Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Building the Pyramids in Ancient Egypt

Building the Pyramids
About 2650 B.C., King Zoser's architect, Imhotep, began a new style in royal tombs. He decided to build his king's tomb of stone instead of mud brick. While building the stone mastaba, Imhotep had another idea. He built a second layer on top of the first, and then another and another. Each new layer was smaller than the one below. The layers formed a pyramid that looked like a set of steps. Today we call this early pyramid a step pyramid.

The ancient Egyptians believed that after death the pharaoh went to live with their most powerful god, Amon-Re. One of their religious writings said, "A staircase to heaven is laid for him [the pharaoh] so that he may climb to heaven." Imhotep may have built the step pyramid to help the pharaoh reach Amon-Re.

About 2600 B.C. pyramid builders tried still another idea. They made pyramids with slanting sides and a pointed peak instead of steps. The slanting sides of the pyramids may have stood for the rays of the sun.

The best known of Egypt's pyramids is the Great Pyramid built at Giza. This pyramid was built for the Pharaoh Khufu. He wanted his tomb to be the largest pyramid ever built. Workers may have spent 20 years building the Great Pyramid, completing it in about 2566 B.C.

A labor tax supplied the Egyptian government with the workers it needed to build the Great Pyramid. Just as a money tax requires people to pay money a labor tax required the ancient Egyptians to work. During the time of Inundation, when no farming could be done, the Egyptian farmers had to work for the pharaoh. As many as 10,000 farmers worked on the Great Pyramid at any one time.

The workers cut and moved more than 2 million blocks of stone. Each block weighed about 5,000 pounds (about 2,300 kg). The blocks were probably brought to the Great Pyramid on strong sleds. Egyptian workers may have used temporary ramps to move the blocks up into place.

Today the Great Pyramid of Khufu still stands in Giza. It is about 480 feet (about 146 m) high and covers 13 acres!

How did the Egyptian government get workers for the pyramids?

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