June 18, 2012

The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P2

In the memory of the Egyptian people Imhotep lived on as a mathematician, a physician and the inventor of building in stone. This last statement is essentially true, although stone had been occasionally employed in the tombs of the first two dynasties, mainly for portcullises and for some flooring. This shows that methods for quarrying and working stone had been developed some time earlier. However, the degree to which stone was quarried, transported and dressed for a royal tomb of the Second Dynasty bears no relation to the effort required for Zoser’s funeral monument. In the first case it amounted to a few tons of limestone, whereas the Step Pyramid complex contains at least one million tons. It is almost impossible to conceive how this increase of production could have been achieved in just one generation. Whereas the labour force required to construct one, or even two, mud brick tombs for each pharaoh would have been readily available, this can certainly not be said of the immense number of men required to build a pyramid. In fact, the size, organisation and, above all, the economic aspects of the employment of the gigantic army of workers is one of the crucial problems for understanding the meaning of pyramid building, to which we shall return in a later chapter. However, before we can discuss these problems, we first must give a description of the pyramids themselves.

Ancient Egyptian Pyramid
Here we will have to consider two aspects: first the pyramid structures and secondly the tomb chambers and passages which they contain. As will become apparent later, these two features may not be as intimately connected as has generally been assumed, and they may, in fact, have served very different purposes. However, no two of the pyramids and their internal systems are identical and, for simplicity’s sake, we will give for each pyramid a complete description of external and internal features, in the historical order in which they were built.

Zoser’s Step Pyramid at Saqqara, although vastly different in size and conception still retains a few vestiges of the royal tombs of the two preceding dynasties. The tomb chamber is a subterranean structure, sunk at the bottom of a square shaft of 7 TO. diameter and 28 m. deep. This chamber consisted of two separate parts arranged one on top of the other and constructed of pink granite. Access to the lower cavity is by a circular hole of less than1 m. diameter in its ceiling. This hole was closed by a granite plug which is shaped like a bottle stopper and which weighs three tons. The cavity itself is about 3 m. long, 1.7 m. wide and of the same height. It was evidently robbed in antiquity but may have contained the body of the king; a mummified human foot was found in it. Nothing is left today of the upper chamber in which the plug was stored. Above its roof the shaft was originally filled with rubble. This rubble, together with the roof of the upper chamber, was removed, possibly during the Twenty-sixth Dynasty in the sixth century BC. Access to the tomb chamber was through a sloping passage which had been tunnelled through the rock north of the shaft. Outward from the bottom of the shaft radiate a maze of passages and galleries which originally may have contained funeral equipment and tomb furniture. Some of the galleries have remained unfinished while the walls of others were covered with blue tiles and sculptures in low relief. A few of the latter show Zoser evidently performing ritualistic acts.

The top of the shaft, after it had been filled with rubble, was originally covered by a solid stone structure, 63 m. square and 8 m. high, which possibly had a slightly curved roof. This type of superstructure is similar to the brick buildings covering the tombs of nobles of this period. They are usually called ‘mastabas’, a term used by the Arabs for the bench in front of their houses. Zoser’s mastaba, the first sizable stone structure ever erected, stood in the centre of a large, oblong court, 545 x 277 m., with its long axis oriented roughly in a north-south direction. This court was surrounded by a wall of dressed limestone 10.5 m. high with recessed panelling, similar to the facades of the funeral palaces in the preceding dynasties. Thus there exists a certain similarity to the layout of the earlier royal tombs, with Zoser’s mastaba taking the place of the ancient burial mound, and the enclosure being possibly a reminder of the panelled tomb walls.

Egyptian Pyramid Age :
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P1
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P2
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P3
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P4
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P5
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P6
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P7
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P8
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P9
The Ancient Egyptian Pyramid Age Facts P10

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