The Egyptian pyramids enthralled ancient conquerors and travelers, and today’s tourists, mathematicians, and archeologists who visit, investigate, measure, and describe them are still in awe of them.
What Are The Pyramids In Egypt?
The pyramids of Ancient Egypt are the most significant funerary structures or tombs in the world, arguably the most well-known example of late Prehistoric art. They are one of the most enduring representations of Egyptian art and architecture in general. They were developed from the mastaba tomb. Because the ancient Egyptians believed in an eternal afterlife, the pyramids were built to protect the Pharaoh’s body and possessions so that he could enter the afterlife more easily. To support the departed in his after-death existence, each pyramid thus frequently held a wide variety of Egyptian sculptures, mural paintings, jewelry, and other ancient art.
Egypt has discovered roughly 140 pyramids, most of which were constructed as tombs for the country’s pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods. A short distance south of the Nile delta, near Saqqara, is the earliest known Egyptian pyramids. The oldest is the Pyramid of Djoser, which the renowned architect Imhotep created in the third dynasty.
The Great Pyramid of Giza, the only surviving example and named one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World by Antipater of Sidon, was the highest.
How Did The Architecture Of The Egyptian Pyramids Change And Develop?
Politics and religious tradition were both reflected in the pyramids’ architectural style. Ancient Egypt was two nations with two burial customs until around 3,000 BCE. The dead were interred beneath their family residence, often constructed on higher ground in Lower Egypt, located to the north. The area was moist and flat. The deceased was interred far from towns, in dry sand at the edge of the desert, in Upper Egypt. Typically, a mound was built above the grave. Nobles were traditionally buried in a plain tomb called a mastaba from 3000–2700 when the population and burial practices were united.
A shallow burial chamber was cut into the ground and lined with stone or bricks inside this straightforward tomb, consisting of a flat-roofed, rectangular construction made of mud bricks with slightly sloping walls. The surface building’s flat roof eventually gave way to a pyramidal structure. Imhotep finally had the brilliant idea to stack the mastaba in a series of “steps” that got smaller as they rose, giving rise to the well-known step pyramid shape.
What Is The Egyptian Pyramids’ History?
The enormous pyramids, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Red Pyramid at Dahshur, and the Pyramid of Khafre at Giza, was built during the early Egyptian architecture of the Old Kingdom. Pharaonic pyramids were often smaller and less substantial during the Middle Kingdom period of Egyptian construction, a period of political unrest.
Temple construction was the main focus of the following building phase, which occurred during the subsequent New Kingdom era of Egyptian architecture. Instead of being interred in pyramids, Egyptian pharaohs were laid to rest in mortuary temples found in the Valley of the Kings, located across from Thebes on the west bank of the Nile.
Many pyramids in the neighboring Sudan were built during the Napata era with the help of Egyptian architects. Almost 200 other pyramid burial vaults were constructed later during the Sudanese Kingdom of Meroe.
What Were A Pyramid’s Primary Features?
The construction of the earlier pyramids varied from that of the later ones. For instance, the massive pyramids of the Old Kingdom were constructed of stone blocks. In contrast, the later Middle Kingdom pyramids were often smaller and constructed of mud brick encased in limestone. Early buildings typically featured a core made of local limestone covered in a layer of fine limestone or, less frequently, granite. Traditionally, granite was also utilized to build the pyramid’s royal chambers.
A pyramid might be built of 50,000 granite stones and up to 2.5 million limestone blocks. With gigantic megaliths weighing up to 200 tons, the average weight per block may be as high as 2.5 tons. Usually made of basalt or granite, the structure’s capstone would dazzle onlookers with its sun reflection if it were coated in gold, silver, or electrum. Archeologists believe that the pyramids were constructed by tens of thousands of hired workers and artisans housed in massive encampments nearby, based on the excavation of a series of workers’ cemeteries unearthed during the early 1990s.
The King’s Room, located deep within each pyramid, housed the mummified body of the deceased Pharaoh, which was enclosed in a priceless sarcophagus. The king was interred with many objects to help him survive in the afterlife, and memorials honoring him. False tunnels were also dug to stop future defilement of the tomb and the theft of riches.
According to official religious teaching on the hereafter, all Egyptian pyramids were built on the west bank of the Nile, where the sun sets. Most pyramids were covered in polished, white limestone to give them a sparkling, reflected appearance from a distance. One of the few that still has some of its original limestone covering is the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. They were placed very close to the Nile to make it easier for stone from quarries near Heliopolis to be transported by water.
A pyramid was a crucial component of a funeral complex rather than existing in isolation. Typically, this complex was made up of the pyramid itself and a mortuary temple that was close by. A causeway linked the two to another nearby temple or pavilion connected by a short river.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Most Famous Pyramids in Egypt
The Red Pyramid (Dahshur)
The greatest of the three powerful pyramids at the Dahshur cemetery, and the third largest after Khufu and Khafre at Giza, is named by its reddish-colored stones and is 341 feet tall. Experts also believe it to be the first “genuine” smooth-sided pyramid in history. It took King Snefru between 10 and 17 years to construct the third pyramid.
The Khufu/Cheops Pyramid (Giza)
King Khufu, the son of King Snefru, constructed the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is the oldest and largest of the three tombs in the Giza Necropolis. For about four thousand years, it held the record for the tallest manufactured building in the world at about 480 feet (146 meters).
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Khafre’s Pyramid (Giza)
The Pyramid of Chefren, also known as the 448-foot-tall Pyramid of Chefren, is the second-largest building in the Giza Necropolis and is taller than Khufu’s pyramid because it rests on a raised granite base. Rameses II destroyed its outside casing during Egyptian New Kingdom architecture to furnish stone for a temple at Heliopolis. It was also constructed from Tura limestone blocks, with the largest weighing an estimated 400 tons.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
Menkaure’s Pyramid (Giza)
The third and final of the well-known pyramids at Giza is located southwest of Cairo. The smallest of the three was once around 215 feet (65.5 meters) tall and is constructed of limestone and granite like the others. According to ancient historians like Herodotus, King Menkaure was a kind and wise king, and this structure functioned as his tomb.
The pyramids, one of the earliest examples of ancient art, were built using a stone-masonry technique that originated in Ancient Egypt. This technique later influenced Ancient Persian art and Greek sculpture, both of which had a significant influence on the Italian Renaissance.