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Old Kingdom
Part II
Building the Pyramids
• The Old Kingdom is known as the Age of Pyramids.
• During this 500 year period, the Egyptians developed the
technology to build the largest stone structures in the world.
• In the 2,600’s B.C., King Zoser of Dynasty 3 became the first
king to be buried in a stone pyramid.
• This was the famous Step Pyramid at Saqqara.
• No one knows exactly why Egyptian kings began to build
pyramids, but these structures symbolize many ideas. For example,
the pyramid shape is identified with the sun god, Ra.
• The best known of Egypt’s pyramids is the Great Pyramid of
• It was built for king Khufu of Dynasty 4 and completed about
2566 B.C. Originally 480 feet high, it was made up of 2.3 million
stone blocks that weighed about 2.5 tons each.
• King Khufu's son, King Khafre, ordered the building of one of the
other two pyramids at Giza as well as the Sphinx.
• The pyramids help us understand the relationship between religion
and the social and political order in early Egyptian society.
• As godlike rulers, the kings were able to use huge amounts of
Egypt's resources and the whole society to build pyramids during
period of Nile flooding.
• It is likely that female workers were responsible for feeding and
clothing the pyramid builders.
The Sphinx stands before
the Pyramid of Pharaoh
The Sphinx was carved from
a single block of limestone left
over in the quarry used to
build the Pyramids.
The Sphinx is said to
represent the body of a lion
and the head of a pharaoh.
Preparing for the Afterlife
• One of the Egyptians’ strongest religious beliefs was that there was an
• Believing that the dead would need their bodies in the afterlife, the
Egyptians developed ways to preserve bodies.
• By 2,500 B.C., Egyptian priests had invented new techniques for
making a mummy.
• They began by removing all the body organs except the heart.
• They placed these organs in special jars, canopic jars.
• The hear t remained in the body because the Egyptians believed that
the heart was the home of the soul.
• The body was then dried using salt called natron, and the body was
wrapped in linen bandages.
• Then the royal mummies were placed in their tombs.
• Everything a royal person might need in the afterlife, such as
clothing, jewelry, furniture, and even games, was placed in the tombs.
• Later, during the time of the New Kingdom, priests placed a
collection of writings, known as the Book of the Dead, in the
• It was not until after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in A.D.
1799 that scholars could decipher hieroglyphs and read Egyptian
• One of the most important writings in the Book of the Dead
explains the “weighing of the heart.”
• The Egyptians believed that the soul of a dead person appeared
before the god Osiris and a group of judges.
• The judges placed the dead person’s heart on one side of a scale
and a feather, the symbol of truth, on the other.
• If the two balanced, the soul earned life forever.
• The judges would say, “I have judged the heart of [dead person’s
name], and his soul stands as a witness for him. His deeds are
righteous in the great balance , and no sin has been found on him.”
• Heavy souls, the Egyptians believed, would be eaten by a monster
that was part crocodile, part lion, and part hippopotamus.