King Djoser's step pyramid.

The diagram shows the three design changes made during construction. 1st the mastaba, the traditional tomb of the pharaohs. 2nd the four step pyramid. 3rd enlarged to make a six step pyramid. 

Saqqara has the distinction of being the site of the first large stone structure built in the world. The place where humans began to strive for the impossible, where the imagination gained the power to transform reality.

The first tombs of the pharaohs were large, unimpressive, bunker affairs called mastabas. They were made from sun dried mud brick and most have long since crumbled to dust. This all changed around 2630 BC with the erection of the step pyramid. It was made for the pharaoh, Djoser and began as a normal mastaba, but was subsequently enlarged by adding one mastaba on top of another until it consisted of six terraces some 200ft (60 meters) high. The surface was originally encased in smooth white limestone which must have caught the sun light and reflected its rays.

The man responsible for the step pyramid was Imhotep, Djoser's vizier. He is credited as being the inventor of building in stone and was a man of many talents - Architect, physician, master sculpture, scribe, and astronomer. He must be the first true genius in recorded history and his impression on the Egyptians was profound because later generations revered him as a god of wisdom.

Sneferu's Pyramids

The age of the first ancient wonders of the world began with the pyramids of Sneferu, he built three pyramids and may have had a hand in others. His pyramid at Medum began as a step pyramid and was then modified to form the first true pyramid. He built two pyramids at Dahshur one called the Bent Pyramid because its upper part has a shallower angle of inclination than the lower part.

Seneferu's Bent pyramid at Dahshur was originally planned as a true pyramid, but its geometry was altered at a point just above half its height. The angle of incline was decreased from 54º 31' 13'' to 43º 21'.

Pyramids of Giza

Khufu's pyramid at Giza showing the plan of passages and burial chamber.

When Khufu, also known as Cheops, became pharaoh one of his first acts was to curtail the growing power of the priesthood. He "shut up all the temples and forbade sacrifices". As a priest’s living came from performing these rituals it is not surprising that Khufu was unpopular with the religious orders.

Some believe that his pyramid at Giza was built by slaves but this is not true. One hundred thousand people worked on it for three months of each year. This was the time of the Nile's annual flood which made it impossible to farm the land and most of the population was unemployed. He provided good food and clothing for his workers and was kindly remembered in folk tales for many centuries.

There are three pyramids at Giza, each of which once had an adjoining mortuary temple. Attached to this temple would have been a covered causeway descending down to a valley temple, near the Nile. The 'great' pyramid itself is truly an astonishing work of engineering skill - for over four thousands years, until the modern era, it was the tallest building in the world.

The sides are oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass and the length of each side at the base is 755 feet (230.4 m). They rise at an angle of 51 52' to a height , originally, of 481 feet (147 m) but nowadays 451 feet (138 m). It was constructed using around 2,300,000 limestone blocks, weighing, on average, 2.5 tons each. Although some weigh as much as 16 tons. Until recently, relatively speaking, it was cased in smooth limestone but this was plundered to build Cairo.

Is it conceivable that by bringing together so many people and giving them a common goal, that of making a mountain, a national identity is forged in their hearts. From Upper and Lower Egypt communities would have got to know each other and a common bond would have been manifest in the object of the pyramid. If this is true it is unique because all other forms of nationalism have grown out of war. For example England and France in the Hundred years war and the USA through the revolutionary, civil and Indian wars.

This is a mobile version of

Egyptian Temples iPad

Volume I Egyptian Cult Temples

The mystery of Egyptian cult temples explained, illustrated with videos, photos, drawings and 30 highly detailed computer generated reconstructions.

The Hieroglyphic Typewriter and Math Calculator with a QWERTY keyboard. Alphabet and number symbols together with a selection of determinative signs. The keys include Latin symbols together with their hieroglyph equivalents and descriptions, which allow you to type messages naturally and at a glance see the translations. You can quickly write names and short secret messages and then with the email function you send the results by email.

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