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Pyramids of Egypt. History. Research Paper

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

Introduction

The of Egypt are world known for its large structures that man has ever built and constitute one of the most potent and enduring symbols of civilization. Its also one of the 7 wonders of the world and visited on a daily basis by millions of people. Most of these pyramids were built during the and periods of the Egyptian dynasty which is somewhere around the 3-6th dynasties in Egypt. During Egypt’s Old Kingdom, the pharaohs established a stable central government in the fertile Nile Valley. All Egyptian pyramids were built on the west bank of the Nile river which was the site of the . Its important to study the history of Egypt till the time the pyramid was built to understand its historical values. Ancient Egyptian history is broken into several different periods according to the dynasty of the ruling as quoted; the following is the list according to . Perhaps the greatest testaments to their power were the pyramids and other tombs built to shelter them in the afterlife.

History

The Predynastic Period of Egypt (prior to 3100 BC) is traditionally the period between the Early and the beginning of the Pharaonic monarchy beginning with King . Most archaeological sites in Egypt have been excavated only in Upper Egypt, because the silt of the Nile River was more heavily deposited at the delta region, and most delta sites from the predynastic period have since been buried totally. Although Lower Egypt seems to have had a significantly different culture, its nature is still unknown. However, the dates of the predynastic period were first defined before widespread archaeological excavation of Egypt had taken place, and recent finds which show the course of predynastic development to have been very gradual have caused scholars to argue about when exactly the predynastic period ended.

The period from 9,000 to 6,000 BC has left very little in the way of archaeological evidence, however, around 6,000 BC Neolithic settlements have been found all over Egypt. The culture of , , and peoples using replaced them.

The was the next to begin in . The Badarian Culture, named for the site near Der Tasa, followed the Tasian culture, however similarities between the two have lead very many to not differentiate between them at all. Badarian flint tools continued to develop into sharper and more shapely blades, and the first and more was developedContinued desiccation forced the early ancestors of the to settle around the more permanently and forced them to adapt a more sedentary lifestyle. Although archaeological sites reveal very little about this time, an examination of the many Egyptian words for city can provide a hypothetical list of reasons for why the Egyptians settled. In Upper Egypt, the words for city indicate that they functioned for trade and protection of livestock, for protection from the flood on high ground, or, as sacred sites for deities.

The is named after the site of , about 120 km south of . El-Amra was the first site where this culture group was found without being mingled with the later Gerzean culture group, however, this period is better attested at the Naqada site, thus it also is referred to as the Naqada I culture. Trade between Upper and Lower Egypt is attested at this time, as new excavated objects attest. New innovations such as mud-brick buildings for which the Gerzean period is well known also to begin during this time, attesting to cultural continuity, however, they did not reach nearly the widespread use that they were known for in later times.

The , named after the site of , was the next stage in Egyptian cultural development, and it was during this time that the foundation for Dynastic Egypt was laid. Gerzean culture is largely an unbroken development out of Amratian Culture, starting in the delta and moving south through upper Egypt, however, failing to dislodge Amratian Culture in Nubia. Gerzean culture coincided with a significant drop in rainfall, and farming produced the vast majority of food, although paintings from this time indicate that hunting was not entirely forgone. With increased food supplies, adopted a greatly more sedentary lifestyle, and larger settlements grew to cities with about 5,000 residents.

It was in this time that Egyptian city dwellers stopped building out of reeds, and used the mud-brick, which was developed in the Amratian Period, en masse to build their cities.

Egyptian stone tools, while still in use, moved from construction to ripple-flaked construction, copper was used to make all kinds of tools as well, and also for the first time, copper weaponry turns up. Silver, gold, lapis, and were used ornamentally, and the grinding palettes used for eye-paint since the Badarian period began to be adorned with relief carvings.

Tombs also begin to be constructed in classic Egyptian style, being modeled to resemble normal houses, and sometimes composed of multiple rooms.Although.

The Protodynastic Period of (generally dated ) refers to the period of time at the very end of the . The Protodynastic Period is characterised as being the time when was undergoing the process of political unification, leading to a unified state during the . Furthermore, it is during this time when the was first being recorded in . State formation began during this era and perhaps even earlier. Various small city-states arose along the . Not much is known of ‘s political makeup but they may have shared in Naqada’s cult while Thinis and Nekhen were part of the cult. Thinis then conquered Lower Egypt. Nekhen’s relationship with Thinis is uncertain but these two states may have merged peacefully with the Thinite royal family ruling all of Egypt. The Thinite kings are buried at in the cemetery.

Most consider to be the last king of this period (although some place him in the ), as well as the so-called “(s)”, whose name may refer to, or be derived from, the goddess, , a special early protector of other deities and the rulers.

The Archaic or Early Dynastic Period of immediately follows the unification of c. 3150 BC With the First Dynasty, the capital moved from to where an Egyptian ruled a now unified polity that extended from the to the at . With the early dynasties, and for much of Egypt’s history thereafter, the country came to be known as the Two Lands. The established a national administration and appointed royal governors. The buildings of the central government were typically open-air temples constructed of wood or . According to , the first was . It has also so been interpreted that King Menes and the whole traditional story of an Egypt unified under a single conquering ruler, who led his armies and conquered lower Egypt to establish the first dynasty in the lower Egyptian city of Memphis, is just mythology as are the twin kingdoms story.

The Old Kingdom is the name commonly given to that period in the 3rd millennium BC when attained its first continuous peak of civilization in complexity and achievement – this was the first of three so-called “Kingdom” periods, which mark the high points of civilization The royal capital of Egypt during the Old Kingdom was located at , The Old Kingdom is perhaps best known, however, for the large number of , which were constructed at this time as pharaonic burial places. For this reason, the Old Kingdom is frequently referred to as “the Age of the Pyramids.” Ancient Egyptians believed that when the pharaoh died, he became Osiris, king of the dead. The new pharaoh became Horus, god of the heavens and protector of the sun god. This cycle was symbolized by the rising and setting of the sun. Some part of a dead pharaoh’s spirit, called his ka, was believed to remain with his body. And it was thought that if the corpse did not have proper care, the former pharaoh would not be able to carry out his new duties as king of the dead. If this happened, the cycle would be broken and disaster would befall Egypt.

The Old Kingdom and its royal power reached their zenith under the , which began with (2575–2551 BC). Using a greater mass of stones than any other pharaoh, he built three pyramids: a now collapsed pyramid in , the famous in (another failure), and the small , also in Dahshur. Sneferu was succeeded by his son, (2589 – 2566 BC) who built the . Later Egyptian literature describes him as a cruel tyrant, who imposed forced labor on his subjects to complete his pyramid. After Khufu’s death his sons (2528–2520 BC) and (2520–2494 BC) may have quarreled. To prevent such a catastrophe, each dead pharaoh was mummified, which preserved his body. Everything the king would need in his afterlife was provided in his grave—vessels made of clay, stone, and gold, furniture, food, even doll-like representations of servants, known as ushabti.

The latter built the second pyramid and (in traditional thinking) the in . Recent reexamination of evidence has suggested that the Sphinx may have been built by as a monument to Khufu. The later kings of the Fourth Dynasty were king (2494–2472 BC), who built the smallest pyramid in Giza, (2472–2467 BC) and (2486–2484 BC).

This period is characterized by the country’s fracturing kingship. Even in Ramesses’ day, the Twentieth dynasty was losing its grip on power in the city of , whose priests were becoming increasingly powerful. After his death, his successor ruled from the city of , and the ruling the south of the country. In fact, this division was less significant than it seems, since both priests and pharaohs came from the same family.

The pyramid shape of later tombs could have come from these mounds. More likely, Egyptian pyramids were modeled on a sacred, pointed stone called the benben. The benben symbolized the rays of the sun; ancient texts claimed that pharaohs reached the heavens via sunbeams. Contrary to some popular depictions, the pyramid builders were not slaves or foreigners. Excavated skeletons show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh’s supervisors. The builders’ villages boasted bakers, butchers, brewers, granaries, houses, cemeteries, and probably even some sorts of health-care facilities—there is evidence of laborers surviving crushed or amputated limbs. Bakeries excavated near the Great Pyramids could have produced thousands of loaves of bread every week. Some of the builders were permanent employees of the pharaoh. Others were conscripted for a limited time from local villages. Some may have been women: Although no depictions of women builders have been found, some female skeletons show wear that suggests they labored with heavy stone for long periods of time. Graffiti indicates that at least some of these workers took pride in their work, calling their teams “Friends of Khufu,” “Drunkards of Menkaure,” and so on—names indicating allegiances to pharaohs. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Much of the work probably happened while the River Nile was flooded.

Huge limestone blocks could be floated from quarries right to the base of the Pyramids. The stones would likely then be polished by hand and pushed up ramps to their intended positions. It took more than manual labor, though. Architects achieved an accurate pyramid shape by running ropes from the outer corners up to the planned summit, to make sure the stones were positioned correctly. And priests-astronomers helped choose the pyramids’ sites and orientations, so that they would be on the appropriate axis in relation to sacred constellations. From stone pusher to priest, every worker would likely have recognized his or her role in continuing the life-and-death cycle of the pharaohs, and thereby in perpetuating the glory of Egypt The historiography of this period is disputed for a variety of reasons.

Firstly there is a dispute about the utility of a very artificial term that covers an extremely long and complicated period of Egyptian history. The Third Intermediate period includes long periods of stability as well as chronic instability and civil conflict: its very name rather clouds this fact. Secondly there are significant problems of chronology stemming from several areas: first, there are the difficulties in dating common to all of but these are compounded due to synchronsyms with Biblical Archaeology that also contain heavily disputed dates. Finally, some and biblical scholars, such as , or have novel or controversial theories about the family relationships of the dynasties comprising the period. Before the pyramids, tombs were carved into bedrock and topped by flat-roofed structures called mastabas. Mounds of dirt, in turn, sometimes topped the structures.

Construction dates

The following table lays out the chronology of the construction of most of the major pyramids mentioned here. Each pyramid is identified through the pharaoh who ordered it built, their approximate reign and its location.

Pyramid / Pharaoh Reign Field
Djozer c. 2630 – 2612 bce Saqqara
Sneferu c. 2612 – 2589 bce Dashur
Sneferu c. 2612 – 2589 bce Dashur
Sneferu c. 2612 – 2589 bce Meidum
Khufu c. 2589 – 2566 bce Giza
Djedefre c. 2566 – 2558 bce Abu Rawash
Khafre c. 2558 – 2532 bce Giza
Menkaure c. 2532 – 2504 bce Giza
Sahure c. 2487 – 2477 bce Abu Sir
Neferirkare Kakai c. 2477 – 2467 bce Abu Sir
Nyuserre Ini c. 2416 – 2392 bce Abu Sir
Amenemhat I c. 1991 – 1962 bce Lisht
Senusret I c. 1971 – 1926 bce Lisht
Senusret II c. 1897 – 1878 bce el-Lahun
Amenemhat III c. 1860 – 1814 bce Hawara

evidence indicates that a developed Egyptian society and culture

Bibliography

National Geographic Society (2008) “Introduction to Pyramids”. Web.

“The Pyramids of Egypt”. Web.

“Mystery of the Egyptian Pyramids”. Web.

Dodson, A. . Web.

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