History of the Egyptian pyramids

How were the Egyptian pyramids built?

The Egyptian pyramids are considered to be some of the most mysterious structures in the world. At the moment, the scientific community knows about 140 structures, most of which were intended for the burial of the pharaohs – the rulers of ancient Egypt. The ancient Egyptians sincerely believed that large tombs exalted the rulers and gave them immortality. Today, looking at these huge structures, it’s hard for us to even imagine how they were built. Even in the modern world, it takes several years to build a single multistory tomb, and that’s assuming the use of powerful equipment like excavators and cranes. Thousands of years ago, such equipment is out of the question, so scientists can not understand how the ancient builders moved and lifted the huge stones from which the pyramids were built. After construction, they carefully cleaned up the territory of the tombs, so no traces of tools remain. Fortunately, there are unfinished pyramids in the world…

The most famous of the Egyptian pyramids is considered to be the Cheops pyramid

The mysteries of the pyramids

Many unfinished pyramids are located in Saqqara. This is the name of the Egyptian village and at the same time an archaeological museum, located 30 kilometers from Cairo. One of the unfinished tombs of the pharaohs is the pyramid of the pharaoh Sekhemhet. Its existence was not known until 1951 – the base of the structure was accidentally discovered by Egyptian archaeologist Zakaria Ghoneim. According to the calculations of the researchers, the height of the pyramid had to be about 70 meters, but, for unknown reasons, its construction was suddenly stopped.

The place of detection of the pyramid of Sekhemet

Near this and similar unfinished pyramids, archeologists found many interesting objects. For example, the remains of auxiliary tools were found on the ground, with the help of which the Egyptians could move stone blocks weighing up to 2.5 tons. Many people think that the pyramids were built from perfectly square stones, but no – it has long been proved that the Egyptians used stones of different shapes and sizes. The only rule in this business was that big cubes had to be stacked at the base of the pyramid, and smaller stones were used at the top.

Pyramids are constructed of set of stone blocks in height from the adult person

Who built the pyramids?

Also some people believe that the Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves. But we have already dispelled this myth on our channel in Yandex.Zen – ordinary Egyptians were involved in the work. Construction was actively carried out during periods when people did not need to oversee agriculture. Important tasks like designing structures and keeping track of the stacking of blocks were given to architects. Most of the workers worked in the quarries – the most physically demanding task was to haul the blocks. According to scientists, about 20-30 thousand Egyptians were involved in building of each pyramid. Opponents of this business, apparently, were few, because the work was conducted in the name of Pharaoh.

Construction of the pyramid in representation of the artist

It is logical to assume that all workers needed somewhere to sleep and something to eat. All this was available in special settlements for builders. The remains of one of these were found near the three pyramids at Giza, an Egyptian city on the west bank of the Nile River. Excavations in the area have been going on since the 1960s. During this time, archaeologists were able to find the graves of architects, foremen and ordinary workers. Their graves were very different – the architects, who contributed much to the design of the pyramids, were buried inside the tombs. Ordinary workers, in turn, were buried in ordinary graves.

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On the territory of the settlements for the builders there were workshops where tools were made. There were also places for preparing food for the workers: bakeries, breweries and storerooms for drying fish. In addition to all this, archaeologists have found sites for sacrifices to the deceased pharaohs. Apparently Ancient Egypt was a rich place because the inhabitants could afford to sacrifice even young animals.

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Pyramid construction techniques

The methods of building the pyramids are known not only because of archaeological finds. They were also described in the historical works of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus. In his book “History”, he wrote that it took people about 30 years to build one pyramid. So, about one decade they built the road to the pyramid, and another 20 years to build the tomb. Only the historian could not observe the construction with his own eyes and he wrote the book based on the stories of people who lived two millenniums after the time of the construction. In addition, he had a poor command of the Egyptian language and could misunderstand the storytellers.

Interesting facts about ancient Egypt are known thanks to the historian Herodotus

Nevertheless, it was Herodotus who described in the most detail the process of making stone blocks for the pyramids and the technology of moving them. So, stones found more or less even outlines in quarries – workers gave them the form by means of chisels and other tools from copper. The resulting blocks were hauled from place to place with the help of various levers that reduced the burden on the men. Still, workers had to work together to lift the huge blocks. The image below shows how this roughly worked.

According to the descriptions of Herodotus, the construction of the pyramids looked like this

More reliable seems to be the assumptions made after studying the inscriptions on the stone blocks. The marked blocks are in the depths of the pyramids, but they contain a lot of interesting information. Most likely, they were made by the ancient foremen who were in charge of the construction sites. On the stone blocks inside a wide variety of pyramids data about the construction team and the date of completion have been found. Archaeologists believe that competitions may have been held between different groups of workers. Probably they received some privileges for fastness and quality of work, but there is no proof of it yet.

There are many drawings on the walls of the pyramids and they all tell about something

Also interesting information about the construction of the Egyptian pyramids scientists learned from written documents found in the ancient port of Wadi el-Jarf off the Red Sea. They contain a lot of information about the construction of the pyramid of Cheops, but so far only a part of it is available to the public. From one document, archaeologists learned that workers had to mine a lot of limestone to clad the structures. Today the external structure of the pyramids resembles steps, but thousands of years ago they were perfectly smooth and white. Over time, the winds have blown away the thick layers of limestone and now the pyramids are not quite neat in appearance and are painted rather yellow.

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The height of the largest pyramid in the world is 145 meters. This is the pyramid of Cheops.

About to whom this or that pyramid was devoted, inscriptions again testify. The rooms in which the pharaohs were turned into mummies are always at the back of the structure. So that the upper part of the pyramid did not press on the burial chamber, the so-called “unloading chambers” were built over the room with the body, which reduced the load. Above the room with the body of Pharaoh Cheops was written “Horizon of Khufu”. One would think that the tomb was meant for another ruler, but no – only Herodotus called the pharaoh Cheops, and to the Egyptians he was always Khufu.

The pyramids are amazing. In 2018, Hi-News.ru author Ilya Hel wrote about how the great pyramid of Giza concentrates electromagnetic energy

The curse of the pharaohs

In the movies about the adventures of Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, the tombs are equipped with traps. In fact, this is a myth – the Egyptians did try to protect the resting places of the pharaohs with structures, but they cannot be called traps. During the study of the pyramid of Cheops in 2016, archaeologists discovered the simplest mechanism for protecting the inner rooms. They were ordinary barricades made of stone blocks and simply prevented looters from reaching the burial chamber, where not only the body of the pharaoh, but also various jewels lay. So all this is a myth.

There are no traps inside the pyramids

Also in many movies they talk about the curses of the pharaohs. And here it is a little closer to the truth, but only in part. Yes, in 1922 archaeologists really did open the tomb of Tutankhamun and found an inscription that “punishment awaits those who have disturbed the peace of the pharaoh. Over the next few months, almost the entire research team died and people were almost completely convinced of the existence of the curse. Except that there is one thing – many of the deceased archaeologists were over 70 years old and were not protected against pathogenic germs and fungi that must have inhabited the ancient pyramid. So, their death can be explained not only by a mysterious curse and it can be blamed on trivial carelessness.

A still from the film “The Mummy”.

Pyramids and aliens

If you’ve watched documentaries, especially on TV, you’ve probably heard other theories about the construction of the pyramids. One was put forward in 1884 in The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette and stated that the pyramids were originally hills. That is, the Egyptians did not need to build them from scratch – the stone blocks were simply superimposed on the hills from top to bottom. The inner sand was then removed to form passageways and rooms. It sounds interesting and even realistic, but there is no confirmation of this assumption.

Sometimes the theory about aliens seems not so delusional

Another theory states that aliens took part in the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Well, what else is there to think about, when even modern technology does not allow to build such structures quickly? Scientists are surprised how precisely the Cheops pyramid looks to the north. Also, if you believe the book of Herodotus, the pyramids were built in about 30 years. If to consider that some pyramids consist of 2.3 million stone blocks weighing 2.5 tons, then to build the pyramid in such short time, the stones had to be put every two minutes. And it is simply impossible. So, alien intervention is not even excluded by some scientists.

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In general, the construction of the pyramids is a mysterious and interesting topic. Except that when you visit Egypt it doesn’t make much sense to pay to see them. I wrote about why walking around the pyramids is considered a waste of time in this material.

The Egyptian pyramids: a must know

The Egyptian pyramids are one of the biggest attractions in the world of ancient Egyptian architecture. They, according to scientists and archaeologists, are the tombs of the pharaohs, their family members and court dignitaries. This version is generally accepted and its confirmation is considered to be the presence of mummies inside. But is it true? What secrets do these structures hold? Who built them and how? Why? What is inside? You will find the answers in this article.

Pyramids in Egypt: why were they built?

During the period of the Ancient Kingdom (c. 2707 – 2150 BC, III-VI dynasties) they began to build structures for burials, symbolizing the sacred mountain – the desire of mankind to reach heaven.


The Pink Pyramid at Dahshur. Author: Hajor, CC BY-SA 3.0 , Link

Scholars suggest that the Egyptians’ belief in the ascension of the spirit to the gods was the principle purpose of their construction . According to them, even today, these structures represent the dream of man to reach the Higher Consciousness. There are other opinions on this subject, which are given below.

Some occult investigators of the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids slept in the inner chambers. They wrote books about their mystical experiences. “Secrets of the Pyramids (The Mystery of Orion)” R. Bewell, E. Gilbert offers a version of the stellar orientation of the structures. American prophet and psychic Edgar Casey spoke of the significance of the pyramids for the lost civilization of Atlantis. There is information on the Internet.

The Egyptian pyramids: the mystery of the construction

Several theories try to explain the technology of their construction, but no one knows exactly how and why they built these famous architectural monuments. There are only versions and speculations.

One of the great mysteries: how did people move such massive stone blocks using primitive tools? The Egyptians left thousands of illustrations depicting daily life in the Ancient Kingdom. Curiously, none show their construction.

The dawn of civilization- Egypt and Chaldaea (1897) (14577194517).jpg

A drawing from a fresco of Jehutychotep II depicting the method of moving a colossus. This may also have been how the massive blocks were moved for construction. Author: Link Link Link Source Link

But maybe these images are just beyond the eyes of modern man? Maybe looking at the drawings, we are not able to see their method of creating grandiose structures, because it is radically different from modern perceptions? Here is what information about this can be found on the Internet.

  • The usual explanation is the use of the physical labor of thousands of slaves who carved the pieces of rock, hauled and installed them.
  • There is an opinion that some monuments are composed of molded sections similar to modern concrete buildings.
  • There is a version of using certain sonic vibrations to move the multi-ton blocks. The version is even supported by experiments and some photos of images of the frescoes.
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But there is an architect who created a design that can be used to build the pyramid of Cheops today. Read about it in the article Building the Pyramid of Cheops on the Architecture Channel.

Filmmaker Florence Tran’s Unraveling the Mystery of the Pyramid of Cheops presents this interesting version by Jean Pierre Houdin (Houdin, Jean-Pierre). His father, a former civil engineer, suggested the idea of building with an internal ramp.

The evidence cited is quite convincing. See the detailed research done by the Frenchman. Could he have solved the mystery of building the Egyptian pyramids?

Who was the architect of the first pyramid?

The earliest known pyramidal structures are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis. The oldest is the pyramid of Djoser built around 2630 – 2611 BC during the third dynasty by the first adviser to the king, architect and builder, high priest of Ra in Heliopolis, poet and thinker Imhotep. He is considered the founder of this architectural form, having proposed three smaller mastabas to be built on top of the main tomb. His tomb has not yet been identified. That is why there is no mummy of Imhotep.

The very first Egyptian pyramid of Djoser: Saqqara BW 5.jpg

The oldest pyramid of Djoser, by Imhotep. Author: Berthold Werner – own work , CC BY 3.0 , Link

Where are the most famous Egyptian pyramids?

One of the seven classic wonders of the world, the three pyramids at Giza are surrounded by mastabas and guarded by a temple with the Great Sphinx. Their location is on the map:

This is the only surviving wonder, unlike the other six:

The Pyramid of Cheops.


Originally it was 146.6 m high (about a 50-story skyscraper) and its base side was 230.3 m. Until 1880, when the Cologne Cathedral was built, it was the tallest building in the city. Today’s mark is 138 meters. Click on the arrows in the panoramic photo below and look around.

The Great Pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the three, is estimated to have 2.5 million stone blocks, with an average weight of 6 million 250,000 tons (6,250,000 t). In the king’s chamber – granite blocks weighing up to 80 tons. Its entire surface was lined with white polished limestone, brought from the hills in the Tur, on the opposite side of the Nile. This highly valuable material was removed in the 16th century and used to decorate mosques in Cairo.

How many years did it take to build the pyramid of Cheops?

Since the time of Herodotus (5th century BC) it is believed that the construction of a single pyramid lasted twenty years. In his writings, he mentioned that the Egyptian guides talked about using 100,000 slaves for ten years to build the monumental structure. Ten more years were spent for construction of the underground passage connecting a tomb with a temple. Total it turns out: one pyramid was under construction for 20 years.


Reconstruction of the 18th century Egyptian pyramids construction by Herodotus. Author: Antoine-Yves Goguet – “L’origine des lois, des arts et des sciences”, 1820, Public domain, Link

By the way, in the video “Mystery of the Egyptian pyramids”, which is placed above, the author confirms the possibility of a 20-year construction period.

What is on top of the pyramid of Cheops?

The top of the Egyptian pyramid

Usually, when construction was finished, the top part, the so-called upper stone, was made last. It was considered the most important and was often made of valuable rock or even gold. The pyramid of Cheops – without a pointed top. Whether it was always like this or whether the top stone was stolen, no one knows. But there is information where visitors from as far back as the time of Christ report the absence of a tip.

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At the top there is a large flat area measuring 9X9 m (in other sources 2X2). Another fact: On the back of the dollar bill you can see an image of a pyramid with a flat top. This is an image of the back of the Great Seal of the United States. Are these facts related? If you know, please write in the comments.

Many explorers and tourists have climbed to the top. The last “pyramid climber” in 2016, 18-year-old German tourist Andrew Czeselski, managed to see Egypt from the top of the Great Pyramid of Giza. He made an illegal ascent and was arrested by the police. FYI: after several accidents, climbing to the tops is only possible with a special permit.

How is the pyramid arranged inside?

The entrance to the Great Pyramid of Cheops is on the north side about 15 meters above the ground. After the descending short entrance tunnel there is an ascent up the corridor leading to the great gallery and finally to the above-ground burial vaults, which makes it unique.

Cheops Pyramid Arrangement Inside Author: Yucatan – own work , CC BY-SA 4.0 , Link

Other pyramid interiors have only a tunnel system leading to underground chambers. The treasures from the structures have been removed and are available for viewing at world-renowned museums such as the British Museum (britishmuseum.org), the Egyptian Museum Berlin (egyptian-museum-berlin.com) and the Italian Museum of Turin (museoegizio.it).

Nearby, however, is the Solar Rook Museum, which displays a boat pulled out of the ground at the foot of the pyramid structure. To learn more about the oldest ship in the world, listen to the video.

What other pyramids can you see in Egypt?

Of interest are the Step Pyramid of Djoser (located in Saqqara) and others in Dahshur, among which are the Broken and Pink Pyramids. As of November 2008, the approximate number of these sites ranged from 118 to 138.


Broken Pyramid CC BY-SA 2.5 , Link

Pyramid Texts.

Buildings of the V and VI dynasties have preserved for posterity texts found on the walls of the interior rooms. This is the oldest religious literature, called the Pyramid Texts. The monuments of this period give the impression of careless construction: poorly worked stones, which over time crumbled and turned into mounds.

Reading, translating and interpreting texts is still a challenge today. Grammar, vocabulary, and orthography are difficult because of their antiquity. It is not easy to express the thoughts of the ancient Egyptians in modern language. They contain many references to myths and legends unknown to us.

The texts have been translated into French, German and English. The Russian scholar A.L.Kotsejovsky, a student of the founder of Russian Egyptology, B.A.Turaev, began work on the translation, but did not complete it. In 2000 he published the book “Texts of the pyramids” with translation of some texts.

The Egyptian pyramids hold many unsolved mysteries. The monumental architectural monuments of ancient Egypt also include the mastabas and the Valley of the Kings.

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