Pyramids

The Egyptians believed that their kings were gods. Even after they had died, the

rulers continued to affect daily life through their supernatural powers. In his new life in

the underworld, the king would need everything he needed while alive, and he needed his

home to last for eternity.

While alive, Egyptian kings lived in palace of mud-brick, wore linen roves, and

slept in wooden beds. In their gentle climate, more substantial comforts were not

needed. But eternity last a whole lot longer than life. So the tombs of the kings needed

to be durable and well-supplied. The tombs also needed to protect the body and its

supplies and gifts from thieves. They also were the focus of the Egyptian religion and so

needed to be extremely visible. The massive stone pyramid met all these criteria.

However, there was still the problem of supplying the king with essentials. Since

entombing a never-ending supply of food and servants was not very practical, the

Egyptians decided on the principal of "substitution by means of a representation." Since

the dead king now existed in spirit, rather than physical form, he was not bound by

physical limitations. A picture or word could feed him as well as a real slab of meat.

Servants did not have to be killed and laid around his tomb; statues could take their

place.

Because the king was a god to his people, they needed to be able to come and

worship him. But if his body were accessible to the whole nation, the king and his

treasures would be too accessible to robbers. So, instead they built a statue resembling

the king which they placed in a temple open to the public. His ka, or spirit could leave

the tomb and come live in his statue for awhile. This way, the people's prayers and gifts

could still be delivered while keeping him safe.



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Herodotus, a Greek who wrote about the building of the pyramids long after they

had been built, claimed that the Great Pyramid took tens of thousands of men and in just

twenty years to make. But even if those figures are not accurate, the construction of the

pyramids was an amazing feat. The Egyptians had not learned to use the wheel or the

pulley and so lifted all of the stones using ramps. The cut stone was edged along the

ramps on rollers, lubricated by only milk or water. We do not know how many people

died as laborers for the pyramids, but we do know that most Egyptians would have been

eager to participate in the building: because the king would become a god who could

bless or curse their lives; they wanted to make sure he was comfortable and cared for and

able to come back and help them.

On the rocky plateau of Giza, ten miles southwest of the center of Cairo, stands

the Great Pyramid, the most majestic and most mysterious monument ever erected by the

hand of man (Adams). The Great Pyramid is the largest stone building on earth, and the

last surviving wonder of the ancient world. Its base covers just over thirteen acres, and it

is composed of some 2.3 million blocks of granite and limestone, weighing from 2.5 to

seventy tons apiece, which rise in two hundred and three layers to the height of a forty-

story building. The Pyramid was originally covered with twenty one acres of polished,

marble-like casing stones, which, shining resplendently beneath the sun's rays, earned for

it the ancient title "The Light."

The Pyramid is an unrivaled feat of engineering and craftsmanship. It is aligned

with the four cardinal points more accurately than any contemporary structure, including

the Meridian Building at Greenwich Observatory in London. The three hundred and fifty

foot long descending passage is so straight that it deviates from a central axis by less

than a quarter of an inch from side to side and only one tenth of an inch up and down.

The casing stones, some of which weighed over sixteen tons, are so perfectly shaped and



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squared that the mortar-filled joint between them is just one fiftieth of an inch.

Egyptologist Sir Flinders Petrie described such phenomenal precision as the "finest

opticians work on a scale of acres"; work of this caliber is beyond the capabilities of

modern technology. The casing stones show no tool marks and the corners are not even

slightly chipped. The granite coffer in the King's Chamber is cut out of a solid block of

hard red granite. Manufacturing engineer Christopher Dunn rejects the theory that it

could have been cut and hollowed using bronze saws set with diamond cutting points,

because