Pyramids

When most people mention Ancient Egypt the first thing that comes to mind is the Pyramids. To construct such monuments required a mastery of art, architecture and social organization that few cultures would ever rival. The pyramids are said to have built Egypt by being the force that knit together the kingdom\'s economy. Their creations were so substantial, that the sight of these vast pyramids would take your breath away. Today, the valley of the Nile has an open air museum so people can witness these grand monuments.

Obsessed with the afterlife, Egypt\'s rulers of 4,500 years ago glorified themselves in stone, thereby laying the foundation of the first great nation-state. A Pyramid is an enormous machine that helps the king go through the wall of the dead, achieve resurrection and live forever in the happiness of the gods. The start of the Old Kingdom is said to be the building of the Djoser\'s monument. The construction of Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser began around 2630 B.C. and was designed to awe the ancient Egyptians, to impress them with their rule\'s godlike strength. It was the world\'s first great construction project; indeed, it was the world\'s largest building.

Djoser, the second king of the 3rd dynasty, hired an architect called Imhoptep who for the first time constructed a tomb completely of stone. Imhoptep is considered the preeminent genius of the Old Kingdom. He assembled one workforce to quarry limestone at the cliff of Tura, across the Nile, another to haul the stone to the site where master carvers shaped each block and put it in place.

The Step Pyramid is a terraced structure rising in six unequal stages to a height of 60 meters, its base measuring 120 meters by 108 meters. The substructure has a system of underground corridors and rooms. Its main feature being a central shaft 25 meters deep and 8 meters wide. The step pyramid rises within a vast walled court 544 meters long and 277 meters wide, in which are the remnants of several stone edifices built to supply the wants of the king in the here after. Towering limestone columns were shaped to mimic the sway and droop of leafy plants. Immovable doors hung on great carved hinges. Facades called false doors through which the pharaoh\'s ka, or vital force, was presumed to pass, lay recessed within walls. The interiors of dummy temples were packed with rubble. Everything about the place bespoke illusion. The Step Pyramid was a ladder. Not a symbol of a ladder but an actual one, by which the soul of a dead ruler might climb to the sky, joining the gods in immortality.

No one knows why the Egyptians created this fantastic scene, but some archaeologists speculate that there was an Old Kingdom belief that a work of art, a building, had power and utility in the afterlife in direct proportion to its uselessness in the real world. In this view, each false door, each dummy temple worked in the afterlife precisely because it could not function in this one.

On the north side of the pyramid is a small stone cubicle, with a pair of tiny holes in its facade. When you look through these holes, you see two eyes retuning your stare, the blank gaze of a life size statue of Djoser sitting on the throne. The holes are there for the pharaoh to look out perhaps at the stars in the northern sky called the Imperishables because they never set.

Many believe that the building of Djoser\'s pyramid complex, which was accomplished by hundreds of workers from across the land, served to join those provinces into the world\'s first nation-state. During the Old Kingdom, which began around 2700 B.C. and lasted some 550 years, each pharaoh after Djoser marshaled a vast portion of his country\'s manpower and wealth to build his own tomb and ensure his immortality.

To build such outstanding monuments required a preciseness of architecture, and years of endless labor from so many Egyptians. The kingdom developed a funerary tradition around the worship of their divine pharaohs, both living and dead. Every aspect of life was affected. The Egyptians dug a network of canals off the Nile to transport stone for the pyramids and food for the workers, and a simple, local agriculture