It is believed that the Egyptian pyramids were built during the ancient Egyptian kingdom that existed between 2950 BC and AD 395.During this era; it was believed that dead Pharaohs continued to rule in the world of the dead. The dead pharaohs were buried in the pyramids together with various items that would help them carry on their duties in the after life. Pyramids are an important heritage that has brought great pride to the people of Egypt for they are included among the Seven Wonders of the World. Each pyramid is named after the pharaoh who ordered the construction.The number of discovered pyramids is around one hundred and thirty eight. Most of the pharaohs had their government centrally located in the Nile valley. The design and construction of pyramids was influenced by various religious, social and political views that mainly focused on the deification and honor of the pharaoh.
The design of the pyramid can be traced to burial tombs called mastabas. Mastabas were curved out of bedrock and flattened with soil at the top.The design of pyramids differ depending on the period they were constructed. However, they all share the aspect of solar connection for it is believed that the pharaohs reached the heavens through sunbeams. This was achieved by use of the benben stone. The pointed apex of the pyramid served as a link for dead king to the heavens. The first stepwise pyramid belonged to Pharaoh Djoster and was designed by Imhotep.This pyramid was made of carved stone and was surrounded by a wall that offered protection against drifting desert sand, it enclosed courtyards, temples, the Queens’s chamber, the antechamber (in which the awakened spirit is received), wells and chapels. The burial chambers are located underground and hidden by a network of tunnels, properly in order to deter robbers. Djoser’s pyramid had six levels and was 62 meters high. Pyramids constructed in the fourth dynasty were covered larger areas and had an increased number of levels.
Each pyramid complex had two temples, a valley temple in which the funeral service began and an upper temple that was often referred to as a mortuary temple in which burial rites were conducted. Rites performed in the upper temple are purification, anointment, clothing and provision of protective amulets of the statue gods in preparation for their reunion with the sun god. The valley temple had a pathway that enabled the funeral procession to travel by water and linked to the burial chamber. The belief that the pharaoh becomes part of the creator sun-god after his death explains the religious importance attached to the pyramid during the ancient kingdom. Pyramids were used by people as shrines. Food and drink offerings were offered in chapels built inside the tombs which were partially accessible to the public. In the absence of tangible offerings, people made symbolic offerings near the walls of the tomb or false chapel doors or by chanting recitations near the walls of the tomb. The king was also identified with the god Osiris after his death. The spirit of the deceased is thought to have made its way through rooms inside the tomb to be united with its mummy and then emerges from the pyramid.
Priests taking care of the dead king were housed in the pyramid together with the villagers who built the pyramid. Pharaohs provided the political leadership in the ancient kingdom assisted by a group of nobles who lived with him in the palace. Some of the important officials included the overseer of the palace, these officials were highly regarded because they offered guidance and counsel to the pharaoh, due to the important functions these officials were buried together with the pharaoh in order to assist him to carry on with his duties in the afterlife. Since the pharaoh had reinforced the belief that he was a god, he was able to exact influence over large areas because the people came to view the pharaohs as such. People felt consoled that a god rather than a man was responsible for their destiny and security. During this time, few law codes existed in the ancient kingdom because the words of the pharaoh were considered divine.
The notion that pharaohs were gods put them in a unique position within the social structure which can be likened to the position of very influential political figures. Pharaohs were awarded lavish funerals for they were considered immortal. Owing to this, the pyramids were made to ensure that the body of the pharaoh a together with the expensive items buried in the tomb was not stolen. It was also believed that a decent burial was necessary in order to gain favor from the pharaoh who continued ruling in the spiritual world.
During the ancient kingdom, the pyramid symbolized the overwhelming power and majesty of the pharaohs. This was particularly in the fourth dynasty when the pharaohs exerted immense power. Some people believe that the pharaohs’ built larger pyramids as a statement of their power and not to serve as tombs only. Since the pyramids could be seen from far away, they served as a constant reminder of their god-king. The construction of a single pyramid is estimated to take 20 years with one hundred workers being involved in the work. The pyramids were constructed at a time when there were no vehicles to transport buildings because the wheel invention had not reached Egypt. The materials were transported by the use of sleds made on temporary ramps which were dismantled when the work was done.
Socially, the construction of the pyramids led to a skilled pool of artisans who lived and worked within villages in the pyramids. Neighboring kingdoms were impressed by the skills of Egyptian doctors and people from all over the Mediterranean brought their patients to Egypt for a cure. The skills of these doctors are closely related to their knowledge of human anatomy gained through their great desire to be mummified at the time of their death. This required elaborate skill in surgery in order to remove organs that could hasten decay; as a result, Egyptian doctors were more knowledgeable in medicine compared to other ancient people at the time. The Egyptians developed great skills in planning and building and were able to surpass other existing civilizations near their area.
The construction of the pyramids was undertaken at different periods, this accounts for the differences in the design of the pyramids built during the early and late dynasties. The pharaohs built pyramids as a statement of their power and for them to be used as tombs for their burial when they die. A skilled pool of artisans, artists and doctors was created during the period in which the pyramids were constructed. This made the ancient kingdom in Egypt to be more prosperous and advanced compared to other early civilizations near the Mediterranean region.
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