Cheops' Pyramid at Giza
The Egyptians believed that their kings were gods. Even after they had died, the rulers continued to affect daily life through their supernatural powers. In his new life in the underworld, the king would need everything he needed while alive--and he needed his home to last for eternity.
While alive, Egyptian kings lived in palaces of mud-brick, wore linen robes, and slept in wooden beds. In their gentle climate, more substantial comforts were not needed. But eternity lasts a whole lot longer than life. So the tombs of the kings needed to be durable and well-supplied. The tombs also needed to protect the body and its supplies and gifts from thieves.They also were the focus of the Egytian religion and so needed to be extremely visible. The massive stone pyramids met all these criteria.
However, there was still the problem of supplying the king with essentials. Since entombing a never-ending supply of food and servants was not very practical, the Egyptians decided on the principal of substitution by means of a representation. Since the dead king now existed in spirit, rather than physical form, he was not bound by physical limitations. A picture or word could feed him as well as a real slab of meat. Servants didnt have to be killed and laid around his tomb; statues could take their place.
Because the king was a god to his people, they needed to be able to come and worship him. But if his body were accessible to the whole nation, the king and his treasures would be too accessible to robbers. So, instead they built a statue resembling the king which they placed in a temple open to the public. His ka, or spirit could leave the tomb and come live in his statue for awhile. This way, the peoples prayers and gifts could still be delivered while keeping him safe.
The first large-scale stone building ever built on earth was the first Egyptian pyramid. Zoser, first ruler of the Third Dynasty, hired an architect named Imhotep to build it on the Sakkara ridge above Memphis. It is a step pyramid, made of six squares on top of each other that shrink as you go up. A century later, Snofru, founder of the Fourth Dynasty, built two pyramids at Dahshur, one with smooth sides. About 2600 B.C., the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by Cheops, Snofrus son. Later, Mycerinuss pyramid and the pyramid of Chephren were built beside it.
Herodotus, a Greek who wrote about the building of the pyramids long after they had been built, claimed that the Great Pyramid took 100,000 men and thirty years to make. But even if those figures are not accurate, the construction of the pyramids was an amazing feat. The Egyptians had not learned to use the wheel or the pulley and so lifted all of the stones using ramps. (The granite slabs making the roof of the Kings Chamber weigh an average of 44 tons!) The cut stone was edged along the ramps on rollers, lubricated by only milk or water. We do not know how many people died as laborers for the pyramids, but we do know that most Egyptians would have been eager to participate in the building: because the king would become a god who could bless or curse their lives; they wanted to make sure he was comfortable and cared for and able to come back and help them.