Ancient Egypt - The Pyramid Complex


The following pyramids demonstrate what was to become the norm for the layout of a pyramid complex. Archaeologist Peter Clayton best describes this in his book, Chronicle of the Pharaohs:


'This consisted of the pyramid itself, with an entrance on the

north face which gives access, via a descending passage, to a

burial chamber normally located in the bedrock or at ground

surface within the mass. There can be more than one chamber,

and at different levels, within this group. On the east face of the

pyramid is a small pyramid or mortuary temple. From this a

causeway runs down to the edge of the cultivation where the

valley temple is located. Very fine reliefs are usually a feature

of later examples of these buildings.'



What was the purpose of the pyramid complex? The complex began its purpose at the valley temple, where the mummy was usually unloaded from a ceremonial solar barge. The body of the king could have actually been mummified in the valley temple, but that has not been confirmed. By a sacred ceremony, the mummy was brought up the causeway with priests carrying the body of the pharaoh to the mortuary temple and from there placed at rest inside the actual pyramid. The mortuary temple was the location where the priests could make offerings to his soul forever. This mortuary temple was the location of the cultic worship of the deceased god-king.


The early pyramids were built differently from the later ones. During the Old Kingdom, these constructs were made of stone blocks, while those of the later Middle Kingdom were made of mud brick cased in limestone. As a result, the Middle Kingdom pyramids were smaller and did not last. The early structures usually had a core of local limestone, cased in an outer layer of better quality limestone, or occasionally granite. Granite was also traditionally used for the royal chambers inside the pyramid. Up to 2.5 million limestone blocks and 50,000 granite blocks might be used to construct a single pyramid. The average weight might be anything up to 2.5 tons per block, with some very large megaliths weighing up to 200 tons. The capstone at the top of the structure usually consisted of basalt or granite and, if plated with gold, silver, or electrum (a mixture of both), would temporarily blind observers with its reflection in the sun. Based upon the excavation of a series of workers' cemeteries discovered during the early 1990s, archaeologists now believe the pyramids were built by tens of thousands of salaried workers and craftsmen, who were lodged in huge encampments nearby.


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