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When we say pyramids, the Giza Pyramids are the ones that always come into mind. But, these amazing manmade infrastructures aren’t just found in Egypt. Know more about the pyramids with the facts below.
- Thousands of these structures are found around the world. There are over 130 in Egypt; Sudan has twice more and there are several similar structures in other places in the Middle East and China. Number-wise, the Americas have the most pyramids than all these places.
- The pyramids are literally tombs for Egypt’s royals and their families. Early Egyptians believed that their pharaohs were chosen by their gods to serve as mediators for them. When a pharaoh died, they believed that he turned into Osiris, the Egyptian god of the dead. So, it was very important to keep his majesty intact even in the afterlife. They also believed that if their king died, a portion of his spirit [ka] remained in his body so his corpse was mummified to properly take care of that spirit. He was then buried with all his gold vessels, his riches, food, furniture and other offerings as they believed these would help him live comfortably in the afterlife. His family and even his priests were buried near him.
- Early Egyptian pyramids were “stepped pyramids” that had mastabas or steps. The most known stepped [mastabas] pyramid, recognized as the oldest Egyptian pyramid, is found in Saqqara, Egypt. It was built in 2630 BC for the third king of the Dynastic Era, King Djoser. Now known as the Step Pyramid, its chief architect was Imhotep, the king’s priest and healer. Some 1,400 years later, he was worshipped as a god of medicine in the Greco-Roman culture.
- Most Egyptian pyramids were all built on the west bank of the river Nile where the sun sets. In Egyptian mythology, the setting sun was connected with the realm of the dead.
- Pharaoh Sneferu, the first king of the fourth dynasty [2613-2589 B.C.], was the first one to build a smooth-sided pyramid. Dubbed the First True Pyramid, Sneferu’s pyramid is now known as the Red Pyramid at Dashur. It was so named because the color of the limestone blocks used to build its core is red.
- The smooth and angled sides of the pyramids represent the rays of the sun. Accordingly, these smooth sides made the dead Pharaoh’s ascend to the heavens to join their gods, most specifically the Egyptian sun god Ra, easier.
- Sneferu was the father of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza.
- Khufu was the 2nd of the eight kings of the fourth dynasty. And though the grandeur of his tomb, the Great Pyramid of Giza, is known all over the world, little is known about his 23-year reign in Egypt.
The Pyramids of Giza [Giza Necropolis]
The Pyramids of Giza are part of the Giza Necropolis. Along with the three well-known structures, the Giza Necropolis is comprised of The Sphinx, smaller pyramids that are tombs of the members of the royal family as well as mastabas [step pyramids] where the pharaohs’ relatives and officials were buried to aid them in the afterlife. The necropolis is located on Nile’s west bank just near modern-day Cairo.
The largest and the oldest pyramid in the Giza Necropolis is the Great Pyramid of Giza which was built for Khufu [Cheops in Greek]. With its original height at 481.4 feet [147 meters], it is the largest pyramid in the world.
The middle pyramid of the Giza triad was the pyramid built for Khafre, Khufu’s son and successor. One distinct feature in Khufu’s pyramid complex is the Great Sphinx, the great statue of a lion with the head of a man wearing a pharaoh’s headdress. According to the accounts, the face of the massive statue was that of Khufu. It was worshipped later on [18th dynasty c. 1500 B.C.] as a local form of the god Horus.
The last, the shortest of the three Pyramids of Giza and the southernmost pyramid in the necropolis belonged to Menkaure, Khafre’s son and successor. It was the forerunner of the smaller pyramids constructed during the fifth and sixth dynasties.
- The pyramids were built using blocks of granites, limestone [though the smooth white limestone covering of the structures were looted and stripped off by robbers and raiders later on or eroded over the years] and a mortar that was stronger than the stones used. Experts, however, have yet to discover the materials used to make this mortar. The strength and durability of the mortar contributed greatly to the longevity of the pyramids.
- Greek historian Herodotus wrote in his accounts that about 100,000 laborers were used to build Khufu’s pyramid [the Great Pyramid of Giza] in a span of 20 years. But recent archaeological evidences show that possibly only 20,000 skilled workers were employed for its construction.
- The Great Pyramid of Giza held the title for the tallest man-made structure until the Lincoln Cathedral was constructed in England in 1311 — a whopping 3, 871 years!
- The Pyramid of Khufu [Cheops, also the Great Pyramid of Giza] was also built to face true north. As a matter of fact, it is most accurately aligned to that direction and as the North Pole has shifted over time, it means the pyramid had been spot on at one time.
- The Giza trio was also built to precisely align with the Orion constellation. Orion was associated with Osiris, the Egyptian god of rebirth and afterlife.
- The Great Pyramid is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s the oldest in the group and the only one still existing up to this day. It is also an honorary inclusion in the New Seven Wonders of the World. In 1979, the Giza Necropolis along with the Pyramids of Giza were designated a UNESCO Heritage Site.
- The last of the great pyramid builders was Pharaoh Pepy II, the sixth dynasty’s second king, who ruled in 2278 to 2184 B.C. Pepey II’s pyramid was built in the 30 years of his 94-year reign but it was much shorter than the other pyramids of Egypt’s Old Kingdom.
Other Pyramids Not Found in Egypt
Outside Egypt, pyramids had other uses than being tombs for kings. Pyramids were used as places of worship, for rituals and sacrifices as well as tools to observe the heavenly bodies [ancient Astronomy was heavily used for worship and to make prophecies].
NUBIAN PYRAMIDS [Meroe, Sudan] – while Egypt may have over 140 pyramids, its neighboring country Nubia [modern-day Central Sudan] had twice that number. Nubian pyramids are tall and were similar to the smooth-sided Egyptian pyramids but were narrower. They’re dated around 700 BC.
THE GREAT PYRAMID OF CHOLULA [Pueblo, Mexico] – At a distance, the area of the Great Pyramid of Cholula looks like a hill with a church constructed at its top. But beneath the mound is the massive Pyramid of Cholula. Though it’s not as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza, this ancient American structure has a wider base than the Egyptian pyramid. This step pyramid was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, Mesoamerican god of wind and wisdom. This deity was equivalent to the Mayan’s Kukulkan, the feathered serpent.
PYRAMIDS OF THE SUN AND MOON [Teotihuacan, Mexico] – Not much is known about the people who built the pyramids of the Sun and Moon but from the structures they built, they were excellent architects and engineers. The pyramids are step pyramids with a series of caves under them believed to be sites of rituals and tombs of rulers.
PYRAMIDS IN THE MAYAN CITY OF TIKAL [Guatemala] – The Mayan city of Tikal was a thriving city, an important center of commerce and religious ceremonies in the Mayan civilization in 300-900 AD. The city had five pyramidal temples. The complex lay abandoned for 800 years before European explorers discovered it bringing archaeology excitement in the 1850s. The city of Tikal with its pyramids is now a UNESCO Heritage Site.
TEMPLE OF KUKULKAN [Guatemala] – The Temple of Kukulkan was another Mayan construction in the pre-Hispanic city of Chichen Itza. Also known as El Castillo, the temple was built to honor Kukulkan, the feathered serpent deity of the Mayans. It is a step pyramid with 91 steps on each of its side plus a platform making the steps number to 365, one for each day of the Mayan calendar.
ZIGGURAT OF UR [Iraq] – The Ziggurat of Ur was a step pyramid, a place of worship in Mesopotamia. Built for the Sumerian king Ur-Nammu in the middle of the 21st century BC, it was rebuilt by King Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century BC and, much later on, by archaeologists in the 20th century.
PYRAMID OF CESTIUS [Rome, Italy] – The Pyramid of Cestius was built for the Roman magistrate Gaius Cestius Epulo in 12 BC.
PYRAMID OF CHINA’S FIRST EMPEROR [China] – The pyramid complex of China’s first emperor is laden with traps and was said to have been fitted with a moat of mercury. Not much is known about this one as excavations have been minimal due to the high mercury level of the place.
Ancient Pyramids Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use Ancient Pyramids Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about Ancient Pyramids which can be found across the world.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- Ancient Pyramid Facts
- Locating the Ancient Pyramids
- Ancient Pyramids Word Search
- Fact or Bluff
- Scrambled Letters
- Great Pyramid of Giza
- Let’s Theorize
- Search Them Up!
- Analyzing Primary Source: Painting Inside a Pyramid
- Ancient Pyramid Acrostic
- I Therefore Conclude…
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Link will appear as Ancient Pyramids Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, April 24, 2017
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