ENGL 101 – Holt
Research Paper – Portfolio Draft
May 4, 2011
Mysterious Egyptian Pyramids
The Great Pyramid is the only construction that remains from the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Egyptian pyramids have always been surrounded by mystery. We know their purpose and who built them, but we are still unsure how and when they were built. Ancient Egypt was one of the most powerful, richest and advanced civilizations in our history. They showed a magnificent knowledge of astronomy, architecture, medicine, accounting, art and much more but it is still amazing how pyramids could be made at that time with primitive tools and without modern technology. While there is much known about the pyramids, there are still many unanswered questions. Even if we know a lot about the pyramids, there is some general information that should be considered. The Great Pyramid is located at the Giza Plateau in Egypt. Besides the Great Pyramid, on the Giza Plateau were built other two pyramids for pharaohs Khafre and Menkaure, and the affiliated funerary complex. The earliest pyramids were step pyramids that evolved from the simplest form of royal tomb called mastaba (Silverman 168). Putting a massive rectangular block one over another, Egyptian architects came up with the first example of pyramid that consequently evolved in the “real” pyramids of the Fourth Dynasty that we all know. The Great Pyramid is the biggest pyramid of the hundred built in Egypt. “It has lost little from its original height of 480 (146m) feet and base width of 755 feet (230m), formed by 2.3 million limestone blocks” (Silverman 174). It was built for the pharaoh Khufu who ruled Egypt about 2547-2524 B.C. by his brother, Hemienu (Brier, “Build” 27). The purpose of the pyramids is generally agreed upon. Egyptologists found enough evidence on the walls of the burial chambers. Inscriptions inside the chambers confirmed that pyramids are pharaohs’ tombs. Furthermore, pyramids were constructed on the West Bank of the river Nile where the sun is setting. Ancient Egyptians considered this side the land of death. Ancient Egyptians believed in the life after death, so pyramids were symbolizing the stairway to heaven for the soul, “ka” (Silverman 141). Since ancient Egyptians believed in the life after death, pharaohs’ eternal houses were built to satisfy their needs after the “real” life. It is also agreed upon regarding who built the pyramids. One of the most common myths is that the pyramids were build by slaves. Herodotus, the Greek philosopher, visited Egypt in the fifth century B.C. and he transferred the belief that one thousand hundred slaves worked for twenty years to construct the Great Pyramid (Hawass 159). Today, however, we have strong evidence that denies this myth. The most significant opponent of this myth is an archeological site next to Giza. The pyramids were the national project of Egypt, and even if we have a hieroglyphic inscription that confirmed that skilled builders and farmers from the surrounding villages worked on the construction, no archeological evidence was found until recent time. This site revealed the town where the pyramids builders lived, including bakeries, workshops and storage facilities (Hawass 158-159). It was a unique discovery that ended speculations of who built the pyramids. Now we know for sure that they were not slaves. The site showed that they were free citizens that were proud to work for the pharaoh in exchange of a salary. Additional evidence against the slave theory comes from Egyptian politics. Egyptian civilization was relatively peaceful. If we look through history, this civilization survived more than any other just because their culture was not so violent and they did not have the need to expand their territory. Egyptian rulers promoted well being of their empire without conquering, and with avoiding wars with neighbors they could not have enough slaves to build such huge constructions. There is...