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Transcript
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The Pyramids
"The glory of the King is in the sky,
his power is in the horizon."
(from the Pyramid Texts)
The pjTamid ofKhufu in Egypt, called the Great Pyramid, is one of the seven wonders
of the world. Certainly all of the p}Tamids make us wonder! Approximately 5000 years
old, the pyramids are the oldest stone buildings found anywhere. The Great Pyramid
at Giza stands 480 feet tall (144 meters), taller than the Statue of LibeIiy, and covers
an area greater than that often football fields. Amazingly, more than 80 pyramids still
stand today, leading us to imagine an intelligent and highly developed civilization.
Archaeologists can only theorize about how these massive and precise structures were
built without benefit of modern machinery. It is estimated that it required the diligent
work of 100,000 people, across a span of20 years, to construct one pyramid. Each
limestone block in a pyramid weighs more than two tons, and the largest pyramid was
constructed with over two million blocks. The limestone and small amounts of granite
were quarried close to the banks of the Nile, then transported to the pyramid site in
wooden boats. It is thought that huge wooden rollers, and a lot of ingenuity, moved the
stones along a causeway from the water's edge to the pyramid. Because the pyramids
were built to serve as tombs for dead Kings, the causeway doubled as a path for the
funeral procession after the pyramid's completion. The Egyptians, using only tools made
from copper and wooden wedges and levers, were able to cut and fit the stones so
precisely that not even the blade of a knife could fit between them. The builders were
careful that each side of the pyramid exactly faced a particular direction, and that the
base was perfectly level. This was all done without the aid of a compass or a level.
Intricate false passages and imposing granite doors were constructed to protect the
king's body and possessions from thieves.
The Step Pyramid was the first pyramid. It was built for King Djoser in 2630 B.C. by his
architect, Imhotep. The six stages, or steps, were meant to serve as a stairway for the king
to join Ra, the sun god, in the sky. The true pyramid, with sloping sides, was developed
later and was meant to represent the original mound of earth that rose from the water in
the beginning of time. The sphinx. a half-human and half-lion creature, was constructed,
many times in pairs, to protect the approaches to the pyramids and temples. The Great
Sphinx is the largest, oldest, and most famons sphinx statue. It lies in the desert by Giza.
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Step Pyramid
.
The Great Sphinx
Building the pyramids may have been tedious, often dangerous work, yet some archaeol(}­
gists theorize that the Egyptians were happy to risk their lives building both a tomb and
a monument for their king. In addition to believing that the pharaohs were sons ofRa,
the sun god, ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in life after death. They believed in life
after death because they Witnessed the "death" of the sun each day and its "rebirth" the
following morning. The Nile, too, suggested rebirth because every year it would flood and
enrich the soil. A king, or pharaoh (which means "Great House") entombed in a glorious
pyramid could continue to bring honor and good fortune to the people. The shape oft-he
pyramids was important because they were believed to be staircases to the heavens. The
angles of the sides had to exactly match those of the sun's rays descending from the sky
at twilight.
Although the pharaohs went to great lengths to ensure
that their bodies and possessions were protected by the
pyramids, robbers have ransacked nearly all of them.
One tomb, that of Pharaoh Tutankhamun, was discovered
almost untouched by archaeologist Howard Carter in
1922 after a seven-year search. Pharaoh Tutankhamun,
more often referred to as King Tut, became a king at the
age of nine and died when he was only 19. Many of the
treasures discovered in his tomb were made of solid gold,
among them a mask that shows his Mrican facial
features. Two wooden coffins encased King Tut's golden
coffin, which was made from 2500 pounds of gold.
King Tut
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