First try and picture the description that evilandi gave you for the general shape. The earliest pyramids differ in some ways to the later ones. I am going to focus on the famous pyramids at Giza none of those other crappy pyramids (just kidding).

Just as a little background thing, there are three big pyramids at Giza and the smallest is the pyramid of Menkaure, the middle one is the pyramid of Khafre, and the largest is the pyramid of Khufu, or Cheops (kee-ops) in Greek. Many old textbooks still have all the Greek names in them.

Early Pyramids

A pyramid is a grave, located in a necropolis of many other graves. Although the graves of the poor were seperated by walls, they were still part of the same necropolis. What is now considered to be the first pyramid of Egypt is the pyramid of king Sozer (the "s" was originally pronounced like the "z" in "zebra" but now it is pronounced like the "j" in "judge" and is commonly spelled "Djoser". By the way, feel free to /msg me with any spelling errors you find.) This pyramid was created apporximately 100 years before the ones at Giza of which the biggest was made in around 2551 B.C. So Sozer's was around 2651 B.C. Anyways, the original graves made by Egyptians were called Mastabahs. They were just big boxes in sort of a rectangular shape. The first pyramids were made for kings and were basically designed like several mastabahs stacked on top of eachother, each one diminishing in size as the height grew. Then these big clunky roofs were diminished into actual steps as a fashion thing. Later, during the fourth dynasty, many changes were made. The stepped pyramids were built stepped for the purpose of building but then later filled in. They put a shiny, pearly limestone finish on but about all of it has been stripped away except for on the pyramid of Khufu, possibly because it's the tallest. It's only left on the top. Anyways, we see the smooth-sided pyramid first in the fourth dynasty. Originally the kings and other dead people were buried under the pyramid, far under the ground but in the 4th dynasty the kings nd queens were buried inside the actual pyramid. This was to help them harness the power of the pyramid (we'll go into that later) and to stop grave-robbers. There were always several tunnels that were fake tombs to trick "tomb-raiders" but really never worked (except surprisingly for king Tutankhamen who's tomb is about the best-preserved we've ever found). One king in the 1500s who's name escapes me, was so paranoid about grave-robbers that he removed the old kings from their tomb and hid them away in a secret place. They kept the underground fake tunnels but the real burial chamber was inside the pyramid.

The Power of the Pyramid

Stupid people, based on the Egyptian mythology, have concluded that the actual shape of the pyramid was what preserved the mummies when in fact it was three things.
  • The entrances (which were located a bit high up on the pyramid wall) were sealed off after the king and/or queen was inside all good and cozy so it was pretty unchanging in there.
  • The dry, arid desert that the pyramids were in was very "corpse-friendly" or atleast when mummified

Anyways, people believed that they could use the power of the pyramid to preserve household items like razor blades and such. That didn't work out too well but I've seen it popping up here and there today.

The Egyptians believed that the god Ra was the sun and every day the pharoah (the highest priest) and al his other high priests would help Ra across the sky through a ritual he performed. A Daily Ritual of the Sun God. Anyways, they believed that Ra actually entered this little pyramid the pharoah had and Ra did the same thing for other pyramids.

The Construction of the Pyramid

A pyramid would have an entrance (maybe a few), airshafts near the top, several fake tombs and one or two real ones.Let's go with the largest pyramid, that of Khufu (or Cheops). One side of the pyramid was 775 ft. and the total are was 13 acres. It has approximately 2,300,000 blocks of stone in it, each one weighing nearly 2 and one half tons. It's amazing that you can see the connection between the precision in the art of Ancient Egyptians and the architecture. The accuracy is astounding. To make that within the king's lifetime and in time frame that they did, they would have to put in 285 blocks per day, but it would have to be even more because the pyramid was not a year-round project. They would only work during the flood season (we'll go over that later).

Myth: The pyramids were all built by many slaves; innocent people imprisoned by the evil pharaoh.

It would be tough for this one to be further from the truth although this did happen once, with king Ramses II. He did the whole thing with Moses and he enslaved the Hebrews. This is an isolated incident and it happened 1200-1500 years after the pyramids at Giza were built.

The pyramids at Giza were built by paid workers. They would only work during the flood season (which flooded the Giza up to the paws of the Sphinx for three months out of the year. Now, the flooding is different because of the climate and because of dams that were built) because during that season, the farmers had nothing to do. They could not work on their farms because they were submerged in water. So the king hired them to build his pyramid.

Not only were these workers paid, but they were paid very well. In fact, if you proved you were a diligent worker and kept it up, you could be promoted to middle management and supervise other workers (not that it would actually change your social status). We have records of the workers eating steaks of oxen that were extremely young, and not only that, they were not even of Egyptian origin so they were imported too. The workers received medical care from the state during the whole time they worked and that service was even provided to their family. It is speculated the Pharoah's own doctors were employed for the workers. After flood season, though, they went back to farming.

The workers: did not use wheels, they might have used rollers, and used sheer human force to carry stones up the pyramid. But how could they get the stoned from the rock quarry to the construction site? Well, this is kind of an interesting story and it all starts in the king's tomb chamber. Graffiti does have a purpose in history! We think that the beams above the tomb were used as support, so the stones wouldn't cave in and crush the king. The workers would take breaks and eat their steaks or whatever and talk. They would chill out and sit on the beams and write stuff on the wall. Their is this one character that no one understood though. It looks like a stick or a cane with one end curving up and a box on top of it. Well it turns out to be a sled. What you say? A sled in the desert? Yes, a sled. The stones were cut at the quarry and then they were either lifted onto a sled, or a sled was pushed under the rock while it was being cut. Either way, the stones were slid on the sled to the Nile river. But the sand would give a lot. How could they push it with so much resistance? Well, first they tried slicking down the sled with a crude oil but they soon found that all they needed was a little water. If a few tough guys gave the sled (with the stone on it) a good push then the whole thing would slide on it's own for quite a distance.

When the stone got to the Nile, it was overflowing with water and rushing at a high speed (remember they only worked during the flood season). They simply floated the stones to the around the area of the Sphinx and slid it or carried it the rest of the way. On the way up the pyramid, it was all man-power.


Archaeology started a very long time ago, in ancient times. But modern archaeology started in the 1800s. Up until about the 70s archaeologists only studied the elite class, the pharaohs, and the rich. They weren't out to learn about history. In the 20s, most of them were glorified treasure-hunters and just wanted to be rich and famous. So many things have been done by those "archaeologists" that have ruined great artifacts that it is truly disgusting to think about it. Well, the rich were not even 10% of the population and studying them did not teach much about the culture, at least not as much as studying the tombs of the commoners could do, as we have been doing lately. When you remove the artifact from it's original position or damage it then it is hard to learn many facts from it.

Commoners had good graves too. They had all the same ka images and decorations (of course, they were of much smaller proportion and they were of much less quality). We have to do our best to preserve what we have from our past.

An Original Work of BigHoliday