Term Paper: Egyptian Pyramids

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What Ancient Egypt’s Pyramids Really Stand For
The harsh desert winds, the burning Egyptian sun, and a couple thousands of years has physically decreased the Great Pyramid of Giza’s height by about thirty-one feet, but has had no effect on its strength and power as a symbol of the wondrous society of ancient Egypt. All of the Egyptians’ pyramids display the hierarchy, social values, their education, and their religious beliefs. Thus, the symbolic pyramids that ancient Egypt constructed, specifically the Great Pyramid of Giza, hold intricate explanations about the society, its politics and its religion that would otherwise remain unknown.

The Great Pyramid was built for King Khufu, and it remains today as a strong microcosm for the society, politics, and religion of ancient Egypt. King Khufu, who was the second king of the Fourth Dynasty of his family, reigned from around 2589 to 2566 B.C.E. The construction of this very powerful, often ruthless tyrant’s pyramid most likely began right after he took the throne. 1 The inner casing of the monument consists of 2.3 million low-grade limestone blocks, each weighing from two to fifteen tons. Serving as an outer casing and covering for the inner walls, fine white limestone was used. The first-rate ivory Turah limestone was difficult to quarry, as it was often rare and far away from the building sites. The large chunks of stone were moved to the pyramid site on huge wooden carts pulled by oxen. The floors were composed of basalt, alabaster, and sparse pink granite. 2 Over time, many theses have been created to explain how the towering memorial was built. Perhaps the most common included a workforce of twenty-thousand men during a twenty year period. The most reasonable explanation of how the ancient Egyptians moved the gargantuan blocks on the pyramid is by a large sloping and encircling ramp that increased in height and length as the pyramid rose. The stone blocks were then hauled up it by means of wheels and levers. 3

There are various theories of why this monument was built. The most obvious was that it served as a tomb for the Great King Khufu and was constructed by the ancient Egyptian men. Geologist George Schoch and writer James McNally, however, believe that the pyramid was not built as a tomb, since no mummy has been found inside, and instead served for different mythological purposes throughout various eras. From 1500 to 5000 B.C.E. they predict that it was used for ritual training and initiation. 4 Another theory was that it served as a reverence site for the stars, particularly those in Orion’s belt and the Gods they represented. This will be discussed to more detail later.

But, whether it was built as a tomb or a ritual place, the Great Pyramid of Giza displays some political particulars of the ancient Egyptian’s society as well. Without a strong central government, the memorial wouldn’t have been able to be built. The country was largely centralized by elite estates that helped provide the resources needed for the pyramid’s construction. On both a local and central level, high organization and powerful administration was needed to manage the workforce, resources, and tools for the construction.

Therefore, the ancient Egyptians had to have immense affluence to not only delve into the building the structures, but also the advanced mathematics and science that was involved in the building. Much of this prosperity came from the economy that was guided by the bureaucracy, meaning the government officials assessed the crops, reallocated the land, and collected part of the products as taxes. With this organization and just and equal system, ancient Egypt’s economy grew stronger. The society’s wealth developed from mostly agriculture, including vegetables, grain, cattle, pigs, goats, and fish were valuable entities in the market. Often run by wealthier noblemen, small factories that made linen and beer also contributed to the civilization’s...
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