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Egyptian Pyramids
Mastabas were early one level tombs with sloping walls so that the flat roof was
actually smaller than the base
The word Mastaba comes from the Arabic word meaning “stone bench”
Earliest were made of unfired mud brick
Over time the interiors became more ornate, with decorative scenes (feasting,
agriculture, dancing, etc.) to ensure the dead would want for nothing in the
Step Pyramid
• The first pyramid built by Pharaoh named Djoser
• Located at Saqqara near Memphis
• Built by architect Imhotep – regarded as the father of Egyptian architecture, sculpture and
• Step pyramid had 6 tiers
• Based on mastaba construction – smaller mastaba placed on top of larger ones
• Djoser is buried under the pyramid in a burial chamber
Bent Pyramid
The Bent pyramid is a pyramid started that started at one angle (approx. 52 degrees) and then suddenly
changes to a more gradual angle of 43 degrees. This odd arrangement provides this pyramid with a
distinctive and unique appearance. There are several possible reasons for this change in angle. Currently,
the most widely accepted theory is that King Sneferu realized that if he were to continue the pyramid at its
initial angle, it would rise to a height which would require a tremendous amount of material and labor.
Another theory holds that the original angle resulted in displacement of many blocks and cracking of the
blocks that lined the chambers and passageways. This theory continues that the gentler angle was
employed to reduce the amount of weight to be added above these chambers and passageways.
Pyramids of Giza
Only 7th Wonder of the Ancient World still standing
Every pyramid has been plundered
The pyramid was the vessel in which the pharaoh ascended into the heavens and the afterlife.
The pyramids at Giza were built on a limestone plateau – to be higher than the Nile flood plain.
Pyramids were built using basic tools and equipment
The Great Pyramid
Built for Pharaoh Khufu (son of Snerfu – bent pyramid guy)
Located at Giza near Cairo
“True pyramid” smooth sides and limestone casing
Limestone later stolen and used to build Cairo
Burial chamber and inner passages made of granite
Took over 20 years to complete
Pyramid of Khafra
Son of Khufu
Only pyramid with any limestone casing left
Looks larger than Khufu, but actually built on higher ground giving it the impression of being bigger
Large red granite sarcophagus still in the burial chamber –
Sphinx stands in front of Khafra’s pyramid
Pyramid of Menkaure
Son of Khafra
Smallest of the three pyramids
Last pharaoh to be buried at Giza
Notes on Pyramids
Means : “House of Eternity”
Comes from Greek word “pyramis” meaning wheat cake
Ancient Egyptians called them “mer”
Built on west bank of Nile – sun sets in west “land of the dead”
Designed to protect the body of the pharaoh from:
Wild animals
Building pyramids
farmers worked on pyramids during flood season (3 months a year)
upwards of 100,000 farmers and 4,00 stone masons
copper tools to cut out granite and limestone
wooden sleds to move block
built ramps of mud and stone to move block up pyramid
Top of pyramid capped with a “pyramidion” (Greek) or “benben” (Egypt.)
Valley of the Kings
Due to the fact that all of the pyramids were pillaged and robbed (70 + known pyramids) – Egyptians looked for an
alternative to ensure a good afterlife for their pharaohs – Began building tombs in the Valley of the Kings
The End