The Egyptian pyramids are amazing structures that attract thousands of tourists every year. It is interesting to note that these structures are actually beautiful crypts – part of a complex which included a mortuary temple – designed to house dead Pharaohs and the rich class. They were built to show respect, and reverence for the pharaohs and were strongly linked to Egyptian religious beliefs and traditions at the time. Eventually, it became customary for people of importance to be interred inside these large and spectacular edifices.
The earliest pyramids were constructed in the southern part of Egypt and, initially, had a flat roof, were rectangular in shape and were known as mastabas. In fact, the very first one that was built, the Pyramid of Djoser, was constructed during the 27th century BC and was of this configuration. Over time though, this changed to the ones we are accustomed to now.
The largest pyramids were erected during the early times of architecture and included The Great Pyramid of Giza and The Pyramid of Cheops. These were so immense that the Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure in the world (at 139 m), for over 3,000 years. It was built in 2650 BC and, as you will agree, was an incredible accomplishment for that time. Later buildings were actually much smaller in comparison to those early ones.
Another difference between early and late pyramids was how they were constructed. Old Kingdom pyramids were made out of stone blocks, while Middle Kingdom pyramids were typically made using mud that was covered by limestone. Basalt or granite rock was normally used to form the capstone, which was the structure placed at the very top. They would sometimes also mix some silver or gold plating into the capstone, so it would shine and amaze people who could view it from a distance. The construction of these massive pyramids was a remarkable achievement considering that the stone blocks or mud encased limestone weighed a great deal.
The King’s Chamber was usually located deep inside the pyramid. It was here that the body of the deceased pharaoh could be viewed inside a structure known as a sarcophagus. The chamber usually contained several valuable artefacts; things the Pharaoh would need in the afterlife.
Egyptians believed that the souls of the dead pharaohs could accompany the Sun on their “journey” to the afterlife. Therefore, all the pyramids were built on the west side of the Nile River as the sun sets in the west.
It took a large workforce of peasants and slaves who used sledges and ramps to move the huge boulders into place. What is incredible is that the Egyptians were even able to accurately align the pyramids with true north – a true feat indeed!
The Egyptian Pyramids are certainly a sight to see and it is no doubt that the construction of these structures still remains one of the most remarkable engineering and architectural feats of all time.