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Evolution of the Pyramids

Early forerunners

There are in the First Dynasty some tombs at Saqqara with a small hill or pyramid shaped structure over the burial chambers. These hill shaped structures are built in all cases inside a mastaba. They would not have been visible when the monument was complete. If intended as symbolic elements, rather than representing just a construction phase, they might have been copied from lost religious structures, perhaps the superstructure at the royal tomb.

The step pyramids

King Djoser built the first step pyramid. His funerary complex is surrounded by a niched wall (277 x 544 m). At the centre of it is the step pyramid, which is 70 m high. The pyramid has seven steps and is built from limestone blocks.

Click here to see a web site on Djoser's funerary complex

All kings of the Third Dynasty built similar step pyramids. These kings ruled only a few years each . As a result none of these step pyramids was finished.

The dummy pyramids
At several places in Egypt small step pyramids have been found, which contained no burials. The datable ones belong to the reigns of Huni and Snefru. The exact purpose of these pyramids is still not known. (click on the picture to see a dummy pyramid)

The first true pyramid
The first 'true' pyramid was built by king Snefru at Meydum. The pyramid at Meydum was originally planned and started as step pyramid. The plans were changed during construction and a true pyramid was built (click on the picture for more information)

Pyramid texts
The pyramid of Unas is the first with religious texts inscribed on the walls of the internal chambers. In the Sixth Dynasty all kings' pyramids and these of the queens of Pepy I and II have them. The pyramid of King Ibi (Eigth Dynasty) is the last known example.

Pyramids in the Middle Kingdom
The pyramids in the Middle Kingdom have no pyramid texts. From Senusret II on the pyramids were mainly built in mud brick. The system of chambers and corridors and locking devices became more complicated.


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