|Ancient Egyptian Pyramids|
The third conclusion concerns the timing of building operations of successive pyramids. We have seen that the sudden decision to change the shape of the southern pyramid at Dahshur resulted from the catastrophe at Meidum. The disaster, as could be proved conclusively, took place in the middle of the third constructional phase at Meidum. On the other hand, the pyramid at Dahshur had reached about half of its projected height when the angle of elevation had been changed. This means that roughly 70 per cent of the masonry of the Bent Pyramid had already been placed in position when the previous pyramid at Meidum was still under construction. The inescapable conclusion is that the building periods of these two pyramids overlapped very considerably.
This, of course, conflicts with the opinion generally held so far that each pharaoh, on ascending the throne, began the building of his pyramid which it was his aim to finish well before his death. It means that the pyramids would have been built consecutively in the succeeding reigns. The discovery of strongly overlapping building periods came at first as a surprise. However, once we consider the technological effort involved, it soon becomes apparent that consecutive construction is an economic and organisational impossibility. Owing to their immense size, the building of pyramids on the scale undertaken in the Fourth Dynasty had to become an activity in its own right which demanded its own economic rules. It essentially dominated the pattern of life and, once started, tended to continue and escalate like a self-sustaining chemical reaction. It was the pyramid and not the pharaoh that ruled Egypt and new pyramids had to be erected, irrespective of whether a pharaoh was ready for burial or not. Once it is realised that the continuous construction of pyramids had become compulsive, the strange fact that Snofru should have built no fewer than three large pyramids acquires new meaning. These assertions must necessarily appear somewhat sweeping and it will now have to be shown how they were derived from our conclusion that the building periods of the large pyramids were overlapping.