Artfacts

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The ancient Egyptians probably chose that distinctive form for their pharaohs' tombs because of their solar religion, explained Donald Redford, professor of Classics and ancient Mediterranean studies at Penn State. The Egyptian sun god Ra, considered the father of all pharaohs, was said to have created himself from a pyramid-shaped mound of earth before creating all other gods. The pyramid's shape is thought to have symbolized the sun's rays. According to Redford, "The Egyptians began using the pyramid form shortly after 2700 B.C., and the great heyday of constructing them for royalty extended for about a thousand years, until about 1700 B.C." The first pyramid was built by King Djoser during Egypt's Third Dynasty. His architect, Imohtep, created a step pyramid by stacking six mastabas, rectangular buildings of the sort in which earlier kings had been buried. The largest and most well-known pyramids in Egypt are the Pyramids at Giza, including the Great Pyramid of Giza designed for Pharaoh Khufu. For centuries, people have theorized how the great pyramids were built. Some have suggested that they must have been constructed by extraterrestrials, while others believe the Egyptians possessed a technology that has been lost through the ages. But the process of building pyramids, while complicated, was not as colossal an undertaking as many of us believe, Redford says. Estimates suggest that between 20,000 and 30,000 laborers were needed to build the Great Pyramid at Giza in less than 23 years. By comparison, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris took almost 200 years to complete. According to Redford, pharaohs traditionally began building their pyramids as soon as they took the throne. The pharaoh would first establish a committee composed of an overseer of construction, a chief engineer and an architect. The pyramids were usually placed on the western side of the Nile because the pharaoh's soul was meant to join with the sun disc during its descent before continuing with...
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