Note: This question was posted by a user on the question-and-answer website Quora. The answer below was provided by Egypt Travel Blog there and is re-posted here for our readers’ benefit as well.
There are several important points to make in answering this question. The first and most important is that the Great Pyramid at Giza was never lost or hidden, so it could never be discovered or rediscovered. The area around the Pyramids in Giza has been inhabited continuously since the time of the pyramids’ construction, and unlike many other ancient monuments in Egypt and elsewhere, we have no record of the Great Pyramid ever having been covered completely by sand to obscure its view or location.
We do know from the historical records that the Sphinx was once buried up to its neck in sand, which means that it is likely that rising sand dunes may have also covered the base of the Great Pyramid at times. But the majority of this structure has always been visible and it’s location known since it was constructed.
We in the West often speak of ancient sites being “rediscovered” at various points in history when mentions of them in our own historical records have subsided over time and when someone from our area visits this “forgotten” site and re-publicizes it. In other words, references to and knowledge of these sites may have disappeared from writings, scholarship, and conversations in Western societies, while common knowledge of the site may have persisted uninterrupted in societies located physically and geographically closer to them.
This type of “lost site” or “lost city” lore – and fallacy – can be understood well when we consider tales of the “rediscovery” of Petra in Jordan, for example. Petra was never actually lost. People continued to live around it and pass by it when traveling for thousands is years, although those included very few Europeans. When a Swiss explorer happened to come across this site in 1812, we in the West tend to say he “rediscovered” it because he publicized its existence to Western audiences who had largely never heard of this ancient but locally well known site before.
However, he didn’t just stumble upon it by accident. Bedouins who long knew of it’s existence and saw it frequently led him there when he got wind of it and asked to be taken to it. But to his friends, colleagues, and fans back home in Europe, it seemed as if he had “rediscovered” a site which to them had been lost to or previously unknown within their far-removed collective knowledge.
However, unlike Petra in Jordan or similar sites in Egypt, Giza, where the Great Pyramid lies, is not in a remote inaccessible region. It is in an area that is only about 200 km from the Mediterranean Sea and located along one of history’s most well-trafficked waterways, the Nile River. So everyone from great leaders and conquerors to the most junior of soldiers in invading armies to travelers to merchants of the Mediterranean and Far East to passing pilgrims along the land route to Mecca have all been seeing and passing on word of the highly-visible Great Pyramid’s existence continuously throughout history.
The Great Pyramid of Giza has never been lost or hidden and it has remained alive in the collective wisdom of those in the Far West, the Far East, and everywhere in between since the first stones rose from the hot Sahara sand more than 4,500 years ago. Therefore, the Great Pyramid at Giza never needed to be rediscovered.