Ancient Egyptian Pyramids

Why Were the Pyramids Built?

The pyramids were built to protect the body of the deceased pharaoh. These massive tombs were constructed to withstand the elements of time and were intended to last forever. Most Ancient Egyptians planned for their death and the pharaoh was no exception. His death was much more elaborate than the typical Ancient Egyptian and considered an important event; this process was tied to the rising and setting of the sun.

It was believed that while alive, the pharaoh represented Horus and upon his death he represented Osiris. During his state as Osiris, he would set the sun, while the new pharaoh, his son, in the image of Horus, would raise the sun. This process continued for hundreds of years and this is why it was important the pharaoh be protected eternally to avoid a cosmic disturbance.

The pharaoh also believed that his death was an extension to a journey towards eternal life. In order to become a “being” of the afterworld, it was important the pharaoh’s physical body be safeguarded and recognizable by his spirit, this in turn, lead to the process of mummification. The process itself consisted of being embalmed then wrapped in fine linen. Once the process of mummification was complete, the pharaoh was buried with his most prized possessions such as jewelry, funerary statues, and items that would aid him in his afterlife.

What Items Were Stored Inside the Pyramids?

Khufu-Sarcophagus

The pyramids were perfect for holding items that would help the pharaoh in his afterlife. Though the pyramids had been looted and cleaned before Egyptologists could examine them, there is significant evidence that they held boats, wooden statues, stone carvings, clothing, food, and luxury items that the pharaoh would have needed. These items were most likely the pharaoh’s valued possessions and were regarded as royal.

More importantly, the pyramids were intended to protect the pharaoh’s body. In each pyramid a sarcophagus made of heavy stone protecting the king’s mummy. These heavy stone sarcophagi were supposed to protect the king; however, they were not strong enough. They eventually succumbed to tomb robbers and no bodies were ever discovered. Today the pyramids are empty and only subtle clues can gives us an insight into how lavish these tombs once where.
As tomb robbers became more aware of what it meant to discover a pyramid, they quickly went about their business in secrecy. Eventually, the pharaohs became aware of this and looked for other ways to protect their mummies. It was this thinking that forced them to start carving their tombs among cliffs or underground—more notably the Valley of the Kings.

The Evolution Of The Perfect Pyramid

Khufu-Sarcophagus

The pyramids of Giza are the most popular and are the most visited in Egypt today. These pyramids are grand and elaborate yet they did not get this way quickly. Rather, it took trial and error and precise calculating to develop the three pyramids we see today.

Before the first pyramid was ever constructed the Egyptians built mastabas. These tomblike structures were large tombs elevated above the ground. Eventually, this structure progressed into a small pyramid— six mastabas stacked on top of one another, each layer being smaller then the bottom one. This first attempt at building the pyramid had a vertical shaft leading into the royal tomb. The entrance was constructed in such a way that it was sealed with a large block of granite.

During the Fourth Dynasty, the Egyptians took it further and built another stepped pyramid at Meidum. This time they completed its construction, then extended it, then later filled the steps with large blocks of stone. It was later coated with limestone to smooth the sides out. This pyramid’s sides eventually collapsed so it is believed all work was abandoned.

Close by in Dahshur another pyramid was also constructed. This pyramid was planned to be smooth from the very beginning. While building this pyramid, it was concluded the angel at which the pyramid points was too steep. This made the structure unstable so the architect had to alter the angle to avoid damage. This gave the pyramid the appearance of being bent so it was named the “Bent Pyramid.”

The transition to the perfect pyramid would not be easy. It was not until another pyramid was built in Dahshur with an angle of 43 degrees was the correct measurements learned and deemed stable. With this knowledge at hand, the three pyramids were eventually constructed.

Other Pyramids

There are so many pyramids in Egypt yet we only see the pyramids of Giza being shown in magazines and books. There is roughly over 100 pyramids. Most of them were abandoned and plundered. Many of these pyramids stand today and give Egyptologist an evolution of the pyramids design. Some other common pyramids that are never shown are the Stepped Pyramid, the Maidum Pyramid, the Bent Pyramid, and the Red Pyramid.

These pyramids are not usually showcased because they are considered small in size and are tarnished. Though not particularly grand to look at, they do offer a great deal of information to how the pyramids developed.