The Egyptian pyramids were built as royal tombs , and were designed to hold the body of the pharaon . Those in Central and South America were temples on the summit of which religious rituals were performed , although they sometimes also served as the tombs of important rulers.
Pyramids in Egypt
In Egypt , the first pyramid were built in about 2700 bc . They probably developed from the mastaba , a low , rectangular tomb with a flat roof , originally built in mudbrick and later in stone . These gradually increased in size and complexity until they looked like a stepped pyramid-that is , a pyramid with sides that rose in giant steps . The most famous example of a step pyramid is the pyramid of Dsozer at Saqqara , which was built in about 2630 bc . It was six steps on each side , each step 60 m (200 ft ) high . Over time , the step pyramid developed into the true pyramid with smooth sides.
The largest and most famous pyramids of ancient Egypt are those that held the bodies of the pharaons Khufu , Khafre , and Menkaure at Giza , near modern Cairo . The Great Pyramid of Khufu has a volume of some 2.6 million cu m (91.8 ,million cu ft ), and it is believed that 2.5 million blocks of stone , each weighing an average of 2.5 tonnes , were used to built it . Each side of the pyramide is 230m (750 ft ) long , and it is 146 m (480 ft )high.
The Pyramid Complex
The pyramids of ancient Egypt were usually planned as part of a group of different buildings known as a pyramid complex or mortuary complex . A typical complex consisted of the main pyramid itself ; smaller pyramids, often built for the pharaon; a mortuary temple ; a causeway leading to the temple where the cult of the pharaon was honoured ; mastaba tombs for relatives of the pharaon and important officials ; funerary pits for lesser officials ; and an enclosure wall . The bestexample of a pyramid complex is that at Giza where boat pits also formed part of the complex .
Building a Pyramide
The pyramids were built by farm labourers , who made up 90 per cent of the population of ancient egypt . Working on the pyramids probably under the supervision of skilled , was a kind of tax that everyone had to pay . The work took place during the three or four months of the year when the Nile was in flood , when fields were underwater and no farming could be done .The way that the pyramids were built is not known for certain . After a site had been chosen , always on the west bank of the Nile (for spiritual reasons ) , the ground was carefully surveyed . The orientation of the pyramid-the precise angle that it was to stand at-would be worked out by astronomers . Building could then begin .
The stone blocks were set in place in such a way as to create terraces so that workmen could stand on the pyramid as it was being built . The passageways and chambers inside the pyramid were constructed as building progressed . The terraces on the outside were later filled in and the pyramid was covered with a smooth layer of limestone . Much of the stone used to build pyramids from local quarries and transported on barges on the Nile . Only the fine limestone , used for making up the outer casing of the pyramide , and the granite that was used for specific chambers , were brought from further away .
The first stone blocks were probably set in place with simple cranes and levers . As construction progressed and the pyramid grew taller , ramps were built so that blocks of stone could be hauled up with ropes . When the pyramid shape was completed the tip of the pyramid was covered in a dark-coloured stone , and the smooth outer casing of contrasting white limestone was added , workingfrom the top of the bottom so that the ramp and scaffolding were gradually cleared . The limestone was polished to make it shine brightly in the sun and reflect moonlight .
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