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Ancient Egypt /
1. Introduction
2. Gods
3. Concepts
4. Cult
5. Cult centres
6. Necropolises
7. Structures

Detailed articleAncient Egypt

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Ca. 2610-2100 BCE (Egypt)Ca. 1960-1760 BCE (Egypt)Middle 8th century BCE-4th century CE (Nubia)

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Pyramid of Khufu Pyramid of Menkaure Pyramid of Khafre Pyramids at Abu Sir Pyramids and tombs at Saqqara Pyramids at Dahshur Pyramid of Userkaf Pyramid of Teti Pyramids and tombs at Giza Pyramid of Unas Step pyramid of Zoser Unfinished pyramid of Sekhmekhet Pyramid of Pepi 1 Pyramid of Djedkare Pyramid of Merenre Pyramid of Pepi 2 Pyramid of Snefru at Meidum Red Pyramid at Dahshur Bent Pyramid of Snefru Pyramid of Sesostris 3 Pyramid of Amenemhet 3 at Dahshur Pyramid of Redjedef at Abu Ruash Pyramid of Neferirkare Pyramid of Raneferef Pyramid of Sahure Pyramid of Nyuserre Pyramid of Amenemhet 1 Pyramid of Sesostris 1 Pyramid of Amenemhet 3 at Hawara Pyramid of Sesostris 2 Pyramid of Khaba

The pyramid site at Giza, Egypt
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The pyramid site at Giza.

1. Purpose of the pyramid
2. Building techniques
3. Locating the pyramid site
4. The pyramid list

Click to learn more about each pyramid.

Pyramids of Egypt

See also Nubian pyramids

The pyramid site at Dahshur, Egypt
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The pyramid site at Dahshur.

The pyramid site at Abu Sir, Egypt
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The pyramid site at Abu Sir.

Architectural structure for monuments. Pyramids have a square base, with sides that slope and meet at a summit formed a point or a small, flat platform. Pyramids of the Middle East date back to ancient Egypt and Nubia (Nubian pyramids).
In the 6th and 7th century CE, Christian Berber princes built step pyramids, near the modern city of Tiaret.
Pyramids served their purpose as tombs, and the first pyramids were erected around 2700 BCE. Their origin was most probably the mastaba.
The era of building pyramids lasted until the end of the Ptolemaic period (last century BCE). But the strongest period of pyramids was from the 3rd until the end of the 6th dynasties, a period beginning around 2700 BCE and lasting for about 350 years.
It is believed that the problems with grave robbers is the main reason for strongly reduced importance of erecting pyramids. After this, underground tombs came to be preferred.
The earliest type of pyramids were the step pyramids, which had less than 10 steps on all 4 sides. The most known example of this type of pyramid, is the pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara in Egypt.
Later, the pyramids developed into a structure where all sides were even, and where each step never exceeded the height of the stones from which they were built. The most known examples of this type of pyramids, are the three pyramids at Giza in Egypt.

Purpose of the pyramids
Pyramids only served their purpose of being mortuary complexes. Pyramids was normally not erected alone, but as parts of complexes. While the main pyramid was reserved for the pharaoh, smaller pyramids were built for his wives. Mastabas were constructed for important officials, while lower officials were buried in ordinary pits.
Since the pyramid complexes also were turned into centres of cult, roads that lead from a pavilion close to the Nile and up to the complex, were built. Around the pyramid complex, a wall was built to keep intruders out.

Building techniques
Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were probably not built by slaves, but by normal inhabitants, either as a tax, or even as paid seasonal work. The season for building the pyramids, was while the Nile was flooded and the fields covered with water. During this period, farmers could not do much work on their land.
The exact technique of erecting the pyramids has not yet been established, where the main problem is understanding how the big stones from which the pyramids where built, could be lifted with the instruments available at the time. One of the more accepted theories, is that pebbles and stones were placed under the stones, while ropes were used to lift them up step by step.
The interior of the pyramids was made while the pyramid rose, and air shafts, chambers and tunnels were all built after drafts that were the same for all pyramids.
The interior of the pyramids is complex, with numerous passageways leading nowhere, in order to misguide thieves. After the burial of the Pharaoh, even the entrance was closed to be invisible to unwanted visitors.
Stones were at first transported on the Nile, normally from nearby quarries. The summit of the pyramids' exterior was covered dark stones, while white limestone covered the rest, making the walls of the pyramids smooth.

Locating the site for a new pyramid
Pyramids were always placed on the west bank of the Nile, which is the dryer side of the Nile, and was therefore thought of being the place of death.
It was astronomers who were responsible to decide by which angle of each pyramid should be built. The exactness of their calculations is impressive even when compared to modern knowledge.

The pyramid list

Pharaoh Location Height m Condition Ext.
2650 Zoser Saqqara 62 Excellent Yes No
2640 Sekhemkhet Saqqara 7 Poor; unfinished Yes No
2635 Khaba Zawiyet el-Aryan 20 Poor; unfinished Yes No
2610 Snefru (or Huni) Meidum 92 Partially collapsed Yes Yes
2600 Snefru
(Bent Pyramid)
Dahshur 105 Excellent Yes No
2590 Snefru
(Red Pyramid)
Dahshur 101 Excellent Yes Yes
2570 Khufu Giza 146 Excellent Yes Yes
2560 Redjedef Abu Ruash 57 to 67 Collapsed Yes Yes
2530 Khafre Giza 143 Excellent Yes No
2510 Menkaure Giza 65 Excellent Yes Yes
2485 Userkaf Saqqara 49 OK Yes No
2475 Sahure Abu Sir 47 Good No 1) No
2460 Neferirkare Abu Sir 72 Good No 1) No
2445 Raneferef Abu Sir 4 Poor; unfinished No 1) No
2420 Nyuserre Abu Sir 51 Good No 1) No
2400 Djedkare Saqqara (S) 52 Collapsed No 2) No
2350 Unas Saqqara 43 Good Yes No
2330 Teti Saqqara 52 Good Yes Yes
2290 Pepi 1 Saqqara (S) 52 Collapsed No 2) No
2280 Merenre Saqqara (S) 52 Collapsed No 2) Yes
2200 Pepi 2 Saqqara (S) 52 Good No 2) No
c. 2100 Ibi Saqqara (S) 21 Collapsed No 2) No
1960 Amenemhet 1 Lisht 55 Collapsed Yes No
1910 Sesostris 1 Lisht 61 Collapsed Yes No
1880 Amenemhet 2 Dahshur ? Collapsed Yes No
1870 Sesostris 2 Illahun 48 Collapsed Yes No
1830 Sesostris 3 Dahshur 78 Collapsed Yes No
1790 Amenemhet 3 Hawara 58 Partially collapsed Yes No
1790 Amenemhet 3 Dahshur 78 Collapsed Yes No
1760 Ameny Intef 4 Dahshur 40? Collapsed Yes No
1525 Ahmose 1 Abydos 51 Collapsed Yes No
1) Entry is possible with bribe to the guards.
2) Entry is possible by crossing the desert from the main parts of Saqqara.

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Where to begin?Detailed article

By Tore Kjeilen