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The Pryamids Essay, Research Paper

The Great Pyramids of Ancient Egypt are the most magnificent and amazing man-made structures to have ever been erected. They are the only ones still in existence from the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The pyramids were created some 4000 years ago, and to this day many still exist. These monuments are a remarkable reminder to us of how far advanced the Egyptians were in their technology, engineering and architecture. The pyramids were built to last through time and are a legacy to which no other civilization has anything to compare. They have survived Mother Nature as well as human s destructive nature and are still standing. The Egyptians spent a lot of time and energy creating the pyramids. Why did the Egyptian feel so compelled to create the pyramids? And how were they created?

The pyramids of the Old Kingdom are an extraordinary accomplishment, which command the wonder and admiration of the world. Considering that the Egyptians had very few tools at their disposal and with absolutely no sophisticated equipment with which to make the stones, leaves one with the belief that this civilization was far more advanced than we may believe. The fact that the pyramids were created to near perfection, an accomplishment our society would still find hard to create even with our advanced technology, leave s one in total amazement. To date there has never been a building or monument, made by man without the help of advance machinery, ever erected that can even come close to resembling the sheer genius and brilliant engineering and construction that had been put into the pyramids. There had been an exceptional amount of resources and labor put into the construction of the pyramids. They are virtually indestructible and have survived, so far anyway, the test of time.

There was a time when, in a small strip of the worlds land surface, man achieved an almost total equilibrium with his environment and created a society as near perfect as he so far has been able to even dream about. This was the golden age. Sadly enough for the race of man, it ended all too soon, rather more than 4000 years ago. (Rice, 1)

How Egypt was governed portrays an important role in the construction and the function of the pyramids. The sheer size and unbelievable engineering that went into the creation of the pyramids shows the power of the king and the Egyptian state and the highly centralized administration that controlled Egypt at that time. Egyptians of the Old and Middle kingdoms were ruled by divine kingship, which meant that the king was one of the gods and superior to the people. Only the king himself was allowed to speak to the other gods. The king is considered to be the good god (Trigger, 71). The king therefore is considered to be the son of Re (or Ra), the sun god. The king must, during his lifetime, create a tomb to prepare for his duties in the heavens. After the kings death he is promised a place of honor in the barge of Re, where he may assist the sun gods daily voyages across the sky. Therefore when the king dies, he becomes Re, the sun god. It is the duty of the king and his people to prepare for his afterlife. The significance of the pyramid is proven by the resources and time used to create these monuments.

The Egyptians honored several gods, some good and some bad. The gods of Heaven: Hathor cow goddess of love, music, and women, who was symbolized in the Egyptian pyramids of the women; Horus ruler of the day; Nut Mother of the sun, moon and heavenly bodies; and Re (Ra) the sun god, who was born every morning and died every night. Some of the earth gods were: Osiris the water god, who was god of agriculture and the afterlife; Ptah the creator god, who was the creator of all living things; Ma at the god of order and balance, who was in charge of truth and justice; Seth Egyptian god of chaos, who was the god in charge of thunder, lightning, and chaos; just to name a few. All the gods were related: brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, sons, daughters, etc. The gods of Egypt were like a higher level of humans, with the same type of family life, however they were in charge of what went on in the basic everyday lives of humans. The Gods could also kill and be killed by other gods.

Since the Egyptians associated the west with death and afterlife, and the east with life and rebirth, the pyramids were built on the west side of the Nile in the deserts of Egypt. This belief comes from the fact that the sun rises in the east, therefore it is born daily; consequently the sun sets in the west, therefore it dies every night. The pyramids reflect the belief of the king and the Egyptians in a kind of immortality by becoming integrated in the circle of death and rebirth.

The functions of the pyramids were first as tombs for the deceased kings, where they could prepare to have every valuable, earthly possession necessary for their afterlife, as well as preserving the physical body for the spirit to be able to recognize it. Secondly, as a temple for the king to worship the gods, which are found throughout the complex on reliefs all over the walls. Last, as palaces for the royal family to celebrate kingship as well as being used as living quarters during the construction of the pyramids.

According to wall reliefs which appear throughout the pyramid complex, the focus is on the king and his responsibility to the gods and in return the gods presenting offerings to the king. Several scenes were often repeated several times throughout the complex leading to the belief that these particular reliefs were of significant importance.

From the Fourth Dynasty to the end of the Old Kingdom every pyramid ever built consisted of an enclosure wall, surrounding courtyard, temple at the eastern base, causeway to the valley floor and a valley temple. Inscriptions appear on the walls of the chambers in the pyramids as well as the causeway and temples.

The pyramid complex was considered to be the portal to the afterlife. The pyramids were built to house the dead king and his valuables for the afterlife. The spirit was able to freely move into and out of the pyramid through vent holes in the tomb. The enclosure wall was then erected to protect the complex by having only one or two entrances, therefore leading to more security within the complex itself. The funerary temple was located at the eastern base of the pyramid and was built for the divine king and the priests to have ritual ceremonies and for the king to speak to the gods. The causeway was just like a hallway to another room, it lead to the valley floor and the valley temple. The valley temple was believed to be used for the mummification of the king, evidence of a purification tent that has been excavated from there is what the theory is based on.

The Pyramids

To fully understand how the true pyramids came into existence, one must take a look at the history of the Egyptian tombs. The oldest known tomb, or superstructure, to be created was during the early Dynastic times (3100-2700 BC). The first were simple superstructures consisted of a flat roof and mud brick walls. Below ground lye a wooden coffin, as well as a separate structure for grave goods. A simple emplacement or small chapel was attached to the exterior. These structures are formally known as Mastaba. During the Old Kingdom these structures started to change and get more sophisticated and elaborate. Preservation of the body along with more exquisite grave goods began to come into existence.

The founder of the 3rd Dynasty, king Djoser, built the first step pyramid, which began as a Mastaba, but continued to become the superstructure now known as the step pyramid. The Step Pyramid was the central and largest complex of buildings and courtyards. The step pyramid evolved into what we know now as a true pyramid.

The Great Pyramids at Giza

Khufu s Pyramid

The most known pyramid is the Great Pyramid at Giza that belonged to the king Khufu. His pyramid is considered to be the greatest monument ever built. The pyramid itself stands an amazing 479 ft high and is 756 ft at its base. The pyramid, believed to have been built during the kings twenty-six year reign. During this time approximately 2.5 million limestone blocks, weighting anywhere from two to seventy tons apiece, were incorporated into his sacred monument (Davidovits, 10). The great pyramid originally possessed about 115,000 casting blocks, some weighing about 10 tons apiece and covering a surface area of about twenty-two acres (11). The casting blocks fit so closely together (about 0.002 inch) that a razor blade cannot even be inserted between any two that are still remaining. Khufu s pyramid is the first, largest, and most dominating in the valley of Giza. The burial chamber consisted of red granite and at the western end of the chamber rests the granite sarcophocas of Khufu. Within the chamber are two air vents that are believed to be for the king s spirit to leave for his daily journeys across the heavens with the sun god, Re.

Khufu s burial chamber resides high within the heart of the pyramid rather than beneath it. This is believed to be due to the kings identification with Re. The pyramid itself is named Akhet-Khufu, which translates to Horizon of Khufu (Hawass, 19). An enclosure wall surrounds the pyramid and the funerary temple is located to the east of the pyramid (20). There have been five boat pits found surrounding the Great Pyramid. The two to the south are believed to be funerary boats, which transferred the king up the Nile River and back again. The two to the east are believed to be solar boats that the king will need in his afterlife for his daily trips across the sky as Re, the sun god. The fifth boat is believed to be connected to the god, Hathor, although there is no exact theory about it.

Khufu s pyramid is amazing in the sense that it was built to near perfection using such unsophisticated tools. The base of the pyramid is a near perfect square with the north side of it being off ever so slightly with the true north . An astonishing accomplishment for even someone of today with all the technology at ones disposal.

In the 1950 s, archeologists recovered a funerary boat belonging to king Khufu, after excavation it was placed in a special museum where the climate and atmosphere could be controlled. The boat was preserved in perfect condition when it was excavated. The boat measuring more than 120 ft had a capacity of more than forty tons. The hull was composed of hundreds of pieces of wood shaped to fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. It was to be sewn together with a single piece of rope. The boat require no extra additives to make it sea worthy, instead when the boat got wet the wood would swell and the rope would tighten, this procedure made the boat totally watertight. This system created an automatic seal (16). The boat, which was named The Boat of A Million Years , started to rapidly deteriorate in the uniquely built museum, soon after the doors opened to the public. The deterioration of the boat had been caused by the climate and atmospheric conditions. The museum was unable to keep a constant climate with all of the tourists coming in and out. This caused the closure of the museum shortly after the opening until they were able to rectify the situation. Once the environment was stabilized surrounding the boat, the museum was able to reopen. Hard to believe that something that had been preserved for over 4000 years could suddenly start to deteriorate so quickly.

Khafre s Pyramid

The second Great Pyramid at Giza belonged to Khafre, Khufu s son. The Pyramid complex was built to the south-west of Khufu s Pyramid, and was built on higher ground for the appearance of a larger pyramid, however the pyramid itself is in fact smaller, standing 447.5 ft high and 707.75 wide at the base. Khafre, as well, had five boat pits, however no boats have been found in them. It is believed that the pyramid had been partly destroyed during the first intermittent period.

This is the only pyramid, for the most part, that is complete of the Old Kingdom complexes. It has two burial chambers, one of which still contains a sarcophagas. A 10-foot high enclosure wall surrounds the pyramid complex. The funerary temple, which is the best-preserved example from the Old Kingdom, was completely excavated in 1909-10. Khafre s temple was larger then that of his fathers with more rooms and a paved stairway to the roof, possibly for the priests to observe the heavens (Hawass 28). The funerary temple, which was at the base of the eastern side of the pyramid, is connected to the valley temple by a 500m long causeway. The Great Sphinx lies along the causeway about half way between the funerary temple and the valley temple. Ruins still remain of a small sanctuary, outhouses, a courtyard and a large hall with 24 pillars. It is believed that Khafre s pyramid complex was constructed during his 20-year reign.

A: Pyramid of Khafre

B: Secondary pyramid

C: Funerary temple

D: Causeway (approx. 500 m)

E: Sphinx

F: Valley temple

G: Sphinx temple

H: Mastabas

(Diagrams borrowed from Crystal Links at www.crystalinks.com)

Menkaure s Pyramid

The pyramid complex of Menkaure is known as the third pyramid of Giza. It is much smaller in comparison to that of his father and grandfather s pyramids. Menkaure s pyramid is called Menkaure is Devine . Due to the fact that Menkaure s pyramid is considerably smaller, standing approximately 218 ft high, and there were some differences in his funerary temple leads many people to believe that he put more emphasis on the people rather than on his afterlife. The best-known statue to be found at his pyramid is that of Menkaure, his wife, and Hathor (the goddess of love). His pyramid complex is somewhat similar to that of his predecessors, in that it contained his pyramid, three smaller pyramids for his queens, a funerary temple at the base of the eastern side of the pyramid, and a causeway that led to his valley temple. Menkaure s son completed the pyramid after Menkaure s death.

How were the Pyramids built?

It has been long debated about how the pyramids of Old Kingdom Egypt were built. To this day there are only some good theories but no definite answers. Some of the best-known theories revolve around hard labor and excellent craftsmanship. More debated theories are that the pyramids were built by extra-terrestrials, giants, and maybe even God. However the theory that makes the most sense is on the production of special cement produced by Alchemy.

The most widely accepted theory to date is that about 100,000 people working hard at cutting and carving blocks using unsophisticated tools built the pyramids. It is still debated about whether these people were hired workers or Jewish slaves. They quarried the blocks (mostly limestone) and carved them to size. The fine white limestone came from quarries close by while the granite may have come from quarries as far away as 600 miles. In some of these sites there are clear marks left in the rock. They then hauled these blocks using large wooden sleighs over lubricated wooden tracks. They then managed to hoist the blocks into place using ramps. The first theory was that one long straight ramp was used to move blocks into place, however it has become more logical and widely accepted that a spiral ramp must have been used. A spiral ramp would not be as steep and would be easier to move the stones into place. In other words, hard work, brilliant engineering and highly skilled craftsman are how the pyramids were created.

Other theories, as mentioned above, are that a more advanced civilization, likely extra-terrestrial, came to produce the pyramids as some sort of puzzle for human civilization to figure out. This is believed due to the amazing resemblance and position of the three pyramids to that of the three Orion stars in the Orion solar system. There is also evidence of pyramids on Mars from pictures that were taken of Mars surface.

Another theory is that God created the Great Pyramid because it was built to near perfection and was positioned in the center of earth s land mass. This is also highly believed because of the close proximity to the birthplace of Jesus.

The theory that is most realistic, however not as widely acknowledged is that the pyramids were built by a method of cement making called alchemy. This is an ancient form of chemistry that the Egyptians could have known and was somehow lost over the years. This theory is based on the production of man-made (synthetic) stones. All materials needed for the production of synthetic stones was readily available in abundance: mud from the Nile, natron salt from the deserts and salt lakes, and lime from simple hearths (Davidovits 69). It makes more sense that the pyramids were built this way since one of the bricks may weigh up to 500 tons and a lot of the bricks in the pyramid are believed to have been imported from long distances makes the alchemy method a more practical one.

One of the characteristics of geopolymeric concrete is that there is no appreciable shrinkage, and blocks do not fuse when cast directly against each other. Although it would have been impossible to achieve the close fit (as close as 0.002 inch) of the 115,000 casing stones originally on the Great Pyramid with primitive tools, such joints are easily achieved when casting geopolymeric concrete (p. 75).

This theory also reduces the number of people required to build the pyramids from approximately 100,000 for the original theory to about 1400 for the alchemy theory (p.80 and a table on p. 81). These numbers tend to be a lot more realistic given the time in which they had created them (about 20 years).

Aside from evidence from the chemical analysis of pyramid stone, Geologists find that the most compelling evidence for the cast in place pyramid stones to be gross features such as the chunks of stone incorporated into the pyramid blocks, the wavy lift lines (which is not a natural occurring thing), the density differences between the pyramid and quarry stone, and the jumbled nature of the fossil shells in the pyramid stone. The apparent absence of sedimentary stratification in the pyramid stones is also powerful geological evidence (p.106).

It has always been assumed that the majority of the masonry came from local quarries, however no quarries exist on the west side to have yielded enough stones to have created the greater pyramids (p. 106). The fossils in the pyramid, as geologists demonstrate, have come from Giza. So how did the fossils manage to be local even though there is no way the stones could have came from nearby? Alchemy of course!

Some of the blocks in Khafre s complex are so enormous that they weigh up to 500 tons a piece (p.105). These blocks would have been nearly impossible to move, without the use of machinery, which of course were not invented. The same blocks however, to cast in place, may take up to 3 days to create. This does make a lot of sense.

The pyramids then were created for the kings as tombs and a passageway into the afterlife. A lot of expense and time was put into the pyramids due to the significance for the Egyptians religious beliefs. The importance of the king is depicted in the magnificent structure and elaborate complexes built for their journey into the afterlife. The Egyptians were compelled to create the pyramids because they were ruled by divine kingship and it was necessary for the king to become integrated with the gods. And since the king was the only one who spoke with the gods it must therefore be honored as true.

The matter of how exactly the pyramids were built may never be solved, at least not in this lifetime, however there are a lot of good theories that explain how this task may have been accomplished. Regardless of whether the pyramids were built by 100,000 people for 20 years working very diligently cutting and hauling large stone slabs or by the use of ancient chemistry creating man-made synthetic stone, one thing is for sure, with all of our technology and equipment it would be hard for anyone to recreate a pyramid to such perfection and size today. Credit where credit is due, more than 4000 years ago the pyramids were built and still stand, near perfect and at the center of all landmass, they obviously knew something that others have not yet been able to figure out or reproduce.


Davidovits, Dr. Joseph, and Morris, Margie. The Pyramids: An Enigma Solved. New York: Hippocrene Books. 1988

Hawass, Zahi A. The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt. Pittsburgh, PA: The Carregie Museum of Natural History. 1990.

Rice, Michael. Egypt s Making: The Origins of Ancient Egypt. New York, NY: Routledge. 1990

Trigger, Bruce G. Early Civilizations. Cairo, Egypt: The American University in Cairo Press. 1993

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