March 26, 2015
The Philosophy & Evolution Of Egyptian Pyramids
The confusion over how the pyramids were built is mostly due to an isolated view of the Giza pyramids and the tendency to insert alternative theories where there is simply no necessity to. However, new insights of the possible construction methods of the pyramids have put most alternative theories to rest. For example, the recent discovery of a method of moving massive stones by watering sand to create less friction or W.T. Wallington’s method of lifting and moving giant stones. In other words, it wasn’t aliens, but it did require sophisticated techniques and was a gradual process of development.
The evolution and philosophy of Egyptian pyramid building stemmed as far back as basic oval burials.
The dead were buried in simple and shallow pits for thousands of years in Predynastic Egypt, but this would not suffice given the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians.
The intentional burial of humans indicates a belief in the afterlife. If this were the case, which many experts believe, preservation of the body for its journey into the afterlife would have been considered a necessity. This necessity is what sparked innovations in the burial methods of ancient Egyptians.
“Burials with grave goods clearly signify religious practices and concern for the dead that transcends daily life.” says Philip Lieberman in Uniquely Human.
The first big innovation of these burials came in the form of transitions from oval pits to rectangular pits with timber roofing. This was an improvement from the oval pits but still wasn’t sufficient enough.
The Egyptians solved this issue by constructing rectangular mud-brick burial pits known as a mastaba “house of eternity” or “eternal house.” The innovation of mastabas gave way to an increased amount of buried valuables, especially gold.
The burial of gold with Egyptian royalty wasn’t simply a pompous display of wealth but symbolized power and immortality, thus coinciding with the purposes of the “eternal house.”
The Third Dynasty marked the utilization of stone, which sparked major innovations throughout the time known as the Old Kingdom. This is when the mastaba began to transition into the step pyramid.
Imhotep, an architect, and vizier of King Djoser was said to have invented the art of stone building. He designed the first pyramid of ancient Egypt for King Djoser by subsequently constructing mastabas upon each other, thus forming a step pyramid.
Little to no innovation from the step pyramid would occur until the Fourth Dynasty.
It wasn’t until the pharaoh Sneferu of the Fourth Dynasty that a transition between the step pyramids of the Third Dynasty and the “true pyramids” of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Dynasty would occur. Before that time, pharaohs (namely Sekhemkhet, Khaba, and Nebka) made attempts to build step pyramids, but those pyramids were neither finished nor had they shown significant improvements upon Imhotep’s step pyramid design. Sneferu changed this after an attempt to finish the pyramid of Meidum. This wasn’t a success given that Sneferu had abandoned construction and moved his court to Dashour, but this gave way to further developments.
Sneferu abandoned the pyramid of Meidum but shortly began building a new pyramid at Dashour. This pyramid design built upon the foundations of the Meidum pyramid and looks more like a true pyramid although it was noticeably bent.
No design had been created for a true pyramid before Sneferu established his palace in Dashour. However, the Bent Pyramid was intended to be a true pyramid but was an unsuccessful attempt. This second failure led to further developments, just as the failure of the pyramid of Meidum had. Finally, after much adversity, Sneferu succeeded with the Red Pyramid.
The Red Pyramid became the first true pyramid and paved the way for the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The Pyramid of Giza was built by Khufu, the son of Sneferu. While Sneferu was the real king and pioneer of pyramid building, no other pharaoh would ever accumulate the same level of resources and apply them to such a great extent as the pharaoh Khufu.
Strangely, little is known about Khufu, despite the fact that he built the largest pyramid in ancient Egypt. Nevertheless, Khufu’s construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza informed the design of the two pyramids built by Khafre and Menkaure that accompany it, thus forming the three major pyramids of Giza. While these pyramids symbolized a peak in the magnitude of pyramid building, further innovations were made.
The Pyramid Texts are indicative of other forms of innovation outside of physical changes. The Pyramid Texts are a collection of religious texts from the Old Kingdom that were carved on the walls of sarcophagi and pyramids at Saqqara during the 5th and 6th Dynasties. These texts included spells that warded off grave robbers and emphasized the hope for a safe passage into the afterlife via flying, stairway, ladder, etc. These type of texts display the beliefs and philosophy which trace back to the basic burial pits that started it all.
(The History of Ancient Egypt – Ph.D. Bob Brier)
(The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt – Ian Shaw.)
(Egyptian Mythology – Geraldine Pinch.)
(The Pyramids Of Egypt – Iorwerth Eiddon Stephen Edwards.)
(The Pyramids – Ahmed Fakhry.)
(The Ideology of the Superstructure of the Mastaba-Tomb in Egypt – Alexander Badaway.)
(The Complete Pyramids – Mark Lehner.)
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