Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pyramids of Egypt

The Giza Necropolis

The pyramids of Egyptian civilization were originally built as tombs for kings and some of them were for queens of Egypt. Thus it is important to see pyramids as one of the important aspects of the death and afterlife thought of Egyptian civilization. Egyptian pyramid is a funerary monument built usually of stone masonry and consisting of four triangular sides meeting in a point. (Shaw, I., & Nicholson, P., 1995) It served as the central point of Egyptian royal funerary complexes from the 3rd Dynasty (26686 – 2613 B.C.) to the Second Intermediate Period (1650-1550 B.C.). The word pyramid derives from the Greek word pyramis which means wheat cakes as this type of cakes were pyramidal in shape. However, the ancient Egyptian word for pyramid was mer. According to Edwards (1947), there are approximately ninety pyramids in Egypt. Many of these pyramids have reduced to little more than sand and rubble but they are still considered as pyramids by the archaeologists. Eventually, the number of pyramids that has been found has increased to 118 pyramids as of November 2008.

The pyramid complex usually consisted of a true pyramid with its mortuary and valley temples, a causeway between the two latter and a number of smaller subsidiary pyramids. Since the weight is greatest at the bottom and least at the top, the center of gravity of pyramids is very low - which makes for very stable buildings. That's why many of the ancient pyramids have survived till today. The first tomb that was built in pyramidal form was Step Pyramid at Saqqara which was constructed about 2780 B. C. This step pyramid was built for 3rd Dynasty ruler Netjerikhet Djoser by his famous architect, Imhotep. From the reign of Djoser onwards the pyramid complex was established as the royal funerary monument and burial place. The pyramid seems to have taken the form of a huge mastaba and gradually extended until it became a pyramidal superstructure consisting of six massive steps and reaching a height of 60m. One important innovation was the use of stone which had been used carefully in previous times. Archeologists call them mastaba because they resemble in shape the brick benches outside the houses in Egyptian villages. However, the two pyramids during the reign of King Sneferu (2613-2589 B.C.) at Dashur were probably the first royal funerary monuments to be conceived as true pyramids from the outset.

The Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. It was build by the famous King Djoser architect, Imhotep.

Furthermore, it was the Great Pyramid at Giza, the largest surviving pyramid that widely known in the history of Egyptian civilization. The Giza pyramids were built during the time of King Khufu who was King Sneferu’s son. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramids known as the Great Pyramids, along with the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx. Each pyramid was entered by a passage from the north and mortuary temple usually interpreted as mastaba on its east side. A walled or roofed causeway also built that led down from the mortuary temple to the valley temple which was associated with the royal funeral rites and statue cults. Besides that, there are a lot of subsidiary pyramids of varying size and number that located within the main pyramid enclosure. These subsidiary pyramids are described as ‘queen’s pyramids’ since they were probably built for the king’s wives. There are many attempts that have been made by writers on the Great Pyramid to illustrate its size by comparison with other famous buildings. One computation of this kind has been attributed to Napoleon during his campaign in Egypt. According to Edwards (1947), Napoleon has claimed that the three pyramids on the Giza plateau contained enough stone to build a wall, measuring 10 feet in height and 1 foot in width around the whole of France. His mathematician, Monge who accompanied during his campaign in Egypt has confirmed this calculation.

There is general agreement that the fundamental purpose of the pyramid was to serve as a highly visible superstructure for royal burials. But it is still a great deal of debate concerning the symbolism of its shape and design. It has been suggested that it represented the primeval mound of creation, on which the sun-god was thought to have been born. It has been proposed that the building was intended to symbolize the sloping rays of the sun since the top of each pyramid was often gilded and was closely connected with the sun. The Egyptians believed the dark area of the night sky around which the stars appear to revolve was the physical gateway into the heavens. One of the narrow shafts that extend from the main burial chamber through the entire body of the Great Pyramid points directly towards the center of this part of the sky. This suggests the pyramid may have been designed to serve as a means to magically launch the deceased pharaoh's soul directly into the abode of the gods. Besides that, pyramids served as the best place for the Egyptian people to preserve their bodies. They did their utmost to preserve their bodies as well as the well-being of the Ka (soul). They want their Ka to be able to recognize its body after death and to be united with it.

Some Egyptologists believe that the development of the pyramid represented simply an architectural evolution. Others have seen in it the triumph of one religious cult over another.


Edwards, I. E. S. (1947). The pyramids of Egypt. London: Penguin Group.

Ahmed Fakhry. (1961). The pyramids. United States of America: The University of Chicago Press.

Shaw, I., & Nicholson. P. (1995). British Museum dictionary of ancient Egypt. London: British Museum Press.

p/s: Sekarang saya adalah sebahagian daripada warga Kuliyyah of Economics and Management Sciences . . Hehe. Ohh wat assignment history tak rasa stress pon malahan rasa BEST ! Haha..


  1. aku hilang selama dua hhari..ko tulis article yg sangat MENARIK!!hehe

    Welcome to KENMS~
    ko kne amik bpe byk subjek econ?

  2. ohh2..i think the history of egyptians are interesting!i enjoy watching the documentary about the mystery of king tut tomb and the others...mmg best...hehe...

  3. to mayam:
    thanz!klu ko blaja dgn details mmg sgt sonok..ohh aku kena amik 11 sbjk bba!haish byknya laa ai..

    to myra:
    mmg sgt menarik pon egyptian ni..aku mula2 tak berapa minat sgt n just amik taw cm2 je tapi sejak dah wat research ni rasa interesting pulak..hehe..yg aku sgt kagum dgn egytian ni dorg mmpunyai daya imaginasi yg sgt tggi smpi dpt wat citer psal tuhan dorg n built da pyramids of kos!


HaaA Ngomel JAngan TAk NgomeL !


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