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The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt

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Milan Crnjanski

on 4 November 2013

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Transcript of The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt

The Pyramids of Ancient Egypt
Old Kingdom
Sneferu's Three Pyramids
During his 24 year reign, Sneferu built three large pyramids
The first was at Meidum
The second and third were at Dahshur
Origins of Pyramids traced to First Dynasty graves around 2900 BC for Pharaohs and kings of the people
The mud brick tombs used were known as mastabas
Second Dynasty tombs were similar but contained imitation palaces and open rectangular courts
Third Dynasty included the reign of Djoser which began a period known as the Old Kingdom where the majority of pyramids were built
We will be focusing on the Old Kingdom in this presentation as the majority and most well known pyramids were built during this time
23 major Old Kingdom pyramids were built by a variety of pharaohs along a 72 km stretch of desert
Djoser began the building of pyramids at Saqqara with the Step Pyramid
The biggest pyramids were built over three generations of rule between Sneferu, Khufu, and Khafre
Sneferu built three pyramids, while his son and grandson built the pyramids at Giza
After Giza, the Fifth and Sixth Dynasties kings pyramids had begun being built smaller and more standardized
Djoser's Step Pyramid
Located on the west side of the Nile between Cairo and Fayum oasis
Djoser chose the location and Imhotep, the architect designed and constructed the pyramid
The pyramid gained its shape from the idea of stacking six procedurally smaller mastaba on top of each other
The construction unlocked the potential of the architectural and building techniques using stone
Base: 121m x 109m
Height: 60m
Volume: 330 400 cubic metres

The Pyramid of Meidum
Began the construction of smooth-faced structures
First time that the use of progressively projecting blocks to create a false vault was used
Included a small secondary pyramid next to it known as a "satellite pyramid"
Sneferu abandoned the step pyramid at Meidum and moved to Dahshur
Given its name because the upper section is not as steep as the lower section
The first in series of smooth-faced pyramids
Once completed, a chapel on the north side, a satellite pyramid on the south, and an enclosure wall were constructed
North Pyramid/Red Pyramid
Called "Red Pyramid" due to the color of the stone
Entire pyramid was built using the steepness of the upper part of the Bent Pyramid
Traces suggest that near the end of its construction, the pyramid was built in a hurry
Sneferu was still unhappy with this pyramid, so he returned to Meidum to turn the step pyramid into a smooth pyramid
Base: 144m
Height: 92m
Volume: 638 733 cu. m
Slope: 51°50'35"
The Bent Pyramid of Dahshur
The Three Pyramids of Giza
Built over a period of three generations by Khufu, his son Khafre, and Menkaure
Located west of the Nile River, north of Saqqara and Dahshur
The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The pyramid is the largest and most well known of all the pyramids
Built with phenomenal precision
Outer stones perfectly joined
Base level variation less than an inch
The pyramid contained three rooms each created one above the other, and each accessed differently
The complex included a satellite pyramid as well as three much smaller pyramids for three queens
Contains 2.3 million blocks of limestone said to be weighed at 2.5 tons each
The outer casing is made up of fine, higher quality limestone which now no longer remains was transported from Turah across the Nile
The very top stone is missing for reasons unknown
Base: 230.33 m
Height: 146.59m
Volume: 2 583 283 cu. m
Slope: 51°
The Pyramid of Khafre
Succeeding Djedefre, Khafre returned to Giza to build his pyramid, standing shoulder to shoulder with his fathers
Although it seems larger, due to standing on higher bedrock and a sharper angled slope, the pyramid is actually the smaller of the two
The layout of the interior is of a simple design, with the burial chamber a plain room containing the pharaoh's sarcophagus
The entire pyramid was covered in fine Turah limestone but only the upper quarter remains
The Great Sphinx
The largest statue of Khafre's reign was carved out of natural bedrock at the base of Khafre's causeway
It was designed to guard the pyramid
The statue stands 22 m tall
The body is a scale of 22:1 and the head is 30:1
Base: 215 m
Height: 143.5 m
Volume: 2 211 096 cu. m
Menkaure's Pyramid
The volume is approximately one tenth of the Great Pyramid
Unlike the other two pyramids, the lower part of Menkaure's was lined in granite with the top covered in Turah limestone
Inside the pyramid, granite decorations of his burial chamber once held a beautiful dark stone sarcophagus which was lost during transport
Menkaure's pyramid began a shift of priorities from building pyramids to building religious temples
Base: 102.2x104.6m
Height: 65m
Volume: 235 183 cu. m
Slope: 51°
Pyramid Building Activity
It is the year 2490 BC. The current pharaoh Userkaf has found the missing stone at the very top of the Great Pyramid! You have been given the role of architect and have been tasked with finding a means to transport said stone from the Nile to the apex of the pyramid. You must only use the tools and technology available at that time.
Place the final stone on the top of the the Great Pyramid
Assume the dimensions of:
Base: 5m²
Height: 2m
Weight: 42 596 kg
Step 1: Transport the stone from the Nile to the pyramid site. You must design a transportation method that will keep the stone off the sand of the desert
Step 2: You must transport the stone 146m to the top of the pyramid, make sure your method is plausible and minimally resource intensive

Show your work on the chalkboard
The winning team will receive a prize!
The large size difference between the first two pyramids at Giza to Menkaure's Pyramid and those proceding it is due to resource constraint and a change in philosophy to religion and sun worship
Base: 188m
Height: 105m
Volume: 1 267 040 cu. m
Slope: 54° (bottom)
43° (top)
Base: 220m
Height: 105m
Volume: 1 694 000 cu. m
Slope: 43°
Standard Pyramid Complex
The pyramid is the central element of the complex
Pyramids built before Meidum had only a mortuary temple and a south tomb
Post-Meidum pyramids also include causeways, valley temples, and occasionally satellite pyramids and Queens pyramids
The "Ka", The "Ba" and The Body Embalmed
Why did the Egyptians build the Great Pyramids?
The "Ka"
An extremely important dimension of Egyptian thought
No direct translation but "life force" is potentially closest
Associated with food worship at Mortuary Temples; "for your Ka"
The "Ba"
Associated with soul and ability to manifest in nature
Could not function if corpse is decaying and therefore must be preserved
The "Akh"
After the death of a pharaoh, the Akh symbolizes joining the sky to become a star
This involves spirit and spirit state and is derived from the term "radiant light"
Pyramid: A Place for Transformation
Egyptian pharaohs saw their success in the afterlife dependent on burial rites and later offerings at the tomb
The pyramid was a place of ascension and transformation
As well as further offerings to ensure success
The names of pyramids reflect meaning towards Ka, Ba, and Aku
For example the Great Pyramid of Giza's ancient name is: Akhet Khufu
Supply and Resources
The majority of stone for a pyramid is usually from the location itself
Fine limestone was imported from east of the Nile
Granite, gypsum, and basalt are among other types of stones that had to be imported
Large quantities of wood was brought in for: levers, sleds and fuel
Food supply consisted of: grain, fish, fowl, sheep, and cattle
Long-Distance Transportation
Long distance transportation relied on the Nile river
Specially marked cargo ships carried the lighter materials
Specially built ships with extra supports carried the larger stones
Short-Distance Transportation
The desert sand was the major obstacle in transporting on land between the Nile and the construction site
A track was made of limestone chips, mortar and used pieces of wood with water or mud as lubricants
Where did all the stone to build the Great Pyramid come from?
Local Quarries
Location of the quarry was the prime consideration for a construction site
At Giza, 300m south of the pyramids, a large horseshoe shaped chunk is missing from the plateau
2 760 000 cu. m of stone was removed from this horseshoe
Imported Stone
High grade limestone was brought in from Turah, across the Nile
64 390 cu. m of this limestone was needed to cover Khufu's pyramid
Granite was brought in from Aswan in Upper Egypt
45 000 cu. m of granite was transported from Aswan to pyramid sites
Considering the size of some pyramids, ramps were most likely used to transport stones to high altitudes
Straight on ramps
Easy to build
Resource intensive
Straight On - Into Pyramid Ramps
Also simple
Less resource intensive
Had to be covered up later, affected interior of pyramid
Perimeter Ramp
Not as resource intesive
Cover up sides, difficult to judge slope
Zig Zag - One Side Ramp
Less resource intensive
Slope at top of Ramp very high
Work Force
General Figures around 20 000 to 30 000 full time workers (Largest Pyramid), may seem few but consider:
"Slob Factor" core of Pyramid not precise, unlike exterior
Bulk of Pyramid's Mass located within 30m of Base
Most likely permanant employees of the Pharaoh, divided itself into Gangs, Zaas and Phyles (names of divisions)
Evidence for Thesis
It is evident that every pyramid built after the two large pyramids at Giza were of significantly smaller size. Most pyramids in the Fifth and Sixth Dynasty were only 50m tall while the Giza Pyramids stood over 140m
Resource Limitations
The pyramid at Giza required over 20 000 men working over 20 years to complete
20 000 members of labor force that are not contributing to anything else and had to be accounted for
Each pyramid required a massive amount of natural resources, especially wood which often had to be imported
Therefore, it is evident that large scale pyramids are detrimental to the amount of work needed to build them, thus the society decided to focus on craftsmanship and smaller pyramids
Around the end of the Fourth Dynasty into the Fifth Dynasty, the civilization decided to shift focus to religion especially sun worship
Large scale projects diverted to building temples for worship which the Egyptian people most likely thought were more suitable for their current interests
Thus, pyramid building became less of a priority
Due to resource constraints and transition to religious thinking pyramid building faded into standardization
Standardization was reached in the late Fifth and Sixth Dynasty when both Merenre who ruled for nine years and Pepi II who ruled for more than 80 years recieved the same sized pyramids (Base: 79m Height: 52­.5 m)
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