Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
The construction of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids have amazed people throughout the centuries. Who built the Ancient Egyptian pyramids? Why were they built? How were they built? Who built them? What was there purpose? What was inside the Ancient Egyptian pyramids? These are just some of the many questions which surround the Ancient Egyptian pyramids.
History of the Pyramids - When were the pyramids built and Who built the built the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids?
The history of the pyramid and their construction was intermittent. Who built the built the Ancient Egyptian them and when were they built? The first Egyptian pyramid was built called the Step Pyramid, at Saqqara for King Djoser (2668 - 2649 who was one of the kings of the 3rd Dynasty. The Golden Age of the pyramids only lasted for about 100 years. The Golden Age of the pyramids was when the great pyramids at Giza were constructed during the historical period of the Old Kingdom (2686 BC - 2181 BC). The practise was abandoned during the First Intermediate Period (2181 BC - 2040 BC). During the Middle Kingdom (2040 BC - 1782 BC) some of the Pharaohs started building pyramids again. But by the period of the New Kingdom (1570 BC - 1070 BC) the tradition and history of building the pyramid monument finally ended and the Pharaohs of Egypt were then buried in the rock cut tombs in the Valley of the Kings near Thebes.
History - Why were Ancient Egyptian Pyramids built? The Importance of the Sun
The history of the pyramids have been lost over time. It is not certain why the pyramids were built as monuments to the Pharaohs but many Egyptologists believe that they were linked the religion and beliefs of the Ancient Egyptians. The early Egyptian priests evolved a creation myth, or Cosmogony, to explain how some of the Gods and Goddesses came into being. The Sun God Ra (as Atum) was believed to have risen from the primeval ocean to the first, conical-shaped, mound of earth and then created the world. The Ancient Egyptians therefore revered the mound as an image of creation. The first rays of the sun fell on Sun God Ra (as Atum) marking the way to heaven by ascending the rays of the sun. The pyramids - mounds of masonary - were a material representation of the rays of the sun. It is easy to imagine how Ancient Egyptians would see the association of the pyramid and the sun and how the structure could be a means whereby the dead king could ascend to heaven.
The Pyramids and the Importance of the Stars - The Indestructibles
The sun lead the way to the heavens but where was the final destination? The most important group of stars to the Ancient Egyptians were called the 'Indestructibles' (in the bowl of Ursa Minor & Ursa Major). The Indestructibles were the two bright stars that always could be seen circling the North Pole. These stars circled an unmoveable area which the Ancient Egyptians believed was heaven. The positioning of the pyramids were of great importance as they were built to align north with a single, perfectly aligned vent, or shaft which was built into the internal structure of the pyramids pointing directly to the area they believed was heaven. The shaft led, at an angle, from the burial chamber to the outside. The soul of the Pharaoh was thus able to travel from the burial chamber, up the shaft, on the path to heaven. The Pyramids were therefore believed to be Resurrection vehicles - a 'Stargate' leading to heaven and eternal life.
Building the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
Building the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids was a complicated and time consuming task. Various stages had to be completed:
- Marking out was stage 1 of building Pyramids - Marking out the ground involved complex mathematics. Precise calculations were required to set out the corner blocks, the angle of the sloping sides, the height and the dead center of the structure
- Selecting and locating the stones was stage 2 of building Pyramids
- Pink granite came from Aswan
- Limestone came from Tura
- Transporting the stones was stage 3 of building Pyramids - Transport was by ships or barges. Specially constructed man-made canals and landing stages were used for transporting the materials and were finally delivered to the building sites by sledge
- Cutting the stones was stage 4 of building Pyramids - The Ancient Egyptians used bronze and copper tools to hand cut the stones. Another method was to make small holes in a block of wood, along the line of stone to be cut. Wooden wedges were forced into the holes and water was then poured over the dry wood which then expanded and cracked the stone along the line. Pounding stones of dolerite were also used
- Construction was stage 5 of building Pyramids:
- Stones were placed over the base
- Side blocks were laid meeting each of the corner stones
- The next course was then placed on the first - with up to 200 courses
- A single capping stone was placed on the top
The Surface Area of the pyramids
The surface area of the pyramids ensured that these massive monuments were truly awe-inspiring. The Surface Work was stage 6 of building Pyramids:
- Massive triangular shaped facing blocks of polished limestone were cut
- The gleaming white facing blocks were added to each course
- The fitting was dead accurate as no cement was used to fix the facing blocks
- A single capping stone was placed on the top (the capping stone of the Great Pyramid of Giza was coated with gold)
Building Techniques and Methods
No one is certain of the exact building techniques used by the Ancient Egyptians to build their pyramids and lay the great stones, some of which weighed nearly 3 tons. The following are theories regarding the building techniques which might have been used:
- The massive stones were transported by ships along the Nile and then via man-made canals to the building sites of the pyramids
- The Single ramp building technique or method:
- This theory suggests that a mud ramp was built and stones were dragged up it
- The Angled ramp building technique or method:
- This theory suggests that a series of ramps were built from step to step
- The Lever building technique or method:
- This theory suggests that teams of workers levered the stones up the courses
- It has also been suggested that the Ancient Egyptians might have moved the stones with wind power, relying on kites and pulleys rather than huge numbers of people
What was inside the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids?
What was inside the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids? The purpose of the pyramids was to create a monumental tomb for the Pharaoh. Inside the pyramid were tomb chambers, ante-rooms and chambers, ventilation shafts and access tunnels.
The Sphinx & the Pyramid
The Sphinx & the Pyramid owe their association as the sphinx and the Great pyramids were built on the Giza Plateau, bordering the Sahara Desert, on the west bank of the Nile River, near modern-day Cairo. The Pyramids were built for three consecutive monarchs: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure of the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty:
- Khufu (Greek Cheops) 2589 - 2566 erected the Great Pyramid of Giza
- Khafre aka Khafra, Shafra, Rakhaef, Chephren - 2558 - 2532
- Menkaure aka Mycerinus, Mykerinos - 2532 - 2504
However, the building of the sphinx has not been effectively dated so cannot be attributed to any of these Pharaohs.
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