What are the Egyptian Pyramids? By Who Was It Built?
It was built at a time when Egypt was one of the most powerful and richest civilizations in the world. It is one of the most magnificent man-made structures in history. Its large scales reflect the unique role that the pharaoh or king played in ancient Egyptian society. The Pyramids are from the beginning of the Old Kingdom AD. Although it was built until the end of the Ptolemaic Period of the 4th century, the peak of the construction of the pyramids began with the end of the Third Dynasty. It continued almost until the Sixth Dynasty (about 2325 BC). More than four thousand years later, the Egyptian pyramids still retain their splendor. It mirrors the rich and glorious past of the country.
Pharaoh in Egyptian Society
During the Third and Fourth Dynasties of the Old Kingdom, Egypt enjoyed its enormous economy and stability. Kings held a unique position in Egyptian society. The kings were believed to have been chosen by the gods to serve as “mediators” somewhere between man and deity. It was in everyone’s interest to keep the glory of the king, believed to be Osiris, the God of Death, intact even after his death. The new pharaoh became the Falcon God Horus, who served as the guardian of the Sun God Ra.
Did you know? The smooth and angled edges of the pyramids symbolize the sun rays. It was designed to enable the spirit of the king to rise to heaven and join the gods, especially the Sun God Ra. The ancient Egyptians believed that when the king died, part of his soul – the “ka” – remained in his body. The corpse was mummified to properly care for his soul. Everything the king will need in the afterlife; He was buried with him, including gold vessels, food, furniture, and other offerings. The pyramids became the focal point of the dead king’s cult. Their wealth is not only for him; it was enough for the relatives, officers and priests buried next to him.
The First Pyramids
From the beginning of the Dynastic Period (2950 BC), royal tombs were carved into rocks and covered with flat-roofed rectangular structures known as “mastabas”, the forerunners of the pyramids. The oldest known pyramid in Egypt, BC. It was built around 2630 in the name of King Djoser, king of the Third Dynasty, in Saqqara. Although it started as a traditional mastaba known as the “cascading pyramid,” it gradually evolved into something more ambitious. As the story goes, the architect of the pyramid was Imhotep, a priest, and healer who would be deified as the patron saint of scribes and doctors about 1,400 years later.
During Djoser’s nearly 20-year reign, pyramid builders assembled the six-stepped layer of stone, unlike most of the previous tombs, which eventually reached 204 feet (62 meters) in height. They formed the tallest building of its time. The stepped pyramid was surrounded by a courtyard, temple, and temple complex that Djoser could enjoy in the afterlife.
After Djoser, the staggered pyramid became the norm for royal tombs; however, none of what was planned by the dynastic successors could be completed (probably due to their short reign). The oldest tomb built as a true (straight-sided, stepless) pyramid is the Red Pyramid at Dahshur, one of the three burial structures built for the first king of the Fourth Dynasty, Sneferu (2613-2589 BC). It gets its name from the color of the limestone blocks used to build the core of the pyramid.
Great Pyramids of Giza
No pyramid is as famous on the plateau on the west bank of the Nile as the Great Pyramids of Giza in present-day Cairo. Known as the Great Pyramid, the oldest and largest of the three pyramids at Giza, it is the only surviving structure of the seven famous wonders of the Ancient world. It was built for Pharaoh Khufu, the successor of Sneferu and the second of the eight kings of the Fourth Dynasty. Although Khufu ruled for 23 years (2589-2566 BC), we know less about his reign relative to the grandeur of his pyramid.
The sides of the base of the pyramid average 755.75 feet (230 meters) and its original height is 481.4 feet (147 meters). This makes it the largest pyramid in the world. Three small pyramids built for Khufu’s queens are lined up next to the Great Pyramid. Recently, a tomb was found containing the empty sarcophagus of his mother, Queen Hetepheres. Like other pyramids, the Khufu is surrounded by rows of mastabas where the king’s relatives or officials are buried to accompany and support him in the afterlife.
The middle pyramid at Giza was built for Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre (2558-2532 BC). The Khafre Pyramid is the second tallest pyramid at Giza and contains the tomb of Pharaoh Khafre. A unique feature built within Khafre’s pyramid complex is the Great Sphinx, a protective statue carved in limestone with the head of a man and the body of a lion. At 240 feet tall and 66 feet high, it was the largest statue in the ancient world. In the Eighteenth Dynasty (1500 BC), they began to worship the Great Sphinx as a local form of the god Horus. The southernmost pyramid at Giza was built for Khafre’s son Menkaure (2532-2503 BC). It is the shortest of the three pyramids (218 feet). It is the forerunner of smaller pyramids to be built during the Fifth and Sixth dynasties.
Who Built the Pyramids?
Although some popular versions of history claim that the pyramids were made by slaves or strangers forced to work; The skeletons excavated from the area show that the workers were likely indigenous Egyptian agricultural workers who worked in the pyramids during the year when the River Nile was flooded. To build Khufu’s Great Pyramid, approximately 2.3 million blocks of stones (an average of 2.5 tons each) had to be cut, moved, and assembled. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus wrote that it took twenty years to build and the labor of a hundred thousand men; however, later archaeological evidence also shows that the workforce could be around twenty thousand.
End of the Pyramid Age
Their Pyramids continued to be built throughout the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties. However, the overall quality and scale of their buildings declined during this period, along with the power and wealth of kings. In the later Old Kingdom pyramids, starting with the pyramids of King Unas (2375-2345 BC), those who built them began to write records of events during the king’s reign on the walls of the burial chamber and the rest of the pyramid. These writings, known as pyramid texts, are the oldest important religious compositions known in ancient Egypt.
The last of the great pyramid builders is the second king of the Sixth Dynasty, who came to power as a young boy and ruled for ninety-four years. Pepy (2278-2184 BC). During his reign, Old Kingdom’s prosperity was declining over time. The Pharaoh lost some of his semi-divine statuses as the power of non-royal administrative officials grew.
II. Pepy’s pyramid, which was built in Saqqara and completed nearly thirty years until his reign, was much shorter (172 feet) than the other pyramids of the Old Kingdom. With Pepy’s death, the kingdom and powerful central government almost collapsed. Egypt entered a turbulent period known as the “First Intermediate Period”. The next kings of the Twelfth Dynasty would return to the pyramid building during the so-called Middle Kingdom phase, but their scales were never the same as the Great Pyramids.
In both ancient and modern times, tomb thieves and other barbarians dug most of the corpses and funeral items from the Egyptian pyramids and plundered the outside as well. Stripped of most of the smooth white limestone pavements, the great pyramids are no longer able to reach their original height; for example, Khufu is only 451 feet high. However, millions of people continue to visit these pyramids each year, with the enduring charm of Egypt’s rich and glorious past and its soaring grandeur.