The great pyramid, one of the most studied ancient riddles on earth. Yet questions still remain. Six million tons of stone, shaped and transported over 30 years to build an eternal tomb with a sacred purpose. Even if many things said about the Great Pyramid of Giza, it looks like it misses something. The ancient Egyptians left an indelible mark on human civilizations. Building awe-inspiring monuments, temples and tombs. Demonstrating remarkably precise engineering, all to honor their Pharaohs as living gods.
Many were drowning achievements of the old kingdom. The first great flowering of Egyptians art that began 4500 years ago. The pyramids of Giza Stand years ago. The pyramids of Giza stand as enduring and mysterious relics. Massive structures raised to ensure the afterlives of three all-powerful Pharaohs- Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu. The pharaoh who built the oldest and the biggest pyramid of all-The Great Pyramid, the last surviving wonder of the ancient world.
WHAT ARE PYRAMIDS?
Pyramids are ancient giant structures typically masonries located in the city of Giza in Egypt. A pyramid is a structure or monument usually with a quadrilateral base, which rises to a triangular point. What we normally have the knowledge about the pyramids? They consist of three lonely structures on the Giza plateau at the edge of the Sahara Desert. But there exists over seventy pyramids in Egypt stretching down the Nile valley and used in the times as great temple complexes. Although Pyramids are exclusively associated with Egypt, the pyramid shape was first used in ancient Mesopotamia in the mud-brick structures known as inaugurates and continued to be used by the Greeks and Romans. Pyramids concentration can also found in south of Egypt in the Nubian kingdom of Meroe, in the cities of the Maya throughout Central and South America. China also has its variation form.
Egypt’s pharaohs expected to become gods in the afterlife. They erected temples to the gods and massive pyramids for themselves to prepare for the next world.They would fill each ruler with the things they would need to guide and sustain himself in the next world.
Pharaoh Khufu began the first Giza pyramid project, circa 2550 BC. His Great Pyramid is the largest in Giza and towers some 481 feet (147 meters) above the plateau. Its estimated 2.3 million stone blocks each weigh an average of 2.5 to 15 tons. Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, built the second pyramid at Giza, circa 2520 BC.
HOW ARE THEY BUILD?
The construction techniques of Egyptian pyramid are based on many controversial hypotheses. The techniques evolved with time and the method of constructing pyramids also changed with time. Majority of construction hypotheses focus on the fact that huge stones carved from quarries with copper chisels. These blocks were then dragged and lifted into the correct position. But many scientists do disagree concerning the methods used to move, lift and place the stones.
Though there are many unsolved arguments about the construction techniques of the pyramid, there have been disagreements as to the kind of workforce used. Many years after the event, the Greeks believed that the pyramids must have been built by slave labour. Archaeologists now believe that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built by tens of thousands of skilled labourers who camped near the pyramids and worked for a salary as a form of tax payment until the construction was completed.
Many theories came upon the techniques on the building of pyramids over many years. The cemeteries discovered in 1990 by archaeologists Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner state the evidence from the annual stone of the king that foreigners from Canaan used extensively.
HYPOTHESES BASED ON CONSTRUCTION METHOD
Building the pyramids from quarried stone blocks:
Moving the huge quantities of stone blocks became the major problem faced by the early pyramid builders. Certain depictions and illustrations on various sources pave the way to the evidence that supports the construction which were based on quarried stone blocks. The twelve dynasty tomb of Djehutihotep has an illustration of 172 men pulling an alabaster statue of him on a sledge. The statue is estimated to weigh 60 tons and estimated that 45 workers would be required to move the colossal statue. Dr R H G Parry suggested a method that was used in rolling the stones using a cradle like machine that had been excavated in various new kingdom temples.
As the stones forming the core of the pyramids were roughly cut, especially in the Great Pyramid, the material used to fill the gaps was another problem. Need of huge quantities of gypsum and rubble arised. The filling has almost no binding properties, but it was necessary to stabilize the construction. To make the gypsum mortar, it had to be dehydrated by heating which requires large quantities of wood. According to Egyptologists, the findings of both the 1984 and 1995 David H. Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Projects may suggest that Egypt had to strip its forest and scrap every bit of wood it had to build the pyramids of Giza and other even earlier 4th Dynasty pyramids. Carbon dating samples from core blocks and other materials revealed that dates from the 1984 study averaged 374 years earlier than currently accepted and the 1995 dating averaging 100–200 years.
WRITINGS OF HERODOTUS AND DIODORUS SICULUS
The mysterious secrets of the pyramids usually centre around a question. How those massive blocks of stone moved up the superstructure? The answer to this question is still unknown and no accurate historical and archaeological evidence is found yet. Therefore, most theories on the construction of pyramids lack concrete proof and are supported by limited historical and archaeological pieces of evidence.
The historical proofs contribute little to none in proving the construction methods of the pyramid and the methods to lift the stone blocks, despite this fact, many Egyptologists refer to these theories and opinions when discussing a portion of pyramid construction.
A greek mathematician, Thales, according to the philosopher Hieronymus, visited the pyramids during the 7th century BC. He measured the height and volume of the pyramids using the intercept theorem also known as Thales’s theorem. The first historical account of the construction of the pyramid given by Herodotus, an ancient Greek historian in 5th century BC and Diodorus Siculus, also a Greek historian in 1st century BC.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF RAMPS USED IN PYRAMID CONSTRUCTION
Most egyptians believe and acknowledge that ramps are the most tenable methods to raise the blocks. Yet at the same time they acknowledge that it is an incomplete method and must have been accompanied by a supporting device. Archaeologists came out with a theory that ramps used in the construction of the great pyramid of Giza.
The most common used for assisting ramps is levering.The archaeological record have found some evidence of only small ramps and inclined causeways, which were not used in the construction in majority of the monument. Many evidence proves that non standardised or ad hoc construction methods used in pyramid construction.
Controversies on ramp used:
Therefore, till date many controversies arose and many arguments were based on the theory of what type of radios were used to build pyramids. One of the widely discredited ramping techniques is the straight ramp and it is discredited on the functional sector for its massive structure, lack of archaeological evidence, huge labour cost, and other problems. Other ramps whose main purpose was to correct the ramp size, yet either run into critiques of functionality and limits archaeological evidence. There are zig-zagging ramps, straight ramps using incomplete parts of the superstructure. A spiraling ramp supported by the superstructure and spiraling ramps leaning on the monument as a large accretion presented. Most tenable solution to complement ramping methods considered to be Levering methods.
NUMBER AND LOCATION OF PYRAMIDS
Karl Richard Lepsius in 1842, created the first modern list of pyramids known as Lepsius list of pyramids in which the number of pyramids counted at 67. Many great pyramids discovered since then. Identification and discovery of 118 pyramids has done till now.
Sadly, many pyramids are still in the poor state of preservation or buried by sand dunes and desert sands. If at all visible, they appear as a mere mound of rubble. Consequently, many archaeologists are continuing to identify and study previously unknown pyramid structures.
The most recent pyramid structure discovered was that of Seshshet at Saqqara, mother of the Sixth dynasty pharaoh Teti. Majority of the egyptian pyramids, except the small Third Dynasty pyramid of Zawyet el-Amwat, lies on the west bank of the Nile river. Most of them grouped together in a number of pyramid fields.
Abu Rawash is the site of Egypt's most northerly pyramid, the most ruined pyramid of Djedefre, son and successor of khufu. Initially, the theorotical thought that this pyramid had never been built, but the current archaeological consensus is that not only was it completed. It was originally about the same size as the Pyramid of Menkaure, which would have placed it among the half-dozen or so largest pyramids in Egypt. Because of its ideal location adjacent to the major crossroads made it an easy source of stone.
Giza is one of the locations of the pyramid of Khufu, the somewhat smaller pyramid of Khafre,the relatively modest sized pyramid of Menkaure along with the number of smaller satellite edifices “Queen's pyramids” and the Great Sphinx of Giza.
Of the three, only Khafre’s pyramid retains part of its original position limestone casing, near its apex. This pyramid appears larger than the adjacent Khufu pyramid. Because of its more elevated location and a steeper angle of inclination of its construction.
The Giza pyramid complex, a popular tourist destination since antiquity and popularized in Hellenistic times. The Great pyramid listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient world. Today it is only one of those wonders still in existence.
The location for two unfinished Old kingdom pyramids is the site halfway between Giza and Abusir. The northern structure’s owner credited to be pharaoh Nebka. The southern structure known as the Layer Pyramid, may be attru=ibutable to the Third Dynasty pharaoh Khaba, a close successor of Sekhemkhet. Today it stands around 7 m(56 ft) high and if completed and predicted to have exceeded 40 m(130 ft).
There are a total of fourteen pyramids at this site, which served as the main royal necropolis during the Fifth Dynasty. The quality of construction of the Abusir pyramids is inferior to those of the Fourth Dynasty – perhaps signaling a decrease in royal power or a less vibrant economy. Smaller than their predecessors, and built of low-quality local limestone.
Major pyramids located here include the Pyramid of Djoser – generally identified as the world's oldest substantial monumental structure to be built of dressed stone – the Pyramid of Userkaf, the Pyramid of Teti and the Pyramid of Merikare, dating to the First Intermediate Period of Egypt. Also at Saqqara is the Pyramid of Unas, which retains a pyramid causeway. That is one of the best-preserved in Egypt.
This area is arguably the most important pyramid field in Egypt outside Giza and Saqqara. Although until 1996 the site was inaccessible due to its location within a military base and was relatively unknown outside archaeological circles.
The southern Pyramid of Sneferu, commonly known as the Bent Pyramid, believed to be the first Egyptian pyramid intended by its builders to be a "true" smooth-sided pyramid from the outset; the earlier pyramid at Meidum had smooth sides in its finished state – but it conceived and built as a step pyramid, before having its steps filled in and concealed beneath a smooth outer casing of dressed stone.
WHAT PYRAMIDS SYMBOLISES?
No monument has raised man’s curiosity as much as Egyptian pyramids. Their shape, mass, their meaning and secrets of their construction arouse interrogations among nbeings in quest of knowledge and put the perceptiveness of the archaeologists to great tests.
In general, sometimes an enclosure and smaller pyramids surrounds the pyramid. Its eastern face adjoined a funerary temple (“higher temple”) devoted to the daily worship of the defunct King. A long covered causeway linked this temple, to the valley temple (“lower temple”) destined to collect the remains for their embalming. The access to the tomb as such went through the northern face of the pyramid. Whereas the inner funerary chamber oriented east to west.
SYMBOLISM OF NATURE IN EGYPT:
Symbolism, in fact, described as a primary form of ancient Egyptian thought, and necessary to understand the pervasive nature of this way of thinking in order to fully grasp the role of symbols in Egyptian society. Artists, architects and craftspeople utilized symbols in the design and construction of objects ranging from temples, tombs and other monuments to the smallest items of everyday life. Yet this constant incorporation of symbols was not merely a matter of decoration or playful visual punning. The use of symbolism allowed the ancient Egyptians to impose their view of life on the surface of perceived reality. By incorporating or imagining symbols in the objects, forms and activities that surrounded them.
For example, a common depiction, from the beginning of the ancient Egyptian civilization until the end of the pharaonic period, was the vision of a king. His arm raised in the act of smiting the enemies of Egypt with a mace, was symbolic of the king's role of protecting Egypt from chaos. However, many ancient kings portrayed probably never went to battle. These depictions therefore symbolize more of a perceived reality than reality itself.
SECRETS AND MYSTERY OF THE PYRAMIDS
Two questions that baffle historians and researchers even today- why these grandiose monuments built and how they built it. Two stars Kochab and Mizar appear in the sky of northern Egypt. The reason for the perfect alignment of Egyptian Pyramids. Many people believe that astronomical perfection obtained without any written algorithms or mathematical formulas. While burying mummies in the special rooms of the Pyramids, some mysterious religious texts consisting of spells and ritualistic instructions to help the Pharaohs navigate the afterlife. Scholars now call them as Pyramid Texts.
Mystery of the Secret void in the Pyramid:
Scientists and archaeologists have discovered a mysterious void inside of the pyramid of Khufu. This discovery baffles many scientists till date as to why and for what purpose the void constructed in the first place. This may lead to many certainties and possibilities about the civilization of the Egyptians and many dark questions that tickle the mind of scientists till date. The void space’s dimensions resemble those of the pyramid’s Grand Gallery, the 153-foot-long, 26-foot-tall corridor that leads to the burial chamber of Khufu, the pharaoh for whom the pyramid constructed. However, it remains unclear what lies within the space, what purpose it served, or if it’s one or multiple spaces.
The Empty region "Void":
The seemingly empty region, which the researchers neutrally call “the void,” is at least a hundred feet long. Its purpose remains unclear; researchers are cautiously avoiding the word “chamber” for the time being. Since the void aligns with the Great Pyramid’s upper chambers, which were put there to relieve pressure on the King’s Chamber below, researchers suggest that the void may have been an internal ramp used to move the massive roof blocks into place. As construction continued, this ramp could have been left empty or loosely backfilled.
FACTS ABOUT PYRAMIDS
1. The Great Pyramid stands at 147 metres tall and took over 20 years to build.
2. The 2.5 million stone blocks needed cutting, moving and positioning.
3. The Great Pyramid – also named the Pyramid of Khufu after the fourth dynasty Pharaoh for whom it was built – sits alongside the pyramids of Menkaure and Khafre, and is perfectly aligned with the constellation of Orion.
4. Deep inside the pyramids lies the Pharaoh's burial chamber. Filled with treasure and items for the Pharaoh to use in the afterlife.
5. The pyramids of Egypt located to the west of the Nile River. The reason because the western side associated with the land of the dead.
6. The base of a pyramid was always a perfect square.
7. Constructed mostly of limestone.
8. There were traps and curses put on the tombs and the pyramids to try and keep robbers out.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ON PYRAMIDS
Q1. What are the pyramids?
- Geometrically, pyramid is a structure with its outer surfaces being triangular. It converge to a single point at the top. So its shape is roughly a pyramid in the geometric sense. Its base can be trilateral, quadrilateral or polygonal. But the most common version is the square pyramid which has a square base and four triangular outer surfaces.
Q2. What was the reason behind building the Egyptian pyramids?
- As tombs and monuments for the pharaohs and their queens. Pharaoh is the common title of the monarchs of ancient Egypt.
Q3. When the Egyptian pyramids built?
- During a time when Egypt was among the world's richest and most powerful civilizations. The pyramid-building period began with the Third Dynasty (c. 2650 – c. 2575 B.C.) and ended roughly at the Sixth Dynasty (c. 2345 - 2181 B.C.).
Q4. How many Egyptian pyramids discovered in Egypt so far?
- As per this question, arguments suggests: either 118 or 138 cited as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids as of November 2008. Most of them built during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.
Q5. Where are Egyptian pyramids located?
- Almost all Egyptian pyramids located on the west bank of the Nile River. They grouped together in a number of pyramid fields. From north to south geographically, the most important fields are Abu Rawash, Giza, Zawyet el-Aryan, Abu Sir, Saqqara, Dahshur, Mazghuna, Lisht, Meidum, Hawara, el-Lahun, El-Kurru and Nuri.
Q6. How pyramids built by the Egyptians?
- It has been a mystery that archeologists have been trying to solve for many years. While according to the latest discoveries, archeologists finally discovered how materials like limestone and granite carried from the quarries to the pyramid fields.
Q7. What's inside the pyramids?
- For most pyramids, the burial chambers were under the structure. But for some pyramids, like the Great Pyramid, the burial chambers were inside the structure. Near the pharaoh's chamber would be other rooms where his family members and servants buried. Besides, often other small rooms, used as temples or storerooms, and narrow corridors and passageways leading to outside. Carvings and paintings often covered the walls of the chambers
The new evidence shows how Khufu’s great pyramid project became the economic engine that drove the first great era of the ancient world's most vibrant civilization. The Egypt of the Pharaohs. The great pyramid the only wonder of the ancient world left standing. The polished stone casing has long gone and it has lost 30 ft in height since it's construction. But even at that rate, it might take another 65,000 years before it disappears from the skyline. The pyramid stands as a testament to the extraordinary skills of the people who built them. They tower over history itself. Truly among the greatest achievements of mankind, past and present. As the ancient Arab proverb says- “Man fears time, yet time fears the pyramids”