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Egypt: Pyramids

Royal Monuments The pyramids of Egypt are huge funeral monuments built for kings and queens. The Egyptians believed in life after death. The royal persons body had to be preserved if he/she was to live happily in the next world. The pyramid would be safe place for the royal body to lie. It was believed that the pharaoh was going on a journey in the next world. The belongings, which were needed for a safe journey into the next world, were piled into the pyramid transport, food, weapons and treasure. The Pyramid Workers It was believed that labourers worked under the whip. They may have been slaves captured in foreign wars. They may have been Egyptian citizens forced to work for cruel pharaohs. It was also believed that free citizens volunteered their labour. Each year, during the flood, farmers could not go near their lands. If they believed that having good crops depended on the well-being of the pharaoh they might have been happy to take part in such an amazing project. Workers left graffiti on the stones. They worked in gangs and sometimes wrote the name of their gang. - For example, the vigorous gang, craftsman crew, the powerful white crown of Khufu and the how vigorous is Snofru gang.

Pyramid Construction The construction of the pyramids is viewed as being a monumental step for ancient Egyptian civilisation. Most scholars agree that the stones were dragged along with ropes and levered into position. Wooden rollers might have been used in difficult situations. Water may have been used as a lubricant. Most scholars agree that the stones were pulled up ramps. Some early theories were that one long ramp was used, thus as the pyramid became taller the ramp became steeper. Building Materials The pyramids were built near good supplies of rock. A rocky outcrop was leveled as the foundation of the pyramids, at Giza. It is believed that the Sphinx started as a knob of rock, which had not been cleared away.

Local rock quarried on the surface was used for most of the pyramid. Other rocks were brought in for special purposes. Most of the capping was fine, white limestone or alabaster. This came from Tura. It was quarried underground. Granite was needed for its strength. It came from Aswan in Upper Egypt. The Step Pyramid The first pyramid built was a step pyramid. It was to be the tomb of King Djozer. It started as a low, flat structure and was extended several times. It ended up accidentally as a step pyramid and people were pleased with the end result. Snofrus pyramid at Meidum is a ruin. Kurt M endelssohn studied the ruin and visited most of the other pyramids. He came to the conclusion that the pyramid at Meidum fell down before it was finished. Mendelssohn says that were faults in the design and poor workmanship. These caused the pyramid to fall down during construction. The collapse may have been triggered by an earth tremor or sudden rainstorm. Mendelssohn says, Snofrus second pyramid at Dashur was half built. The architects became worried. They changed the plans so that the top of the pyramid would be less steep. The lower part was at 54 but the top was changed to 43. It is known as the Bent Pyramid. The next pyramid to be built was the one known as the Red Pyramid. It is also at Dashur. It was entirely at an angle of 43. By the time the Great Pyramids were built in Giza, architects had gone back to 54 . Mendelssohn says this was because the architects had more experience by this time and were confident that they could build a stable pyramid with 54 sides.

ACTIVITIES 1. Why did the Egyptians build pyramids? How many reasons can you give? 2. Where would you rather be a quarry worker: Giza or Tura? Why? 3. The pyramids were originally capped with fine limestone or alabaster from Tura. Today, most of the capping has gone. Can you guess or find out why?