Before the pharaohs began to construct pyramids as monuments, they were buried in long, low lying brick buildings called mastabas. In these mastabas, the pharaohs would prepare lavish tombs with all the possessions they would need for the afterlife.
There are actually over 90 pyramids in Egpyt
Legend says that the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Djoser , who ruled from about 2670-2650 B.C.E., did not think that the mastaba would be good enough to remind future generations of his brilliance and power. He wanted something bigger and better, and he called upon his royal court to think of something that would be more suitable for him. The answer came from his royal vizier, or adviser, a man by the name of Imhotep . Imhotep had the idea to build one of these low mastabas, and then build no less than five more on top of it, each smaller than the one before, creating a staircase to the heavens. The result was the Step Pyramid, which so impressed Djoser that he issued a royal decree stating that Imhotep, upon his death, would be worshipped as a god.
The idea of the pyramid quickly caught on with the Old Kingdom Pharaohs, who followed Imhotep's original idea, but improved on it, removing the stair-step appearance and replacing it with a more smooth appearing edge.
The most enthusiastic builder of all the Pharaohs was the Pharaoh Sneferu (2575-2551 B.C.E.), who had at least four pyramids built during his reign. In Sneferu's day, the engineers were still trying to figure out how to make a pyramid that would not fall over, and they were not always successful. At a place called Meidum, about 75 miles southwest of Cairo, one of Sneferu's pyramids collapsed. Another, at a site near Sakkara called Dahshur, began to sag during construction, so the workers quickly changed the angle of the edges, giving this pyramid a "bent" appearance, which gave it the name that it has to this day: "The Bent Pyramid."
It was Sneferu's son who started the most famous pyramid complex in the world. The Pharaoh Khufu (also called Cheops) selected an imposing site above a rough escarpment in the desert, where the Nile plain rises to meet the Sahara. The ancient name for this place is now lost, and the site is called by the name of the suburb of Cairo where the pyramids are located: Giza. When Khufu's pyramid was completed, it was simply the most exquisite, elegant and massive structure ever built. Over 2.5 million stone blocks, weighing 2.5 tons each, rise to a height of 450 feet above the desert floor, which had to be leveled to create a flat building surface. The sides angle inwards at a precise measurement for their entire length to a carefully centered point. The entire pyramid was covered in white limestone slabs so carefully fitted together that it appeared that the entire pyramid was one solid piece of stone. The limestone was so fine that the residents of medieval Cairo used it as building material for their lavish palaces, so that--of the three major pyramids at the site--only the limestone cap of the second great pyramid, that of Khufu's grandson Khafra , remains in place. It is believed that Khufu's son, Djedef-ra built the Sphinx, and Djedef-ra's son Khafra built the second pyramid, which is directly behind it. The third pyramid on the plateau, that of Khafre's son Menkaura , was covered in granite, which was a more expensive and harder-to-find material. Although the pyramid may appear less impressive due to its smaller size, the granite coating would have made a statement of wealth equal to that of the pyramids built by Menkaura's father and great-grandfather.
quar·ry - An open excavation or pit from which stone is obtained by digging, cutting, or blasting.
Standing at the base of the pyramids at Giza it is hard to believe that any of these enormous monuments could have been built in one pharaoh's lifetime. Who Really Built the Pyramids? Ever since the day that the finishing touches were put on the Great Pyramid at Giza, there has been all sorts of speculation about who really built the pyramids, and how they were built. The ideas range from the possible (the pyramids were built by the Jewish slaves who were later freed by Moses in the story of the Exodus) to the really ridiculous (the pyramids were built by any or all of the following: the flying saucer people; the inhabitants of the lost continent of Atlantis; some previously unknown civilization that predated ancient Egypt by hundreds of thousands of years; the Egyptians, but using the power of the Ark of the Covenant / the flying saucer people / the lost magic of the people of Atlantis). The Greek historian Herodotus (who, though very prolific and well respected, was also wrong about a lot of things) was told on his visit to Egypt that it took 100,000 men working year round for twenty years to build his pyramid. He was also told that Khufu was a horrible tyrant who saw to it that these workers were subjected to the most horrible conditions: they were beaten, not fed well, and many of them died while working on the pyramids. The real story, however, is probably a lot less interesting. Most modern archaeologists think that the real number of workers needed to build the pyramids was only around one third of the number given by Herodotus. Most of the laborers were farmers, who were recruited to work during the annual flooding of the Nile, when their fields were underwater. During that time, it would have been easy to send the large limestone blocks across the Nile from the quarries on the east bank all the way to the construction site on the west by barge. Demonstrations have shown that it takes only one six-man team to move blocks even bigger than those used in the construction of the pyramids using technology that the Egyptians had available to them. And, while the story that it was the Jewish slaves who built the pyramids seems plausible, the fact is that the pyramids were built about a thousand years too early for there to have been any Jews involved in the construction at all.
The Great Sphinx at Giza, near Cairo, is the oldest and longest stone sculpture from the Old Kingdom With a lion’s body and a human head, it represents Ra-Horakhtv, a form of the powerful sun god, and is the incarnation of royal power and the protector of the temple doors. The face of the Great Sphinx is believed to be that of Chephren, the fourth-dynasty pharaoh who built the second-largest pyramid in the Giza triad. Carved out of a natural limestone outcrop, the Sphinx is 19.8 metres (65 feet) high and 73.2 metres (240 feet) long. It is located a short distance from the Great Pyramid.
"To speak the
name of the dead
is to make him live
Ancient Egypt civilization lasted over 3000 years.
Egyptian monuments have been around so long
that their monuments were ancient even in Greek
and Roman times…. but one key question has
always loomed: how were the pyramids built?
The Pyramids are one of the Seven Wonders of the
Ancient World. Decorating the Nile waterfront
they loom over passing boats. They are the lasting
reminders of the Pharaohs that once ruled Egypt
and of the power that the nation had.
There are More than
eighty (80) pyramids
were built around the
Nile from 1600 - 2700
How did the Egyptian burial
4. Valley of the Kings
Mastaba tombs were low rectangular brick or stone structures. Like the pyramids,
they were built on the west side of the Nile (symbol of death, where the sun falls
into the underworld).
In the mastabas, lavish tombs with all necessary possessions would be prepared
for the Phaorahs
The pyramids evolved from the mastabas
BURIAL TOMBS: four-sided stone structure that symbolizes the sacred
mountain, humanity’s universal striving to reach the heavens.
PURPOSE: because the Pharaoh was viewed as a god, he lived in the spirit
world with the gods. Upon death, he had to be able to return to his body on
earth, and required a tomb where his body would be preserved and
surrounded by materials he would need whenever his spirit returned to his
IMMORTALITY: the ancient belief in raising the human spirit towards the
gods is the quintessential purpose behind the construction of pyramids
The Pyramids were built on the
west side of the Nile, as the sun
sets in the west. This represented the
cycle of life (east = rebirth);
Valley of the Kings
Beginning with the 18th Dynasty and
ending with the 20th, the kings abandoned
the Memphis area and built their tombs in
Also abandoned were the pyramid style
Most of the tombs were cut into the
limestone following a similar pattern:
three corridors, an antechamber and a
sunken sarcophagus chamber.
These catacombs were harder to rob and
were more easily concealed.
Construction usually lasted six years,
beginning with the new reign.
The text in the tombs are from the
Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates
and the Book of the Underworld.
The Step Pyramid
During the early Old
Kingdom (2680 BCE),
commissioned Imhotep to
build him a memorial
tomb that would remind
future generations of his
brilliance and power
Imhotep took the idea of
the mastabas and stacked
six of them one on top of
the other > creating a
stairway to Heaven
This became the world’s
first building made
completely of stone
Steps in the pyramid were
to enable the pharaoh to
take his place among the
The pyramids evolved
from that point
Later designers were
to smooth out the
Inner burial chambers
and hidden passages
and tombs were built
within the pyramids
The pyramids have
dimensions that have
(father to Khufu)
Most enthusiastic builder
of pyramids building at
least four pyramids during
At Dashur, a pyramid was
built with 2 entrances
(north and west)
However the angle of the
first was too sharp and
To save the other, the
angle of the walls was
changed, leaving a bent
This is called the “Bent
The Red Pyramid was the first to
achieve the perfect pyramid shape
•Stripped from its limestone casing,
this pyramid reveals the reddish
sandstone used to build most of its
•Its Ancient Egyptian name was
"The Shining One".
•the Red Pyramid at Dashur has the second
largest base of any pyramid in Egypt
Giza Pyramid: The Great Pyramid
Built under the rule of Khufu
(Cheops in Greek) outside of Cairo
Belief that Pharaoh would join the
sun-god Re as Re made his daily
journey by boat across the sky.
Thus Khufu would need a pyramid
shaped like a sunburst, so he could
climb on the rays of the sun to join
Still remains the largest stone
building on Earth
A meridian running through the pyramids divides th
continents and oceans into two equal halves
lies in the
exact center of
all the land
area of the
The north-south axis is the longest land meridian, and the east-west
axis is the longest land parallel on the globe. There is obviously only
one place that these longest land-lines of the terrestrial earth can
cross, and it is at the Great Pyramid!
Pyramid of Giza: Look at the Stats!
•Total of 2.3 – 2.6 million blocks of
limestone were cut out of the quarries,
dressed and transported and fitted
•Each block weighs average 2.5 tons – 15
•2.5 tons= approximately 25 refrigerators
•seam between blocks were very fine,
about 1 mm on all 6 sides
•Only error of less than 0.1% in
construction of Great Pyramid
•Estimated Construction: 20- 80 years
Original entrance of the
Great Pyramids of Giza: Size Stats
• 920 meters around
• Nearly 10 football fields could fit within the base.
• The area of the base is also equal to about seven
city blocks in New York City or about 13 acres.
The rocky structure where the
pyramids stand had to be leveled
(south east corner is just 1/3 inch
higher than northwest corner!
• Great Pyramid is a sundial. The
shadow fell on pavements and the
pavements were marked with the
day of the year and the hour of the
• Great Pyramid is a giant calendar.
The Egyptians could use it to
measure the length of a year to
three decimal places… 365.24
Did you know?
The surface of blocks did not
crack along layers after
thousands of years of exposure
to wind and sun
The casing stones, 144,000 in
all, were so brilliant that they
could literally be seen from the
mountains of Israel hundreds
of miles away. On bright
mornings and late afternoons,
sunlight reflected by this vast
mirrored surface of 5-1/4 acres
distinguished the Pyramid as
being visible from the moon.
•Priests of Pharoh Khufu
convinced him to pay for all the
bills of the Great Pyramid!
In the Chamber In the heart of the burial chamber,
you'll be 20 m (66 ft) beneath the
foundation with over 6 million tons
of stone piled above you!
Burial chamber filled with riches for
Pharaoh to take into afterlife
Inside the pyramids there were false
doors, staircases and corridors
In the King’s Chamber of the
Great Pyramid, laid a stone
coffin that contained nothing!
King Khufu had never been
placed in his burial place!
The area of the base of the pyramid divided by
twice its height gives the figure of pie (3.14)
The height of the Pyramid's apex is 5,812.98
inches, and each side is 9,131 inches from
corner to corner (in a straight line). If the
circumference of the Pyramid is divided by
twice its height (the diameter of a circle is
twice the radius), the result is 3.14159, which
just happens to be pi. Incredibly, this
calculation is accurate to six digits. So the
Pyramid is a square circle, and thus pi was
designed into it 4,600 years ago. Pi is
demonstrated many times throughout the
Blocks of granite moved from Aswan
(950 km away) each weighing 53.5
How did people get out of pyramids
(building trap doors / secret corridors?
No markings inside the pyramids from
How did they transport the stones?
Ramps? Boats? Lifting?
Who built these pyramids?
Power of the Pyramid Shape
Scientists experimented by making model pyramids and
placing different types of food in them (usually food that
goes bad quickly). The food stayed in good condition
much longer than expected….
1959, engineer Karel Drbal did a similar experiment with
blunt razor blades. To his astonishment, Drbal found the
blades actually became sharp again when stored in
pyramid. He sold his idea to a company who successfully
sold plastic models of pyramids.
Theories: Who really built the pyramids?
Slaves (100 000 or 20 000? )
Farmers (during annual flooding)
Limestone from quarries floated to base
Graffiti / Drawings
2) “Chariots Still Crash”
3) “Pouring a Pyramid”
oldest and longest stone sculpture
from the Old Kingdom
lion’s body and a human head, it
represents Ra-Horakhtv, a form of
the powerful sun god, and is the
incarnation of royal power and
the protector of the temple doors.
The face of the Great Sphinx is
believed to be that of Chephren,
the fourth-dynasty pharaoh who
built the second-largest pyramid
in the Giza triad.
Carved out of a natural limestone
outcrop, the Sphinx is 19.8 metres
(65 feet) high and 73.2 metres
(240 feet) long.
It is located a short distance from
the Great Pyramid.