The Idea of Pyramid and its Development

The Idea of Pyramid and its Development

Pyramids (Egypt), large structures with four triangular sides that meet in a point at the top, directly over the centre of the pyramid’s square base. Ancient peoples in several parts of the world built pyramids, but the Egyptians constructed the biggest and most famous pyramids, with which this article deals.

 Egyptian Pyramids Located on the west bank of the Nile River on the outskirts of Cairo, the pyramids at Giza, Egypt, ranks as some of the best-known monuments in the world. The ancient Egyptians constructed the pyramids to serve as royal tombs. Built without the use of cranes, pulleys, or lifting tackle, the massive structures stand as testaments to the engineering skills of their makers.

The ancient Egyptians built more than 90 royal pyramids, from about 2630 BC until about 1530 BC. During that time, the pyramid form evolved from a series of stepped terraces that resembled the layers of a wedding cake to the better-known, sloped pyramidal shape. The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah, 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.

What is a Pyramid?

Egyptian pyramids served as tombs for kings and queens, but they were also places of ongoing religious activity. After a ruler died, his or her body was carefully treated and wrapped to preserve it as a mummy.

      According to ancient Egyptian belief, the pyramid, where the mummy was placed, provided a place for the monarch to pass into the afterlife. In temples nearby, priests performed rituals to nourish the dead monarch’s spirit, which was believed to stay with the body after death. In the Old Kingdom (a period of Egyptian history from about 2575 BC to about 2134 BC), Egyptian artists carved hieroglyphs on the walls of the burial chamber, designed to safeguard the dead monarch’s passage into the afterlife. These hieroglyphic writings, which include hymns, magical spells, instructions on how to act in front of the gods, and other pieces of useful knowledge, are known as the Pyramid Texts.

Old Kingdom Pyramids:

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. In the Middle Kingdom (2040 bc-1640 BC), the Egyptians built pyramids mostly of mud brick. All pyramids were aligned to the cardinal directions, meaning that their sides ran almost exactly due north-south and east-west. Most pyramids rose from desert plateaus on the west bank of the Nile River, behind which the sun set. The Egyptians believed that a dead monarch’s spirit left the body and travelled through the sky with the sun each day. When the sun set in the west, the royal spirits settled into their pyramid tombs to renew themselves.

The internal layout of pyramids changed over time, but the entrance was typically in the centre of the north face. From here a passage ran downward, sometimes levelling out, to the king’s burial chamber, which ideally was located directly underneath the pyramid’s centre point. Sometimes, in addition to the burial chamber, there were storage chambers within the pyramid. These chambers held objects used in burial rituals as well as items for the deceased to use in the afterlife. Some of these items were valuable, and in later years people robbed many of the pyramids and stole the objects.

               A pyramid never stood alone in the desert. Instead, it was the focus of a complex of temples and smaller pyramids. Priests and officials entered a typical pyramid complex through a temple near a harbor connected to the Nile by a system of canals. This so-called valley temple was linked to the pyramid by a long, covered walkway, known as a causeway. The causeway ran up from the valley through the desert to another temple, called a pyramid temple or mortuary temple. This temple was connected to the pyramid at the centre of its eastern face.

Most pyramid complexes had satellite pyramids and queens’ pyramids. The satellite pyramids were too small to serve as burial places, and their purpose remains mysterious. They may have contained statues representing the king’s ka, an aspect of his spirit. The queens’ pyramids were simpler, smaller versions of the kings’, sometimes with small temples all their own. They were intended for the burial of a king’s principal wives.

The Great Pyramid:

The Great Pyramid in Egypt, built by King Khufu during his reign (2551-2528 BC), has a complex interior. This illustration contains information about the most important passageways and rooms in the structure. The largest pyramid ever built, King Khufu’s, is often called the Great Pyramid. It lies in the desert west of Giza, accompanied by the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure (Khufu’s son and grandson). The Great Pyramid was built during Khufu’s reign (2551 bc-2528 BC). Vandals and erosion have stripped away some of the Great Pyramid’s outer material, and some of its uppermost levels have been dismantled, but it still retains its sense of majesty.

               The base of the Great Pyramid forms a nearly perfect square, with only a 19-cm (about 7.5-in) difference between its longest and shortest sides, out of a total length of about 230 m (756 ft). This huge square is also almost exactly level. When newly completed, the Great Pyramid rose 146.7 m (481.4 ft)—nearly 50 stories high.

The pyramid’s core probably includes a hill of unexcavated rubble, making it impossible to determine its exact number of blocks. Researchers estimate that 2.3 million blocks were used to build the Great Pyramid, with an average weight of about 2.5 metric tons per block. The largest block weighs as much as 15 metric tons.

The work of quarrying, moving, setting, and sculpting the huge amount of stone used to build the Great Pyramid was most likely accomplished by two crews of 2,000 workers each. Teams of bakers, carpenters, water carriers, and others probably served the pyramid builders, so that a total of about 25,000 men and women may have lived year-round near the construction site. None of the workers were slaves. Most were probably farmers, contracted to work for a limited period. Specialists, who were permanently employed by the king, filled the positions that required the most skill—architects, masons, metal workers, and carpenters.

       In building Khufu’s pyramid, the architects used techniques developed by earlier pyramid builders. They selected a site at Giza on a relatively flat area of bedrock—not sand—which provided a stable foundation. After carefully surveying the site and laying down the first level of stones, they constructed the Great Pyramid in horizontal levels, one on top of the other.

       Most of the stone for the interior of the Great Pyramid was quarried immediately to the south of the construction site. The smooth exterior of the pyramid was made of a fine grade of white limestone that was quarried across the Nile. These exterior blocks had to be carefully cut, transported by river barge to Giza, and dragged up ramps to the construction site. Only a few exterior blocks remain in place at the bottom of the Great Pyramid. During the middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) people took the rest away for building projects in the city of Cairo.

To ensure that the pyramid remained symmetrical, the exterior casing stones all had to be equal in height and width. Workers marked all the blocks to indicate the angle of the pyramid wall and trimmed the surfaces carefully so that the blocks fit together. During construction the outer surface of the stone was left unfinished; excess stone was removed later.

    As the Great Pyramid rose, the workers built large ramps to drag their materials up the sides of the structure. The exact form of these ramps is not known, but scholars believe that they were probably built wrapping around the pyramid as they rose. These ramps were probably made of desert clay mixed with water and bonded with limestone debris left over from the construction work.

      When the workers had completed the pyramid and installed the pyramidion, or cap stone, ramps still covered the surface of the pyramid. As the workers dismantled the ramps from the top down, they slowly exposed the pyramid’s stone surface, which stonemasons smoothed and polished. When the ramp was gone, the pyramid was displayed in its full majesty.

How the Pyramid Form Developed?

The Step Pyramid of King Djoser was built during the 3rd Dynasty at Saqqara, Egypt. It was designed by the architect Imhotep. The pyramid was the first monumental royal tomb and is one of the oldest stone structures in Egypt.

The Egyptian pyramids developed from royal tombs of the earliest periods of Egyptian history. In the 1st and 2nd dynasties (2920 bc-2770 BC and 2770 bc-2649 BC), kings were buried at the city of Abydos in graves topped with a pile of clean sand inside low-lying brick walls. By the 3rd Dynasty (2649 bc-2575 BC), kings were being buried underneath large mud brick rectangles called mastabas, from the Arabic word meaning “bench.”

 King Djoser, who reigned from 2630 BC to 2611 BC, built a more elaborate royal tomb known as the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. 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.

Bent Pyramid at Dashur, constructed in Egypt during the reign of King Sneferu (2575 bc-2551 BC), and was constructed in two stages. In the first stage, the architects built the walls at an angle of 55 degrees. Then they encountered structural problems and flattened the angle to 43 degrees. The pyramid’s unusual shape gave it its name.

 In the New Kingdom (1550 bc-1070 BC), kings were no longer buried in pyramids. The site of royal tombs had shifted to the Valley of the Kings near modern Luxor. But private citizens used small pyramids for tombs that were barely higher and wider than the entrances to them.

Thethe Pyramid ComplexThe step pyramid of SaqqaraSnofru Red Pyramid in DahshurPyramids of Abusir