What is a Pyramid?
Definition: in architecture, a monumental structure constructed of or faced with stone or brick and having a rectangular base and four sloping triangular (or sometimes trapezoidal) sides meeting at an apex (or truncated to form a platform).
The ancient Egyptians built more than 90 royal pyramids, from about 2630 BC until about 1530 BC. Each was built to protect the body of an Egyptian king. The Egyptians thought that a person's body had to be preserved and protected so the soul could live forever. The Egyptians mummified (embalmed and dried) their dead and hid the mummies in large tombs. From about 2700 to 1700 B.C., the bodies of Egyptian kings were buried inside or beneath a pyramid in a secret chamber that was filled with treasures of gold and precious objects. The pyramids of ancient Egypt were funerary edifices. Funeral ceremonies were performed in temples that were attached to the pyramids. Most pyramids had two temples that were connected by a long stone passageway. Sometimes a smaller pyramid for the body of the queen stood next to the king's pyramid. Egypt has at least 40 smaller pyramids that were used for queens or as memorial monuments for kings. The king's relatives and officials were buried in smaller rectangular tombs called mastabas. These buildings had sloping sides and flat roofs. No one knows how long it took to build the Great Pyramid. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus said that the work went on in four-month shifts, with 100,000 workers in each shift. Scholars now doubt that account and believe that about 100,000 men worked on the pyramids for three or four months each year. Farm laborers built the pyramids. They worked on the tombs during periods when floodwaters of the Nile covered the fields and made farming impossibleThe ancient Egyptians had no machinery or iron tools. They cut big limestone blocks with copper chisels and saws. Most of the stones came from quarries nearby. But some came from across the Nile River, and others came by boat from distant quarries. Gangs of men dragged the blocks to the pyramid site and pushed the first layer of stones into place. Then they built long ramps of earth and brick, and dragged the stones up the ramps to form the next layer. As they finished each layer, they raised and lengthened the ramps. Finally, they covered the pyramid with an outer coating of white casing stones. They laid these outer stones so exactly that from a distance the pyramid appeared to have been cut out of a single white stone. Most of the casing stones are gone now, but a few are still in place at the bottom of the Great Pyramid. Many scholars believe that the pyramid shape has a religious meaning to the Egyptians. The sloping sides may have reminded the Egyptians of the slanting rays of the sun, by which the soul of the king could climb to the sky and join the gods. The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at saqqârah, was constructed during the reign of King Djoser (2630 BC-2611 BC). The largest pyramid is the one built for King Khufu, at the site of modern Giza. Khufu’s pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid, is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the World that still survives. During the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built their largest and most ambitious pyramids, typically of large stone blocks. Over time, the size and quality of the pyramids decreased, probably because they were extremely costly. Thieves broke into most of the pyramids, stole the gold, and sometimes destroyed the bodies. Later Egyptian kings stopped using pyramids, and built secret tombs in cliffs.
How it all started?
King Djoser, who reigned from 2630 BC to 2611 BC, built a more elaborate royal tomb known as the Step Pyramid at saqqârah. This tomb started out as a mastaba, but its architect, Imhotep, first expanded the mastaba then topped it with successively smaller mastabas. In the end, Djoser’s tomb looked like a rectangular wedding cake with six layers.The Step Pyramid and later pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty were constructed of small, almost brick-sized stones that were laid in vertical courses and inward-leaning to create the sloped sides.King Snefru, the father of Khufu, built the initial true pyramids, developing the new technique during construction. The earliest true pyramid, at the town of Maydûm, began as a step pyramid with inward-leaning walls and eight levels. After working on the structure for 14 years, Snefru moved his burial ground north to Dahshor for unknown reasons, and construction began on another pyramid. This one, too, was made of stone blocks that leaned inward.
Created by Sushaen Rai Mahajan and Ravish Amin for the Thinkquest Internet Challenge