Inter­ac­tive Tour Inside the Great Pyra­mid of Giza

Take a 3D Tour Through Ancient Giza, Includ­ing the Great Pyra­mids, the Sphinx & More

What the Great Pyra­mid of Giza Would’ve Looked Like When First Built: It Was Gleam­ing, Reflec­tive White

Who Built the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids & How Did They Do It?: New Arche­o­log­i­cal Evi­dence Busts Ancient Myths

The Grate­ful Dead Play at the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids, in the Shad­ow of the Sphinx (1978)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (11)
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  • Jon says:

    What utter rub­bish 2million stone blocks weigh­ing 2–6 tonnes built in 25 years, thats vir­tu­al­ly 1 block every two min­utes 8 hours a day 365 days a year.

  • mike sanders says:

    I find his com­men­tary irri­tat­ing and dif­fi­cult to under­stand his Eng­lish is not well artic­u­lat­ed and has strange emphases he needs to prac­tise nor­mal Eng­lish speak­ing.

  • Nelson says:

    White civ­i­liza­tion.

  • N du Plessis says:

    Thank the Lord for dif­fer­ences in cul­tures. How bor­ing it would have been if we were all the same.
    Very inter­est­ing!

  • Enal Posi says:

    Maybe you need to work on your Eng­lish?

  • Ena Posi says:

    Thanks for the vid. How­ev­er, the assump­tion that the envi­ron­ment was already a sandy dessert a few mil­len­nia ago is ques­tion­able.

  • Vinister george says:

    Wow.… Super

  • Peter McQuillan says:

    Actu­al­ly. It was a sandy desert. The Egyp­tians saw the west as the place of the dead. Because that’s where the sun sets, and that area was bar­ren sand. The east was the lush Nile. This is well known, to those who know.

  • Mike Polotto says:

    I real­ly do not under­stand why every­one online feels they need to take lil jabs and digs at peo­ple who leave com­ments. Stop try­ing to scream to the world how much you think you know… and how wrong oth­er peo­ple are. When did this become a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion? Attack­ing peo­ple does not make you look more intel­li­gent. It’s ok to give your opin­ions or your the­o­ries and it’s NOT ok to pounce on oth­er peo­ple’s stances. This mod­ern day hate speech is beyond unpro­duc­tive and is the rea­son why we can’t seem to get any of our major ques­tions answered. Sep­a­rate your­self from knowl­edge. YOU are mean­ing­less when it comes to seek­ing truth.

  • Paul says:

    We all know they weren’t built by Egyp­tians 2000 odd years ago, time to tell the real truth when they were built and why!!

  • Tshepo says:

    Black peo­ple built pyra­mids not aliens or what­ev­er they say. Mod­ern Arab look­ing Egypt­ian peo­ple are not orig­i­nal­ly from Africa.The Pharoah and all mum­mies are black peo­ple. The Greeks took Egypt­ian Gods and made them their own. We’re the fathers of science,art and civ­i­liza­tion period.We shall not feed on your lies any­more. Black peo­ple are wak­ing up. The geno­cide you’ve been doing since before slav­ery has claimed bil­lions of black lives.

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