Pyramids

The pyramids of Egypt are the last remaining Wonder of the World. Even
in the days of Ancient Egypt when powerful pharaohs ruled over Egypt the
pyramids were considered a wonder. Today, the ruins of 35 pyramids still stand
near the Nile River in Egypt. These pyramids were built to protect the bodies of
Egyptian kings and other royalty but before the pyramids became the standard
for burials, tombs were used for Egypts early rulers, nobles, and other
high-ranking officials. These groups of hierarchy were laid to rest in rectangular,
flat-topped mastabas of mud and brick. These mastabas were about 12 feet high
and were easy targets for tomb robbers.
The first pyramid built was the Step Pyramid of Saqqara; it stands in the
open desert south of Cairo. The Step Pyramid was built for King Djoser. The
people of Egypt willingly labored to build these monuments for their rulers,
believing that, as gods, the pharaohs had to be properly provided for in their
afterlife. The Step Pyramid was built around 2630 BC It exhibited a radical new
shape never before used, and it was so new the Egyptians used its silhouettes
as the hieroglyphic for primeval mound, the first piece of earth to emerge from
the soup of creation (Malek 90).
King Djosers chief architect for his pyramid was Imhotep. It is thought that
King Djosers stone tomb started out having the standard shape of mastabas.

Then, as construction progressed, a concept evolved. Imhotep began to place
one flat-topped stone structure atop another until he had created six steps by
which the king could ascent to the heavens after death. The Egyptians had a
firm belief in an afterlife and viewed their pharaohs as gods. These beliefs were
a strong force that led to the piling up of stones to such a monumental scale.

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The Step Pyramid rose to a height of 204 feet; later pyramids increased in height
as their designs changed. It was not sufficient that a pyramid be immense, but it
had to be built so solidly that it would stand forever.
Although the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid, the Great Pyramid is the
best known. The Great Pyramid was built for King Cheops. It is the largest
pyramid of the three at Giza. The three pyramids built for King Cheops, King
Chephrun, and King Mycerinos stand on the west bank of the Nile outside Cairo.

They are the largest and best preserved of all Egyptian pyramids. They were
built between 2600 BC and 2500 BC However, it is hard today to imagine the
manpower involved in building the Great Pyramid (especially in our world of
computers, machinery, and advanced technology). The ancient Egyptians had
no machinery or iron tools to help in the building of the pyramids. The large
limestone blocks used to build the pyramids were cut with copper chisels and
saws. Most of these stones came from nearby quarries. An interesting fact to
note is that camels were not brought into use until twenty centuries after the
pyramids were built. Human strength was used to drag the stones from the
quarries or from the boats (Casson 76). The stones were then dragged and
pushed into place for the first layer of the Great Pyramid, which was placed on
flat level ground. Next, long ramps were built of earth and brick moving the
blocks up the ramps to form the next layer. After the top layer was finished the
workers covered the pyramid with an outer coating of white casing stone, which
gave the Great Pyramid a brilliant shrine during the day when the sun shone
down on it. The outer coating of white casing stone were laid so perfectly that
from a distance the pyramid appeared to have been made from a single white
stone.
The main difference of the Great Pyramid compared to other pyramids,
besides the fact of its size, is the difference of the location of the burial chamber.

The Great Pyramids burial chamber was in the uppermost part of the pyramid.

This was something new; burial chambers in other pyramids were located
beneath the pyramid. To reach the burial chamber inside the Great Pyramid an
upward sloping corridor was built. The ramp for the kings ascent to the polar
stars was therefore lost. A substitute for the ramp was devised in the form of a
northern ventilation shaft, which was a replica of the lower entrance corridor.

King Cheops was to be positioned facing this northern view. But what of King
Cheops? His body has never been found. Did he have a secret chamber built for
himself that was so well hidden that it was impossible to find? Did thieves steal
or destroy King Cheops body for the jewels and gold hidden within the body
wrapping? Answers to these questions have yet to be found.
It is estimated that it took about 2,300,000 separate blocks, each
weighing an average of two and a half tons, to build King Cheops Great
Pyramid. Some blocks weighed up to fifteen tons. The base of the Great Pyramid
covered thirteen acres and reached a height of 481 feet. To accomplish the feat
of building the Great Pyramid it took 23 years and a work force of tens of
thousands peasant laborers (Hallibunton 335). The enormous size of the Great
Pyramid can better be visualized with the fact that Saint Pauls Cathedral and
the House of Parliament could be housed within the Great Pyramid. If the Great
Pyramid was sawed into cubes, measuring a foot in each dimension and placed
in a row, they would extend over a distance almost equal to the circumference of
the earth (Edwards 104). It is no wonder the Great Pyramid is still a Wonder of
the World.
All pyramids, no matter their size, design, or age, share a common curse.

Tomb robbers have plundered the pyramids for centuries stealing gold, gems,
beautiful furniture, clothing, musical instruments, and even sacred vases
containing a pharaohs vital organs. All these items were common items found
inside a burial chamber. Now they have all been lost forever because of tomb
robbers of today and yesterday. The well known Arabic proverb Death comes
on wings to he who enters the tomb of the pharaoh (Casson 81) meant little to
the tomb robbers. Others who have heard the warning and chose not to listen or
believe have eventually paid the price. One such person was Lord Carnarvon,
who headed the excavation of King Tutankhamuns tomb. Lord Carnarvon died
quite unexpectedly from a 4000 year old fungus he came in contact with inside
the tomb of King Tutankhamun. Shortly after Lord Carnarvon died, other
members of the excavation party began to meet with unusual and sometimes
unexplainable accidents. These so called accidents claimed the lives of thirty six
members of the party (Reeves 31). Was it the pharaohs curse or just
coincidence?
In Las Vegas, Nevada the hotel-casino Luxor was built. The Luxor was
built in the shape of a pyramid. A replica of the Sphinx sits in front of the giant
pyramid shape casino. When the hotel was being built a report was given, and
the construction workers interviewed were afraid of the pyramid shaped casino.

The workers believed in the Curse of the Pharaohs. The numerous accidents
had sent other workers to the local hospital emergency room. Other Las Vegas
casinos are blaming their misfortunes on Luxor. It is no wonder that magic,
superstition, and the unknown has followed mankind since the earlier times of
the first mysterious pyramids.
Works Cited
Casson, Lionel. Ancient Egypt. New York: Time Life. 1965.
Edwards, I.E.S. The Pyramids of Egypt. New York: Viking Penguin. 1985.
Hallibunton, Richard. Complete Book of Marvels. New York: Bobbs Merrill. 1960.
Malek, Jaromin. In the Shadow of the Pyramid. Oklahoma: University of
Oklahoma. 1986.
Reeves, Nicholas. Into the Mummys Tomb. New York: Scholastic. 1992.
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