Pyramids The Prodigious Prodigy
How old are the pyramids? Who built them and what do they stand for? Why can’t the pyramids be reconstructed, today, in the same fashion as they were built thousands of years ago? The pyramids of ancient Egypt are phenomena that cannot be explained exactly. Many people have perceived different understandings for the way a pyramid was built, how many men it took to build one, and what its purpose was.
The tradition of pyramid building started in Ancient Egypt as a knowledge of the idea of a mastaba or “platform” covering the royal tomb. Later, several stacked mastabas were used (Ashmawy). Around 2780 B.C., King Djoser’s architect, Imhotep, built the first pyramid by placing six mastabas, each smaller than the one beneath, in a stack to form a pyramid rising in steps (The Egyptian Pyramid). The transition from the Step Pyramid to a true smooth-sided pyramid took place during the reign of King Snefru, founder of the Fourth Dynasty (2680- 2560) B.C. The largest and most famous of all the pyramids, The Great Pyramid at Giza, was built by Snefru’s son, Khufu, known also as Cheops, the later Greek form of his name (The Egyptian Pyramid). The construction of this pyramid took over twenty years. The Great Pyramid was built by the Egyptian pharaoh, Khufu, around the year 2560 B.C. to serve as a tomb for when he died (Ashmawy).
The Great Pyramid is the oldest structure in existence, and is the sole remnant of the Seven Wonders of the World. It rises about 450 feet (having lost about 30 feet off the top over the years) and covers around13 acres. “It is thirty times larger than the Empire State Building; the Pyramid’s features are so large they can be seen from the Moon. A highway lane eight feet wide and four inches thick could be built from San Francisco to New York and put inside the Great Pyramid” (Zajac).
Only a solid stone mountain could withstand the Pyramid’s immense weight. In fact, a flat solid granite mountain happens to be located just beneath the surface of the ground directly below the Pyramid. Like 20th century bridge designs, the Pyramid’s cornerstones have balls and sockets built into them; this would help the Pyramid withstand expansion and contraction movements due to heat and cold, and earthquakes.
While most of the Pyramid’s core was constructed of 4,000-40,000 pound blocks of soft limestone, the outer layer of the Pyramid was made of a beautifully bright protective layer of polished stone. These outer “casing stones” are missing today because about 600 years ago the outer stones were stolen by Arabs (Zajac). This is the reason for much of the worn look the Pyramid has today, since the inner limestone blocks can withstand attack from wind, rain, and sandstorms. The outer protective covering was made up of massive blocks weighing up to 20 tons of hard white limestone, similar to marble, but stronger and more durable against mother nature.
There are many purposes for the building of pyramids. Many scholars believed the shape of the pyramid was an extremely important religious statement for the Egyptian’s, possibly symbolizing the slanting rays of the sun. Others speculated the sloping sides were intended to help the soul of the King climb up to the sky and join the Gods (The Pyramids of Egypt). The pyramids were meant to be massive monuments to the pharaoh’s greatness, filled with great treasures for the afterlife.
Inside the Great Pyramid, the basic contents are mostly just tunnels and a few chambers. Though previously containing many precious items, this pyramid has been looted, leaving only an empty sarcophagus. At the entrance of the pyramid, all that would be visible is a long passageway, descending down through the darkness. This passage leads down to the underground chamber, once filled with tools and items that the King’s successors thought he might need in the afterlife. However, in the middle of this dark, long passage, is a secret overhead compartment, leading directly to the grand gallery, where all of the King’s precious items such as gold and jewels were stored. At the end of the gallery, is the very chamber where Khufu once lay. This room has two huge slabs that connect diagonally to form the roof. In addition, the Queen's chamber leads off the gallery into the relatively simple room.
How was this marvel built? Considering that it would take the Egyptians 20 years to build the Great Pyramid with a work force of 100,000 if they added 340 stones each day, many wonder! That is not even including the time it would take to quarry all of those blocks and send them to the site. A common theory is that each block would be loaded onto sleds, which were pushed up a huge inclined plain by about 30 people. Under these sleds were suppose to be wooden rollers that made it much easier to pull them (Who Built the Pyramids). There are even objects to appear to look like these sleds recovered from the ground area of the pyramid. When most of the core blocks had been put in, a spiral ramp was supposed to have been wrapped around the pyramid to replace the inclined plain. The faults to this theory are that an inclined plain would take so long in itself to build, and then again to disassemble and dispose of, that the process quite possibly would take longer than any one king’s lifetime, and I do not believe that the Egyptians would let old Khufu rest outside a tomb very long for this. Such care was taken, that this pyramid, along with the pyramid of Khafre, and the pyramid of Menkau, all lined up with the three stars of Orion’s Belt.
Another theory is that the pyramids were “inspired” by a superior intelligence and were to act as landing guides for some sort of space ship. Some thought this because there are no hieroglyphs inside the pyramid, as if it was used not for a tomb, but something else. Another odd fact about this pyramid is that it contains chambers for the queen, when all other pyramids have no such chamber, but a smaller pyramid.
For the construction of other pyramids, Egyptians had copper tools such as chisels, drills, and saws that may have been used to cut the relatively soft stone. The hard granite, used for burial chamber walls and some of the exterior casing would have caused a more difficult problem. Workers may have used an abrasive powder, such as sand, with the drills and saws (Who Built the Pyramids). Some old tomb paintings of massive statues being moved shows how huge stone blocks were moved on sledges over ground first made slippery by water. The blocks were then brought up ramps to their positions in the pyramid. Finally, the outer layer of casing stones was finished from the top down and the ramps dismantled as the work was completed.
Most archeologists believe the marks of the quarry workers can be found on several of the stone blocks giving names of the work gangs such as “craftsman-gang” (The Egyptian Pyramid). Part-time crews of laborers probably supplemented the year-round masons and other skilled workers. Some believe that most of the men who worked on pyramids were won or captured through war and were kept as slaves for the purpose of the construction of pyramids. Others believe that the work force was farmers, that the pharaoh ruled, who had to work on a pyramid to pay for the land they were using.
Pyramid building was at its height from the Fourth through Sixth Dynasties. As it became clear that the pyramids did not provide protection for the mummified bodies of the kings but were obvious targets for grave robbers, later, kings were buried in hidden tombs cut into rock cliffs. Although the pyramids did not protect the bodies of the Egyptian kings who built them, the pyramids have served to keep the names and stories of those kings alive to this day.
The precise age of the Great Pyramid of Giza has long been debated because there has been little evidence to prove when the earliest pyramid was built. The history books generally point to 3200 B.C. as the closest date to when the pyramid of Khufu was under construction. Yet, how exactly do archeologists date the pyramids? Well, there is nothing that has been found in any place, not only in Giza, but also in Egypt, that can justify any earlier dates than what is known. “People have been excavating in Egypt for the last 200 years. No single artifact, no single inscription, or pottery, or anything has been found until now, in any place to predate the Egyptian civilization more than 5,000 years ago,” states Zahi Howass, Director General of Giza (How Old Are the Pyramids).
Finally, can a pyramid from ancient Egypt be reconstructed in the same fashion with modern day technology? Well, some have tried to explain how it could be possible, but most believe that the ancient Egyptians had some sort of brainpower that is yet to be discovered. This or they had help from some kind of superior intelligence. Many have tried to prove it wrong, but modern technology cannot place such 20-ton stones with greater accuracy than those in the Great Pyramid. Whoever constructed it used technology that we still do not possess today to cut, move, and cement stones. In addition, whoever built it had some knowledge of the Earth, because it was built in the right spot, one of the few places that would support such a great weight.
The ancient Egyptian pyramids are an amazing phenomena that might possibly have been constructed to make people wonder, or to show that we are capable of great things. In all, I have understood that these pyramids bring a great sense of power and intelligence. The fact that someone could think of such an immense structure and for it to withstand the test of time is beyond me.
I believe that the ancient Egyptians held great pride in the pyramids and that’s why they have lasted so long. The purpose of being a King’s tomb and holding treasures for his afterlife shows that these ancient people were very religious. True intelligence about the Earth and mathematics was used for the construction of these massive structures. These pyramids cannot be reconstructed in the same fashion as they were built so many centuries ago. The pyramids are the last phenomena of the Seven Wonders that can still be seen, and from the looks of it, could possibly be here until the end of time itself.
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