Washington, Feb 26 : A new study by Italian researchers has determined that two of the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, were conceived as a single project.
According to a report in Discovery News, it is widely believed that the pharaohs Khufu, his son Khafre and grandson Menkaure built their pyramids on the edge of a desert plateau at Giza between 2600 and 2450 BC.
But, according to Giulio Magli of the mathematics department at Milan's Polytechnic University, astronomical alignments and the landscape indicate that the two main pyramids, those identified with the tombs of Khufu and Khafre, were not built in different stages.
On the contrary, they were planned as a single, grand project.
"Khufu was the mind behind the project. He conceived both pyramids to have strong symbolic meaning. He wanted to state forever that his soul had joined the sun god," Magli told Discovery News.
The study suggested that Khufu planned the construction of two pyramids, exactly as his father, Snefru, did in Dahshur. Only later did Khafre claim for himself the slightly smaller pyramid.
Little is known about the 4th dynasty pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566 BC), whose only portrait is a tiny three-inch high statue.
According to Magli, Khufu imagined himself as the "son of the sun god," who was thus destined for eternal life.
"What better way to prove this relationship than making the sun, himself, talk about it" said Magli.
This particular fact is seen during the summer, when observers standing by the Sphinx can see a spectacular sunset between the two pyramids.
"The sun setting between the two pyramids forms an ideal, giant replica of the hieroglyph Akhet," Magli said.
Meaning "horizon," the hieroglyph Akhet held deep symbolic meaning for the ancient Egyptians. It was composed by the hieroglyph "djew", meaning "primeval mountain," and the sun setting or rising in between.
The symbol was linked to the afterlife, since the solar cycle was associated with life and rebirth.
"The name of the great pyramid is Akhet Khufu, meaning 'the horizon of Khufu,'" Magli said.
According to inscriptions found in tombs dated some two hundreds years later, the name of the great pyramid was a precise description of the hieroglyph at the site. And, according to Magli, that hieroglyph "could occur only if the second pyramid existed as well."
Juan Antonio Belmonte, a scientist at the Astrophysics Institute of the Canary Islands and the author of a study on the orientation of ancient Egyptian temples, agrees with Magli.
"I agree with 80 per cent of the study. Some points are weak, but most of the reasoning is fine. It is indeed my idea that both pyramids were imagined as a single common gigantic project," Belmonte told Discovery News.