I. Egypt has been known for the great structures that has withstood time and all the harsh natural and artificial elements. These man-made structures that are part of the eight ancient wonders of the world are still a frequently visited tourist destination today. As the new and younger generation continues to come, more and more tourists desire to see and experience the wondrous pyramids of Egypt (Orcutt).
The Egyptian Pyramids
According to the National Geographic Website, Pyramids are massive structures built to house the remains of a king. This is especially true in Egypt because they believe in a cycle wherein when the pharaoh dies, he takes in the form of Osiris, the king of the dead and the new king, the one who replaced him becomes the god Horus, protector of the Sun god, Ra.
They also believed that when a pharaoh dies, a part of his soul remains in his body. They mummify the bodies of the pharaoh and built the pyramids in order to protect this remaining part of the soul so that the king may carry out his duties as the king of the dead.
Building and Administering Pyramids
Pyramids were built from pyramid blocks that came from quarries with the use of stone and copper tools. These blocks are transported from the quarry site to the pyramid-building site through a wooden sled that is manually pulled or sometimes with the help of animals. The wooden sleds have no wheels and lubricants are poured on the roads in order to make it smooth as the sled passes by. It is also done to reduce friction and lessen the burden on the people or animals pulling the sled. When the blocks are already taken to the pyramid site, it raised to the higher parts of the pyramid through ramps made of earth that are built upwards as the pyramid gains height. These ramps are removed downwards as the pyramid is given its final touch (Orcutt).
Before a pyramid is built an administrator is assigned by the pharaoh. The administrator is tasked to collect or recruit a huge army to build the pyramid including skilled craftsmen, artisans, experienced stone masons, quarrymen, the overseers, and the officials appointed by the pharaoh. Along with the appointment of administrators and the recruitment of labourers is the creation or the building of administrative settlements and dormitories for the workers. These buildings are not the only buildings in order to answer the necessities of the great pyramid-building. A vast complex of different buildings that serve a specific purpose is built alongside the pyramids. The vast complex answers to the necessities of both the builder of the pyramid and the overseers (El-Aref).
The Step Pyramid of Saqqara
The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is the oldest known pyramid. It is included in the pyramid complex of the pharaoh Zoser. It is given that name because it is situated at Saqqara near Cairo. It was believed to be planned and constructed by only one man, Imhotep, who was known as a very intelligent man. It is an underground burial chamber with a rectangular mastaba built for the Pharaoh Zoser, the second and greatest king of the third dynasty. As compared to other Egyptian pyramids, the step pyramid in Saqqara is the only one with a rectangular mastaba (InterCity Oz, Inc).
The Successors of Zoser
After the death of Zoser, he was succeeded by Manetho or also known as Sekhemket whose pyramid was believed to be another creation of the great Imhotep. After the death of Sekhemket he was followed by Khaba, whose name in the Turin list was indicated as “erased”. It is believed that his reign was probably difficult. Both Sekhemket and Khaba had step pyramids built for their graves but archaeologists believe that the pyramids were unused and that the two pharaohs were buried in other mastabas (Kjeilen).
The fifth and final king of the third dynasty of Egypt was King Huni. His reign was successful and he was a pharaoh well-remembered. He was known for having a fortress built in Elephantine. And when he died his pyramid was built at Meidun. It was believed to be the first attempt of transition from step-pyramids to the pyramids as we know them today (Kjeilen).
II. Pharaoh Sneferu: Of a Different Ilk
Like the Charles and Diana affair, the reign of Sneferu during the fourth Dynasty of Egypt was controversial. Sneferu was not of royal descent and only earned his title by marrying the royal heiress, Hetepheres, daughter of Pharaoh Huni of the third dynasty. But as Diana was, he brought good tidings to the populace of Egypt was known to be a “beneficent” ruler, conqueror of Sinai (Kjeilen).
Many mourned the death of Sneferu in his time and before he died, two pyramids were built for him at Dahshour. First is the Bent Pyramid, with two steep sides and the famous Red Pyramid, which is known as the very first real pyramid.
Second largest to Khufu’s pyramid in Giza, the Red Pyramid’s was baptized with its name because of the color of the limestone used in its construction. It has a low angle of 43 degrees as compared to Khufu’s 52 degrees. Despite its enormousness, the great King Sneferu never used this as his burial ground. He was known to have been buried in the Bent Pyramid (Kjeilen).
The Bent Pyramid was like the leaning tower of Pisa in Italy, only that Pisa leaned on one side on its own. In the case of the Bent Pyramid of Pharaoh Sneferu, the engineers suddenly decided to change the angle of the pyramid from 54 degrees to 43 degrees as that of the red pyramid. This gave the image of bent to the burial ground (Kjeilen).
The sudden angle change of the Bent Pyramid is as controversial as its master. It is yet to be proven whether the change of angle was due to a threat of falling in or the lack of time as the pharaoh died earlier than the planned finish of the pyramid. If it was due to insecure engineering, the problem was probably solved by the builders of the great pyramids in Giza.
Moving Mountains: The Pyramids of Giza
The pyramids in Giza are the most famous pyramids in the world. They were and still remain as part of the still existing ancient wonders of the world. These great pyramids are structures built after the reign of the controversial pharaoh, Sneferu. His son and successor, Khufu who decided to move the grave complex to Giza, built the very first pyramid on this site. It was the largest among the three that may be found there. It is 146.5 meters high and was known to have been built by free citizens of Egypt who served as the king for a part of the year. Although, Khufu is known to be a tyrant king it was believed that there was no abuse done during the building of his tomb (Kjeilen).
When Khufu died he was succeeded by his son Redjedef, who was not the original heir to the throne. Like his father, Redjedef decided to move the burial complex to another place but unfortunately, he died even before his pyramid was finished. This is why the tomb of Khafre, his successor, in Giza became more famous (Kjeilen).
Khafre’s tomb in the burial complex in Giza was only three meters smaller than his father’s. It was built on a higher ground giving it the illusion of being taller than Khufu’s pyramid. It was made even more known throughout the world for the Great Sphinx. First though of as having Khafre’s face, the sphinx acts as a guard to the sacred burial grounds of the kings, which later included pharaoh Menkaure (Kjeilen).
Menkaure, is the king buried in the third famous pyramid in the complex in Giza. He is the son of Khafre and husband of his own sister, Khamerernebti 2. He was known to be a pious leader but he did not live to see his own pyramid finished. He died early and it was his son, Shepseskaf, who resumed the construction of his pyramid (Kjeilen).
His pyramid was the smallest from among the three in the Giza complex. Unlike the previous structures that went in great lengths just have a good burial place; Menkaure seemed to have concentrated on the contents of his pyramid rather than the structure itself. It was believed that Menkaure’s pyramid in Giza housed the best art pieces and sculptures of his time. As the great pyramids amazingly built in the ancient times, these sculptures and art pieces remain as part of the great collection of artifacts that Egypt strives to preserve for the modern day tourist and for the explorers of tomorrow.
Egypt Secrets of an Ancient World. n.d. National Geographic. 14 November, 2008
El-Aref, Nevine. 2002. “An army of pyramid builders.” Al-Ahram Weekly Online 598. 14 November 2008 <http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2002/598/hr1.htm>.
InterCity Oz, Inc. 1996. “The Step Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser).” TourEgypt.Net. 14 November 2008 <http://interoz.com/EGYPT/stepyram.htm>.
Kjeilen, Tore. 1996. “3rd Dynasty of Egypt.” Looklex Encyclopaedia. 14 November, 2008 <http://lexicorient.com/e.o/egypt_dyn03.htm>.
Orcutt, Larry. 2000. “How were the Pyramids built?.” Catchpenny Mysteries. 14 November 2008 <http://www.catchpenny.org/howbuilt.html>.