|Prolific Pyramids 16
By: Mrs. Barker 12
12 Imagine a tomb built for a king 5,000 years ago that is so huge it is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World! At 450 feet high, the Great Pyramid is still towering over the landscape in Egypt today (Crompton’s Encyclopedia). Ancient Egyptian pyramids have interested historians and scientists since they were first explored in 1637 (gizapyramid.com). In studying the ancient Egyptian pyramids, Egyptologists have discovered why the pyramids were built, how they were constructed, and the treasures that fill these tombs.
Each ancient Egyptian pyramid was built to protect the body of an Egyptian king, or pharaoh. The Egyptian rulers ordered the pyramids to be built because they feared their remains would be disturbed by grave robbers (Compton’s by Britannica). They needed to make sure that their souls could go on in the afterlife. The Egyptians believed that a person's body had to be preserved and protected so the soul could live forever (Lesko). “Death was seen as merely the beginning of a journey to the other world” (www.pbs.org). The Egyptians mummified (embalmed and dried) their dead and hid the mummies in large tombs (Lesko). This mummification process was very involved and precise, and served as a way to prepare the person’s body for the burials in the pyramid’s tomb. “They chose a site on the west side of the Nile River because they believed that the home of the dead was toward the setting sun. The burial chambers were placed under the exact centers of the pyramids. Passageways, which were built angling down from the sides and leading to the chambers, were later sealed with heavy stones” (Compton’s by Britannica). Egyptian pharaohs believed that their treasures, bodies and souls would be protected forever in these enormous tombs.
How the enormous pyramids of ancient Egypt were constructed is a wonder in itself. “The ancient Egyptians had no machinery or iron tools. They cut big limestone blocks with copper chisels and saws. Most of the stones came from quarries nearby” (Lesko). All of the work had to be done through manual labor and hard work. Leonard Lesko describes how this was done, “Gangs of men dragged the blocks to the pyramid site and pushed the first layer of stones into place. Then they built long ramps of earth and brick, and dragged the stones up the ramps to form the next layer. As they finished each layer, they raised and lengthened the ramps. Finally, they covered the pyramid with an outer coating of white casing stones. They laid these outer stones so exactly that from a distance the pyramid appeared to have been cut out of a single white stone.” Kings and queens of ancient Egypt spent years having their tombs built in large pyramids by workers crafting them by hand. “We know pyramids were built during a king's lifetime because heiroglyphs on tomb walls have been found depicting the names of the gangs who built the pyramids for their kings” (www.pbs.org). The discovery of these hieroglyphs gave Egyptologists a wealth of knowledge about the building of the pyramid.
Inside the tombs of the pyramids, Egyptian kings were buried surrounded by objects that would allow the deceased to continue their existence in the afterlife. The king was buried with furniture and riches so he would have the familiar comforts of his lifetime buried near him (www.pbs.org). Many objects found in tombs were ordinary things: tools, pots, chests, baskets, amulets, etc. which the Egyptians used every day. Amulets were part of the life of all ancient Egyptians. They were a kind of “magic” and were hoped to protect life and limb (www.reshafim.org). The objects buried inside the tombs of the dead showed how much they believed in the afterlife and wanted to be prepared and protected. Funeral masks were also crafted and placed on the body of the mummified king to lend him an “eternal human face”. “The masks were at times beautifully crafted, painted and sometimes expensively gilded. Among the most accomplished were the royal funerary masks, few of which have survived. They were made of solid gold, the immortal flesh of the gods shining like the sun, with inlays of precious stones used for their symbolic values” (www.reshafim.org). Many of these valuable items were later stolen and/or destroyed by tomb robbers.
Ancient Egyptian pyramids that are still standing today tell a great deal about the Egyptian people. They served as a way to protect the body of the pharaoh who was buried inside their tomb. The pyramids were constructed by hand and through manual labor of hundreds of workers. Tombs inside these ancient pyramids held numerous objects that Egyptians believed would help them in the afterlife. These prolific pyramids remind us that in ancient Egypt, death was seen as merely the beginning of a journey to the other world.