The pyramids of Egypt are the last remaining Wonder of the World. Even in the days of Ancient Egypt when powerful pharaohs ruled over Egypt the pyramids were considered a wonder. Today, the ruins of 35 pyramids still stand near the Nile River in Egypt. These pyramids were built to protect the bodies of Egyptian kings and other royalty but before the pyramids became the standard for burials, tombs were used for Egypt’s early rulers, nobles, and other high ranking officials. This group of hierarchy were laid to rest in rectangular, flat-topped mastabas of mud and brick. These mastabas were about 12 feet high and were easy targets for tomb robbers.
The first pyramid built was the Step Pyramid of Saqqara; it stands in the open desert south of Cairo. The Step Pyramid was built for King Djoser. The people of Egypt willingly labored to build these monuments for their rulers, believing that, as gods, the pharaohs had to be properly provided for in their afterlife. The Step Pyramid was built around 2630 B.C. It exhibited a radical new shape never before used, and it was so new the Egyptians used its silhouettes as the hieroglyphic for “primeval mound”, the first piece of earth to emerge from the soup of creation (Malek 90).
King Djoser’s chief architect for his pyramid was Imhotep. It is thought that King Djoser’s stone tomb started out having the standard shape of a mastaba. Then, as construction progressed, a concept evolved. Imhotep began to place one flat-topped stone structure atop another until he had created six steps by which the king could ascent to the heavens after death. The Egyptians had a firm belief in an afterlife and viewed their pharaohs as gods. These beliefs were a strong force that led to the piling up of stones to such a monumental scale. The Step Pyramid rose to a height of 204 feet; later pyramids increased in height as their designs changed. It was not sufficient that a pyramid be immense, but it had to be built so solidly that it would stand forever.
Although the Step Pyramid was the first pyramid, the Great Pyramid is the best known. The Great Pyramid was built for King Cheop. It is the largest pyramid of the three at Giza. The three pyramids built for King Cheops, King Chephrun, and King Mycerinos stand on the west bank of the Nile outside Cairo. They are the largest and best preserved of all Egyptian pyramids. They were built between 2600 B.C. and 2500 B.C. However, it is hard today to imagine the manpower involved in building the Great Pyramid (especially in our world of computers, machinery, and advanced technology. The ancient Egyptians had no machinery or iron tools to help in the building of the pyramids. The large limestone blocks used to build the pyramids were cut with copper chisels and saws. Most of these stones came from nearby quarries. An interesting fact to note is that camels were not brought into use until twenty centuries after the pyramids were built. Human strength was used to drag the stones from the quarries or from the boats (Casson 76). The stones were then dragged and pushed into place for the first layer of the Great Pyramid, which was placed on flat level ground. Next, long ramps were built of earth and brick moving the blocks up the ramps to form the next layer. After the top layer was finished the workers covered the pyramid with an outer coating of white casing stone, which gave the Great Pyramid a brilliant shrine during the day when the sun shone down on it. The outer coating of white casing stone were laid so perfectly that from a distance the pyramid appeared to have been made from a single white stone.
The main difference of the Great Pyramid compared to other pyramids, besides the fact of its size, is the difference of the location of the burial chamber. The Great Pyramid’s burial chamber was in the uppermost part of the pyramid. This was something new, burial chambers in other pyramids were located beneath the pyramid. To reach the burial chamber inside the Great Pyramid a upward sloping corridor was built. The ramp for the king’s ascent to the polar