Egyptian pyramids are one of the most magnificent man-made structures in the world, and everyone has heard about the pyramids at least once in their lifetimes. The pyramids of Egypt surely are an example of what the human mind is capable of.
In this article, we have gathered everything there is to know about the ancient Egypt pyramids, from their make down to their importance.
How Many Pyramids Are in Egypt?
The total number of the discovered and currently present pyramids in Egypt is estimated to be around 118. In Egypt, the pyramids are not just present at one site, rather the pyramids are present at different locations and hold significant values due to their location and enormity.
Whenever we hear the word pyramid, Egypt immediately comes to mind. The Egyptian pyramids are one of the oldest masonry structures that still stand tall and are open to the public eye.
The architectural prowess that went into erecting such huge structures thousands of years ago is highly commendable. To understand the reason behind their making, their use and the number of pyramids in Egypt, we must start from the very beginning.
What are Pyramids?
A pyramid is a structure with a square or a rectangle at the bottom, has triangles on the sides, and where the surface ascends and converges to a single point. Pyramids have been around since the ancient civilizations of Egypt and even Mesopotamia.
The word pyramid is of Greek origin, which interestingly means “Wheat Cake,” as most of the pyramids in the world are famously found in desert areas like Egypt.
Each pyramid was built as a symbol of greatness and power, as such, a lot of time, material and labor force went into making them. According to historians, the main purpose of pyramids across the world was mainly religious.
Different civilizations have interpreted, and, in consequence, built pyramids according to their own beliefs, religious or otherwise. The Egyptian pyramids were, however, built for the sole purpose of religion.
Pyramids of Egypt
Egypt is most famously known for its pyramids. Tourists from all over the world come to Egypt specifically to view these pyramids with their own eyes, and the Egyptians have so far done a great job in maintaining the architectural integrity of these structures. Pyramids in Egypt were first built around the First Dynasty, which consists of the first series of Egyptian kings that ruled and unified Egypt.
The Egypt pyramids location varies greatly. Different pyramids of different sizes and importance are seen scattered throughout Egypt. Among them, the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara are the most famous ones. The architecture of these pyramids baffles the human mind, and we can only imagine how the architects and laborers of that time brought the idea of the pyramid into a reality.
The Construction of a Pyramid
All the discovered pyramids in Egypt today are of varying heights, materials and shapes. The probable reason for this is that the Egyptians started with a basic concept and perfected it with time.
Chronologically, the earliest and oldest pyramids do not have the characteristic angled sides nor do they have a pointed tip. Rather, they were huge, four-walled flat structures made out of mud bricks and were called Mastaba.
The Pyramid of Djoser
These Mastabas served as the basis of the pyramid structures. The transition from Mastaba to the pyramids was slow and steady.
The Pyramid of Djoser, built in the 27th century BC, was the first structure to be built as a Mastaba and then gradually erected into the pointed pyramids we see today.
Unlike the Mastabas built with mud bricks, this pyramid was made with much more advanced materials and tools.
Imhotep, an architect, and a priest was responsible for the Pyramid of Djoser. The pyramid is said to have taken 20 years of hard work and labor to finish, where the flat mastaba was turned into a many-stepped angled pyramid. This style of pyramid served as the blueprint of all forthcoming architectures who, in the coming time, would build the most fascinating structures in the world.
A lot of speculation exists around who built these pyramids. Because these pyramids look unreal, there are many stories that it may have been the Aliens who built them. Nevertheless, the ancient Egyptian scriptures document the making of most of the pyramids we see today.
Most famously, the earlier pyramids were carved out of mountains with later pyramids made of mud bricks, and the most recent pyramids were built out of the individual placement of stones.
Inside the Pyramids
The pyramids were built for one very important and interesting reason — they served as an intermediate resting place for the Pharaohs. Whenever a king or a Pharaoh, a queen, or any important member of the royal family died, they were buried in a pyramid after being mummified.
The mummies were buried with a lot of treasure and riches. Some mummies were even buried with boats. In addition, the size of the pyramids was directly proportional to the importance of the person being buried.
For example, some of the largest pyramids in Egypt are of the most famous Pharaohs.
Pyramids and Religion
Egyptians were highly religious people. The Egyptian religion was based on the concepts of polytheism, so they did not follow one god and his teachings. There was a pantheon of Egyptian gods and goddesses. Some Egyptian kings tried to abolish polytheism and wanted all the worship to be in their name, but that was not possible.
According to Egyptian mythology, there is life after death. Each person who dies will be woken up and sent to hell or heaven based on their worldly deeds. For this reason, the kings and the queens were buried with their belongings, riches, life stories and sometimes boats so that when they would be woken up in the hereafter they would have everything they would need.
Pyramids and the Afterlife
The Egyptians were probably the first-ever civilization to believe in the afterlife, and so the people prepared for it. When these pyramids were opened, all the gold, diamonds, clothes, bowls and pots were found buried with the mummies. The pyramids then served as a way of keeping the names and the stories of the kings alive to this day.
Many pyramid-like structures can be found across the globe. These structures are mostly religious and were used as shrines and temples to worship gods and to stay closer to them.
Famous Pyramids in Egypt
The largest and most important pyramids are found in Giza and Saqqara. Currently, historians have discovered, unearthed and numbered around 118 pyramids in Egypt. All these pyramids hold a unique and important value in Egyptian history and religion.
The most celebrated and visited pyramids in Egypt are as follows:
- Pyramid of Khufu
- Pyramid of Khafre
- Red Pyramid
- Bent Pyramid
- Step Pyramid of Djoser
- Pyramid of Menkaure
- Pyramid of Meidum
- Pyramid of Unas
- Pyramid of Teti
- Pyramid of Hawara
Let’s take a look at all these pyramids in detail:
Pyramid of Khufu
Also known as the pyramid of Giza, this pyramid is among the Seven Ancient Wonders of the world. It is the largest pyramid in Egypt and is believed to be built in 2560 B.C. Historians also believe that the construction of this giant pyramid took somewhere between 10 to 20 years.
The pyramid belongs to the Egyptian Pharaoh, Khufu, who ruled in the Fourth Dynasty. The construction of this masterpiece involved more than two million blocks made of granite, limestone and mortar, all sourced from the local quarries. Due to erosion over time, the height of this pyramid is believed to have decreased and it now stands at 139 meters.
The administering authority of this pyramid gives out only 300 tickets per day for a full tour inside the pyramid of Khufu. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on one of those tickets, you can see the king’s and queen’s chambers inside the pyramid and also the Grand Gallery. Most of the ancient artifacts inside the pyramid were stolen ages ago and the rest were transferred to a museum.
Pyramid of Khafre
The pyramid of Khafre is situated right next to the pyramid of Khufu. It is known as the sister structure of the pyramid of Khufu and belongs to the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty, constructed in 2570 B.C. The pyramid was constructed as the final resting place of Khafre, the Egyptian Pharaoh also known as Chefren.
It is different in construction as compared to its sister pyramid. It has steeper sides which give it a more pointed top, and at the base of this pyramid, the limestone blocks are much larger and gradually decrease in size as the pyramid ascends. One of the biggest visual letdowns of the pyramid is that the four points of the pyramid are not positioned equally. They twist a bit in the base, which does not give a perfectly pointed top.
The most interesting thing about the pyramid of Khafre is that unlike most other pyramids, it has two entrances. The pyramid also houses multiple chambers that are open to the public.
This pyramid is called the Red Pyramid because of the use of red limestone in its making. It is also known as the North pyramid because it is situated in the north of Egypt, in Dahshur.
It is the second-largest pyramid in Egypt after the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is also the first true, smooth-sided pyramid and served as a blueprint for the Giza-style pyramids that we know today.
It was built by Pharaoh Snefru and took almost 7 years to finish, according to the inscriptions found within the tomb. It has a whopping height of 105 meters, and the pyramid contains various chambers in all directions.
This is probably one of the most interesting pyramids in the world, construction-wise. The Bent Pyramid is also located in Dahshur and is believed to be constructed under the reign of Pharaoh Snefru in around 2600 B.C. The pyramid is commonly known as the South Shining Pyramid of the Pyramid of Snefru.
The pyramid is called Bent Pyramid because of its construction. There is a visible bend in the middle of the pyramid which makes it look tilted to the side. Historians believe this characteristic bend in the pyramid’s construction was not intentional, but rather an issue in its construction. The pyramid itself, however, is very well preserved and has lost very little material to erosion over time.
Step Pyramid of Djoser
The Step Pyramid of Djoser is regarded as the oldest cut-stone pyramid and is located in Saqqara, which is known for housing some of the oldest pyramids in Egypt. It was built by Imhotep, the vizier of the Pharaoh Djoser of the Third Century. This pyramid does not resemble the normal-looking pyramids of the latest time, as it has a Mastaba-style construction which was famous only in the earliest pyramids.
Interestingly, the Step Pyramid has 14 entrances in different directions and is made of blocks of varying lengths of limestone. It has a trench all around and has ornate stone pillars inside its corridors. There are many south and north-facing chambers inside the pyramid which serve various pyramids.
Pyramid of Menkaure
The Pyramid of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure are the three most talked about and visited pyramids in Egypt. Among the three, the Pyramid of Menkaure is the smallest. It was built in 2150 B.C in the Fourth Dynasty for the Pharaoh of Menkaure. Different stones such as Red Granite and Limestone were used to build this pyramid.
This pyramid has been subjected to deconstruction in the past at the hands of foreign invasions. Thankfully, the pyramid of Menkaure was restored and given back its previous glory.
Pyramid of Meidum
This pyramid was designed for the last pharaoh of the third dynasty, Pharaoh Huni. The pyramid has three levels of construction and does not have smooth sides leading up to a center point. The outer layer of the pyramid was made of sand, which is the reason why the pyramid decayed over time.
Pyramid of Unas
The pyramid of Unas was built for Pharaoh Unas in the Fifth Dynasty.
Unfortunately, most of this pyramid is ruined today. It is most famous for the carvings on its walls, which were there to protect Pharaoh Unas in his afterlife. These texts were believed to be magical, and many Pharaohs after him ordered their pyramids to be carved with magical texts in the same way.
Pyramid of Teti
The Pyramid of Teti is another pyramid in the Saqqara strip. This pyramid was built in the Sixth Dynasty and recently discovered in 2008.
It is ornated with the same magic spells as those found in the Pyramid of Unas. Upon its discovery and excavation, it was found that the pyramid of Teti is not just one pyramid but a main pyramid with a burial pyramid and several smaller pyramids for each of the queens of Teti.
From the outside, the pyramids look completely ruined. One can easily look at them and mistake them for nothing but hills. The chambers and the corridors inside are thankfully in a much better condition and were preserved amazingly over time. The pyramid has various entrances and chambers.
Pyramid of Hawara
The pyramid of Hawara was built for the Pharaoh Amenemhat III of the Sixth Dynasty in 1850 B.C. The Pyramid of Hawara is also famously known as the Black Pyramid because its color is much darker compared to the other pyramids. It is covered with brick stones and limestone, which gives it its characteristic darker appearance.
The pyramid of Hawara was the second pyramid to be built for Pharaoh Amenemhat, as the first one collapsed shortly after it was built in Dahshur. Unlike the commonly pointed pyramids, this pyramid was given a somewhat boulder-ish or mountain-ish look to save it from the attack of tomb thieves. Inside the pyramid, the passage leading to the chambers was also made in a way to deceive looters.
Here are some of the most important points we discussed in the article above:
- Pyramids have been around since the ancient civilizations of Egypt and even Mesopotamia.
- There are around 118 pyramids in Egypt today.
- Egyptian pyramids served as a way of keeping the names and the stories of the Pharaohs and kings alive to this day.
- Each pyramid was built as a symbol of greatness and power, as such, a lot of time, material and labor force went into making them.
- The contents of the pyramids are on display in Egyptian museums.
- Different pyramids of different sizes and importance are seen scattered throughout Egypt. With the pyramids of Giza and Saqqara among the most famous ones.
The Pyramids surely have an enormous factor of awe to them, and the reason lies in their construction. After learning about all of these great Egyptian pyramids, we can truly appreciate these wonders from the ancient world.