The Only Remaining Original Wonders
There are almost as many theories about the pyramids as there are people studying them. The shape of Egyptian pyramids is thought by some to represent the primordial mound from which the Egyptians believed the earth was created. The shape of a pyramid is thought to be representative of the descending rays of the sun. Their celestial function is given credence by the uncannily accurate measurements of their dimensions, which are equivalent to certain astronomical measurements. Most pyramids were faced with polished, highly reflective white limestone, in order to give them a brilliant appearance when viewed from a distance, but they lost that protective coating in the mists of antiquity. Nobody is really sure what the Sphinx is all about.
The Egyptians were very into mysticism and the afterlife. They believed, for instance, that the dark area of the night sky around which the stars appear to revolve was the physical gateway into the heavens. The pyramids look solid enough on the outside, but they have many shafts and chambers within them. One of the narrow shafts that extends from the main burial chamber through the entire body of the Great Pyramid points directly towards the center of the central, dark area of the night sky. This suggests the pyramid may have been designed to serve as a means to magically launch the deceased pharaoh's soul directly into the abode of the gods, though that is only a guess as to this apparent celestial pointing.
Egypt was far from the only place to engage in pyramid building, though it is the most famous. Long after the end of Egypt's own pyramid-building period, a burst of pyramid-building occurred in what is present-day Sudan, directly south of Egypt along the confluence of the Nile River. This was after much of Egypt came under the rule of the Kings of Napata. While Napatan rule was brief and ceased in 661 BC, the Egyptian influence made an indelible impression, much as, say, the European influence had an effect on the United States. During the later Sudanese Kingdom of Meroe (approximately in the period between 300 BC–300 AD), this pyramid frenzy flowered into a full-blown pyramid-building revival, which saw more than two hundred indigenous, but Egyptian-inspired royal pyramid-tombs constructed in the vicinity of the kingdom's capital cities. There also are pyramids in Mexico and nearby countries, and (subject to much debate) perhaps in Serbia in Europe. The function of the original Egyptian pyramids at Giza, remains open to debate.
The pyramids of Giza are fascinating for many reasons, including their shape, size, orientation, notoriety, age and mystery. They stand at the intersection of life and death, night and day, water and desert, civilization and sterility. The mere fact that they have survived as long as they have, and show no signs of ever going away, imbues them with an aura of immortality possessed by no other man-made features on the face of the earth.