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There is no doubt that the images mostly associated with Egypt are the Ancient Pyramids. The most famous of these pyramids is the great pyramid (Pyramid with a Sphinx) at Giza. Egypt boasts of over 100 pyramids nationally. Most of the pyramids are assembled around and proximal to the Egyptian capital of Cairo.
The only royal pyramid in the south of the country is found in Abydos. This pyramid was built by Ahmose who was the founder of the eighteenth empire and the county’s new Kingdom. This pyramid is regarded as the final of the royal pyramids built in Egypt (Grimal 3).
The construction of Pyramids in Egypt started with the third dynasty under the rule of Netjerikhet Djoser, the 2nd King of Egypt. Many of the early Kings including Djoser and Snefu built more than a single Pyramid. These numbers increased with the dynasties especially in the middle Kingdoms.
It was only after Ahmose, the first pharaoh of Egypt, that the building of Royal Pyramids was terminated. This new Kingdom opted to hide their tombs in the hills of West Bank instead of building pyramids which were used as tombs in the previous eras (Hornung 2).
Nevertheless, miniature Pyramids were later on constructed by private individuals for instance the Pyramids in Deir el- Medina. The Nubian rule in Egypt also saw the construction of smaller and steeper pyramids.
This tradition was carried on by the Nubians after the 3rd Dynasty led by Ahmose lost control of Egypt. The Nubians built many Pyramids than the rest of Egypt but on small scale. Therefore, the building of Pyramids in Egypt evolved significantly, from the huge pyramids owned by the royal family to the small sized Pyramids owned by the private individuals (Grimal 6).
Construction of Pyramids
The Great Pyramid of Giza constitutes the original Seven Wonders of the World. It is a marvelous structure which stands 137 meters tall (about 450 feet) and was constructed using 2 million blocks of stone weighing from 2 tones to 50 tons. The overall weight of the pyramid is approximately 6 million tons.
The corners of the Pyramid are roughly perfect right angles facing the four primary directions of the compass. It had a perfect 520 slope before the government used some of its blocks in construction works in the capital. The pyramid is dated back to four centuries ago. To build a pyramid currently, one needs very sophisticated engineering skills and techniques (Lorwerth 3).
Most of the Ancient Pyramids were built on a leveled rock or surface, while some were constructed on unleveled ground. Pyramid bases were set following the true directions of the. These directions were identified by observing North start or rising stars set to man-made sphere.
Perfect pyramid bases were also achieved by marking bricks as evident in Khufu and Khafra Pyramids at Giza. Brick markers were also discovered in step pyramid of Sinki. They were placed to act as points of reference during the building and construction of the Pyramid and its features. These brick markers have also been discovered in numerous pyramids across Egypt (Grimal 7).
Materials used in the construction of these pyramids were extracted or mined from sources close to the building spot. All of the Ancient pyramids were built of stone from the nearest dug out. These stones ranged from granite, to sandstone, and to limestone. Finer stones for finishing works were ferried from the quarries far in the deserts or upstream. Limestone, sandstone and granite quarries were found in different parts of the country.
Transportation was basically human loaders and river transport using ancient water vessels. Once the materials were laid in the construction site, the process of building started. As the pyramid increased in height, the stone blocks and other building materials had to be lifted higher. Ancient Egyptians used ramps to lift the stone blocks. Ancient ramps have discovered in Giza and Abydos. Other studies have also found out that blocks of woods also were used to move the woods mechanically (Grimal 8).
Contrary to the common belief, pyramids were built by indigenous Egyptians. Ancient Egyptians boasted of entrepreneurs, skilled personnel, and even medical facilities. There is scientific evidence of the workers in Pyramid constriction sites who had survived crushed or amputated body parts.
Most of the builders were permanent employees while others were hired from the villages only for short period of time. Majority of these workers were men. Women were rarely employed in the construction sites evident by a few injured female skeletons with heavy stones (Hornung 12).
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A number of graffiti/ artistic works on the walls of the ancient pyramids have shown that these workers did their job willingly and with pride. For instance, they called groups “friends of Khufu” among others names, depicting that they had a good relationship with the Pharaoh or the ruler at that time.
Scientists estimate that the great pyramid of Giza took almost a century to be built and used almost 30,000 laborers. These workers comprised of manual laborers and skilled personnel who precisely defined the planes and shape of the pyramid. The skilled people included ancient architectures and priest- astronomers (Hornung 13).
Significance of pyramids to the Egyptian society
The Egyptian pyramids hold very great religious and spiritual significance. This is related to its use and its architectural design. To start with, the triangular design of the pyramid reflects the three-sided nature of God which are; the creator, transformer and the preserver. The 3-sided nature of God is also explained in the Egyptian mythology of a seeker’s journey.
According to this mythology, the journey had a point of origin representing birth/ creation, along journey associated with evolution and discoveries of inner self and lastly recognition of true identity. This three-sided facet is accurately reflected in the perfect symmetrical triangular shape of the pyramid (equilateral triangular shape). The three sides of the triangle merged into one or encompassed one area meaning that God is one but has three aspects (Hornung 8).
The architectural shape of the pyramid was opted for since it represented unity. From its three-sided shape, a pyramid also has 4 faces. One face on the earth, while the rest facing heaven. Pyramids were constructed with uttermost accuracy. Those who were involved in the construction of pyramids constituted of experts who had control over nature and not the slaves.
They utilized their knowledge in divine laws to minimize the weight of the stones in construction. They were able to lift huge blocks of rocks effortlessly by minimizing their gravitational pull. Conservative archeologists /anthropologists in Egypt argue that the idea of the using slaves to build the pyramids were doctored by those people who could not believe that ancient Egyptians had technology which is unavailable in the modern era (Lorwerth 8).
The fundamental principle behind the building of the great Pyramids was because of spiritual reasons. Ancient Egyptians used a Pyramid as a sacred place where spiritual initiation could be carried out. They opted for the pyramid because of its triangular symbolism of human being’s inner quest.
Ancient Egypt believed in self-illumination. However, with time initiates became very reluctant and were forced to the sacred place. Finally, this process of initiation lost its influence and the Pyramids found different use. This is the main reason why archeological evidence related to these spiritual practices are very hard to find (Lorwerth 9).
Ancient Egyptians also believed that when their kings/ Pharaoh died they became god. Long serving pharaohs became Osiris while the new ones Horus-god of the sun. Therefore, Ancient Egyptians believed in Kings Rule even after death. Most of these pyramids were used as tombs for the mummified pharaohs. Inside these tombs were all kinds of artifacts they believed the king would require in after-life including human servants (Hornung 8).
Pyramids have made Egypt both as an historical and economic rich country. In the contemporary Egyptian society, Pyramids have become a major tourist attraction with the Sphinx Pyramid at Giza being one of the original Seven Wonders of the World. Tourists and archeologists stream to Egypt to learn more about the Pyramid and early civilization. Pyramids are associated with early scientists and mathematicians.
They have perfect triangular planes and sophisticated building materials scientists cannot believe existed four centuries ago. Most of the workers who were injured during the construction recovered from their crushed or Brocken limbs. This demonstrates that in ancient Egypt, besides their skilled construction engineers, they also had professional health practitioners and healthcare facilities. This is the reason why scientists believe that Egypt is the home to early civilization.
Grimal, Nicolas. A History of Ancient Egypt. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd., 2000. Print.
Hornung, Erik. History of Ancient Egypt. New York: Cornell University Press, 1999. Print.
Lorwerth, Edwards. The Pyramids of Egypt. London: Penguin Books, 1993. Print.