The Pyramids of Egypt – Just for fun

The Pyramids of Egypt – Just for fun

We recently traveled on tour to Egypt with Gate 1 Travel. We have been on at least a half dozen trips with Gate 1, and they always provide top-notch service. I have always been intrigued by the pyramids at Giza and the controversy regarding their origins. Conventional wisdom dictates that the Giza pyramids were the result of fine-tuning other less sophisticated and failed attempts. An example of an early effort is the Step Pyramid.

The Pyramid of Djoser or Step Pyramid is an archaeological remain in the Saqqara necropolis, Egypt, northwest of the city of Memphis. The 6-tier, the 4-sided structure is the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. It was built in the 27th century BC during the Third Dynasty for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser. The pyramid is the central feature of a vast mortuary complex in an enormous courtyard surrounded by ceremonial structures and decoration.

The pyramid went through several revisions and redevelopments of the original plan. The pyramid initially stood 62.5 meters (205 ft) tall, with a base of 109 m × 121 m (358 ft × 397 ft) and was clad in polished white limestone. The step pyramid (or proto-pyramid) is considered to be the earliest large-scale cut stone construction. Our tour guide said that the pyramid was designed and built by the architect/engineer/all-around genius Imhotep.

Imhotep (“the one who comes in peace”; late 27th century BC) was an Egyptian chancellor to the pharaoh Djoser, the probable architect of the Djoser’s step pyramid, and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. Very little is known of Imhotep as a historical figure, but in the 3000 years following his death, he was gradually glorified and deified.

Traditions from long after Imhotep’s death treated him as a great author of wisdom texts and especially as a physician. No text from his lifetime mentions these capacities, and no text mentions his name in the first 1200 years following his death.

Photo of a panel from the interior of the Step Pyramid.

The Giza pyramid complex, also called the Giza Necropolis, is the site on the Giza Plateau in Greater CairoEgypt that includes the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, along with their associated pyramid complexes and the Great Sphinx of Giza. All were built during the Fourth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. The site also includes several cemeteries and the remains of a workers’ village. Note that the “Great” Pyramid (and the largest) is the furthest one away in the photo.

The Bent Pyramid is an ancient Egyptian pyramid located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, approximately 40 kilometers south of Cairo, built under the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu (c. 2600 BC). A unique example of early pyramid development in Egypt; this was the second pyramid built by Sneferu. The Bent Pyramid rises from the desert at a 54-degree inclination. Still, the top section (above 47 meters) is built at the shallower angle of 43 degrees, lending the pyramid its very obvious ‘bent’ appearance.

Photo of a panel from inside the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu

According to accepted theory, both the Step and Bent Pyramids were examples of earlier attempts leading to the fantastic pyramids at Giza. The problem that I have is that no other pyramids that were constructed later on were even close to as sophisticated. The degree of inclination is the same for all of the three at 51.5 degrees. While there were a few pyramids that were constructed later at this same angle, none were even as large as the smaller of the three, the Pyramid of Menkaure. It and the  Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) were both built after the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The largest was built first (according to conventional wisdom) then the next largest, then the smallest. Interesting, isn’t it?

None of the later pyramids were as large or as well constructed as the ones at Giza. A good example is the Black Pyramid, which was built almost ten decades later and was made out of mud brick. Also, there is no direct evidence that any of the main Giza Pyramids were intended as burial tombs for the pharaohs. None of them have the Hieroglyphs that you would expect to accompany a tomb for the afterlife, like the ones in the Valley of the Kings.

The Black pyramid was originally about 75 meters tall with a base 105 meters long and an incline of 57°. Typical for pyramids of the Middle Kingdom, the Black Pyramid, although encased in limestone, is made of mud brick and clay instead of stone. The ground-level structures consist of the entrance opening into the courtyard and mortuary temple, surrounded by walls. There are two sets of walls; between them, there are ten shaft tombs, which are a type of burial structure formed from graves built into natural rock. The pyramidion, which is the capstone of a pyramid, was covered with inscriptions and religious symbols. Some of these were scratched off, leading researchers to conclude the pyramidion was never used, or it was defaced during Akhenaten‘s rule.

There are hundreds of additional examples. Pyramid building devolved after the construction of the Great Pyramid. What happened to technology? My view is that the Great Pyramid could have been built much earlier than the time of Khufu, and perhaps he took advantage of it or even intended to use it as a burial tomb. I have been on the inside of the pyramid. The only evidence that the “Kings” chamber was intended as a tomb is the broken sarcophagus.

It is not clear t me if this is a sarcophagus or was intended for some other purpose. It could also have been intended for a Pharaoh, but was damaged in transport and never used.                                                                                     The Pharaoh’s burial room in the Step Pyramid contains numerous hieroglyphs and colorful decorations, why is there none of this in the Kings alleged burial room in the Great Pyramid? The use of hieroglyphs and colors at burial sites has been documented to have been in use at the time of the Scorpion King I and earlier, possibly as many as 1,000 years before the rule of Khufu. Does it make any sense that Khufu did not desire to document and decorate his expected journey to the After Life?