Pyramids Pyramids Imagine living in Ancient Egypt about 3,000 B.C. Imagine a society teeming with life and happiness. Imagine looking around and seeing beautiful buildings, fields of crops, and the great pyramids with their white limestone facade blazing in the sun of the midday. It would be quite the experience to have lived back then. The history of Egypt begins with the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt into one united kingdom.
The first ruler under this new system was Menes. Thirty other dynasty’s would follow. To further unify Upper and Lower Egypt Menes founded a capital city where the two met: at the apex of the Nile, where it fans out into the silt plain. This city was named “White walls” by the Egyptians but later called Memphis by the Greeks. It is here at Memphis that the great pyramids where built.
The pyramids were built to house the dead pharaoh of that time. Death was seen by the Egyptians as just the beginning of a journey to the other world. In Egyptian society each individual believed that his eternal life was dependant on the continued existence of their king, a belief that made the building of the pyramid a concern of the entire kingdom. Many people would be called to duty to work on the pyramids and many would go at will. It was found that the Egyptian people actually liked working on the pyramids.
Many youths would travel down the Nile to work on the pyramids so that they could see the great city of Memphis. Furniture and riches not to mention body parts of the dead king were buried with him in the pyramid, so that in the afterlife the king would be able to have all the comforts that he had in his life. Wives and people of high standing in the king’s court were buried beside his tomb when they died. The queens pyramid was always much smaller than the kings. The other wives and attendants tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid but were only small rectangular tombs or mastabas. In early tombs, the central area was the burial chamber.
The other surrounding rooms contained the king’s furniture, jewelry, and other things that were owned by the King. False doors of heavy stone represented passageways between these rooms and others. There were no real doors because it was believed that the king, in the afterlife, would be able to move about without the help of structural passageways. The first pyramid was the step pyramid of King Zozer built at Saquarra in 2750 B.C. The structure of the pyramid was that of six steps all of larger size if you were to decending from the top of the pyramid. I was 200 feet high and covered around 12,000 square meters.
The pyramid was made mostly of limestone blocks and desert clay. Inside the pyramid Zozers burial chamber was quarried 25 meters below out of the rock beneath it. The tomb, like those that followed, was meant to be a replica of the royal palace. The pyramids built on the Giza plateau at Memphis are the largest of all of the pyramids. The largest is the Great Pyramid, or the pyramid of Khufu.
It stands 450 feet high. The second largest is the pyramid of Khafre. It stands 448 feet high and still has some of the original limestone at the top. The third is the pyramid of Menakaure. The pyramids at Giza are primarily built of Granite and Limestone. The blocks of granite were quarried out of the plateau nearby and the limestone out of many different quarries as far away as fifty miles upriver.
All the blocks were checked for dimensions with special rods made specifically for that purpose. Most of the blocks used for the main structure weighed about two and a half tons. In all, around 2,300,000 blocks of stone are used to build a pyramid, with a workforce of around 30,000 people. The burial chamber was built first and contained the largest and heaviest blocks, some weighing around 40-60 tons a piece. During the building of the burial chamber work was started on the procession ramp leading from the Nile river up to the pyramid. The ramp provided a way to get the king up into the pyramid after being embalmed and floated to the site. After the blocks were checked they would then be slid up slightly inclined ramps that were built on the side of the pyramid.
As the pyramid grew, the ramps grew along with it curling up and around the pyramid on all four sides. The ramps were built out of clay, wood and papyrus. After the main Granite part of the pyramid was finished the Limestone capping would be placed on the pyramid from the top down. The stonemasons who cut the limestone could cut it so accurately that a person could not even slide a razorblade in the seams. They would during this process remove the ramps from the pyramid, and polish the limestone so that it would shine in the sun. When the king died he was taken to be embalmed at special ceremonial place across the river, when that was done he would be taken down the river by boat to the ramp of his pyramid.
The funeral procession would proceed up the ramp into the ceremonial chamber where the priest would bless the king. The king was then taken to his burial chamber deep below the pyramid and then sealed there for all eternity. Many of the pyramids were later looted for their gold and riches found inside and also much of the limestone was taken to be used on other projects much later in time. Throughout the years the pyramids have stood as probably the greatest feat in architecture and building by an ancient society and even then it would be hard to match the greatness of these structures today even with our technology and skill.