Sands of Time – EGYPT: Who built the pyramids and why?
Egypt has always attracted great attention to itself – an absolute magnet for every seeking mind. Even the ancient Greeks showed great interest in the majestic pyramids, the magnetic and mystical images of the Egyptian art, that are so easily recognizable because they simply do not resemble any other art in the world. But why is that so? Why did this ancient civilization build pyramids? Why is the interest in the ancient Egyptian heritage so strong after all these millennia? Why, despite the many scientific studies that refute the various mystical theories about the pyramids, the conspiracy remains an indispensable part of them, agglutinated like a wild root on the fertile valleys of Nile? To answer these questions, of course, we must first look deep into the distant past of Ancient Egypt.
HISTORY OF ANCIENT EGYPT
Egyptian history is an infinitely rich, millennial, colorful history of many ups and downs, contrasts and twists. It was here where one of the first great civilizations of the Ancient times flourished, preserving many material monuments for the present man. A culture that was so familiar with the subtleties of geometry and astronomy, thanks to which built the great Egyptian pyramids – the only wonder of the Ancient world that endured the hard trials of time. "The most astonishing architectural idea that cannot be defeated.", said Goethe about them. But before we get to the pyramids, we must go a long way.
Despite the complexity of Egyptian history, scientists have managed to sort and divide it into several conditional periods. It starts with the so-called Prehistoric Egypt, which spans the period from the earliest human settlement to the beginning of the Early Dynastic period around 3000 BC. It is also called Protodynastic period. These lands have been inhabited since time immemorial, but the first evidence of settled life dates from the 6th or the 5th century BC, when the population borrowed the agricultural activity from Mesopotamia. The fertile floodplains of Nile were the perfect place for the transition from nomadic to sedentary way of life and for the development of a productive agricultural economy. There are evidences of the construction of canals in the 4th millennium BC, thanks to which the water was irrigating the surrounding fields during the flooding of Nile (July) and filling them with natural fertilizer. The Egyptians had to observe very carefully these floods every year, because their economy depended on them. Namely this contributed strongly to the future mathematical and astronomical knowledge and the development of the calendar system, related with the religious life. Thus, ancient Egyptian agriculture flourished with rich crops that even led to surpluses. But since cereals can be stored for a long period of time, this favored the creation of a society that would allocate these surpluses. But then a need to record the reallocated goods occurred, which gradually led to the creation of one of the first scripts – the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Archaeological excavations from the beginning of the 4th millennium BC indicate the extensive use of metals, mainly copper, and significant growth in trade and crafts. From the graves we learn about advanced development in religious ideas and class stratification. Subsequently, the nomes (Egyptian municipalities) collapsed and social classes appeared. Small states were created, which would soon turn into Upper Egypt (to the South) and Lower Egypt (North to the Nile Delta).
Some researchers, however, believe that real history of Egypt began with the unification of Lower and Upper Egypt into one state. This happened around 3000 BC thanks to King Mennes (Menei), who is considered the founder of the first Egyptian Kings Dynasty. Originally his throne was in Thebes, but after the unification, he built the new capital Memphis.
This is the beginning of the so-called Archaic period, or Early Dynastic period, including the First and Second Dynasties (over 15 rulers) from about 3100 to 2686 BC. This period is characterized by the centralization of power, rejection of despotism of the individual local rulers, and strong consolidation of the state. Thus, the preconditions for the future building of one of the greatest empires in the Antiquity arose.
The end of this period and the beginning of the next – Old Kingdom – is marked by the erection of the oldest monumental stone building in the world – the Step pyramid of Djoser, who was the second king and, at the same time, the first pyramid builder of the Third Dynasty. This era continued from about 2686 to 2181 BC and included III, IX, X and XI dynasties, called "pyramid builders." This is no coincidence - besides the Step pyramid of Djoser during these 5 centuries, the largest and most majestic pyramids were built mostly by the rulers of the IV dynasty. Among them were King Sneferu, who perfected the art of pyramid-building with the famous Bent pyramid at Dashur, his inheritor Khufu – the builder of the Great pyramid at Giza with height of 137,16 m, also the son and grandson of Khufu – Khafre and Menkaure, who constructed the other two pyramids at the Giza Necropolis, considered one of the wonders of the Ancient World.
During this period, Egypt became a powerful centralized slave-holding state, the mainstays of which were the great army, clerks, priests, and the thriving economy based on advanced agriculture with a rich irrigation system. The technical achievements of Egyptian civilization were exceptional for their time, but the prerequisites of their advance are not few. Culture flourished at that time as well. During this period, the hieroglyphic letter reached its highest level of development. There was a great upsurge in the spheres of stonemasonry and construction. This is when the delightful realistic statues of "Rural Mayor", which now adorns the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and “Sitting Clerc”, which is in the Paris Louvre, were created. The invasion of the Hittites in the Nile Delta, however, ended the Old Kingdom and marked the beginning of the so-called 1st Intermediate period, which continued until the beginning of the Middle Kingdom. This period was characterized mainly by internal fluctuations as the population was heavily burdened by the consequences of the construction of all these pyramids.
The Middle Kingdom covered the period of rule of the XI and XII Dynasty between 2040 and 1780 BC and was characterized by decentralization. Great success was achieved by King Amenemhet I, who expanded the canal systems. The capital was relocated to Thebes and the imposing Temple of Ammon in Karnak was built. Large areas were colonized, among which Nubia. Generally, they were still building pyramids, but now much smaller and made not of stone but of sun-dried bricks, because of the big economic minus of the large and expensive constructions. It is believed that a construction of a pyramid was equivalent to a lost war.
In the 17th century BC Egypt collapsed again and entered the 2nd Intermediate period. The reasons for this were both internal instability and the invasion of the Hyksos.
After long struggles with the invaders, they were at last defeated by King Ahmose I, who is considered the founder of the XVIII Dynasty and of the New Kingdom (1567 BC). This is the time of the greatest cultural, political and economic upsurge in Ancient Egypt. This period included some of Egypt's most famous Pharaohs Amenhotep IV, who changed his name to Akhenaten in honor to Aten, a representation of the Egyptian god, Ra. His exclusive worship to Aten is often interpreted as history's first instance of monotheism. His wife is the famous beautiful Nefertiti, who contributed a great deal to his new take on the Egyptian religion, and his son – the pharaoh-child, Tutankhamen.
The Height of The New Kingdom was achieved by Ramses II The Great, but during the time of the rulers of the 19th and 20th Dynasties the Egyptian civilization gradually came to its dawn. During the ensuing and last era of the Late Kingdom, Egypt completely lost its erstwhile mightiness and became a target of aggression of the neighboring peoples. In the 7th century BC it temporarily went under the rule of Assyria, and later joined the newly growing Persian state. This happened in 525 BC when the Persian king Cambyses invaded the Egyptian lands and defeated the Egyptian Pharaoh Psamtik III during the battle of Pelusium.
After nearly 200 years of Persian rule, in 332 BC Alexander the Great liberated the Egyptian lands and received the crown from the hands of the menopher priests. He founded the new capital, which still carries his name today. This was the beginning of the Greco-Roman period, during which the adventurous stories of Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Mark Antony began, and which lasted until 642 AD when Egypt was captured by the Arabs. Egyptian civilization was slowly but surely being obliterated in time. At least until the appearance of Champolion, about whom we will tell you more later.
WHY DID EGYPTIANS BUILD PYRAMIDES? RELIGION AND MYTHOLOGY.
Apart from looking through history, to answer the above-mentioned questions, we need to know a little more about the Egyptian religious concepts and beliefs.
It is often said that the Egyptian religion is polytheistic. On the one hand, this is true – you can probably list at least five deities from the Egyptian pantheon by yourself. On the other hand, however, ancient Egyptians have always believed in the existence of one unique and unachievable God-Creator who has manifold manifestations.
Each of the major centers in Egypt had its own deity and in certain stages of history they were recognized as a manifestation of the unified Creator God. In Memphis this was the god Ptah, who was responsible for the creation of the universe by the Word and by the Thought set in his heart (something that we will find much later in the Gospel of John in the New Testament (1: 1-18): "In the beginning was the word."). In Thebes this was Ammon, and in Heliopolus – Atum.
Yet, the Egyptian pantheon is one of the most impressive. The gods lived on the earth, and their earthly homes were the temples. The Egyptians had to honor and respect them, pray, dance, sing and give them gifts from time to time – mostly food and precious things.
Apart from paying tribute to the gods, however, a particularly important part of the Egyptian religion was the tribute to the ancestors and the cult to the afterlife, related to it. The Egyptians believed that death did not at all mean the end of human existence. It was only its continuation – the transition to a new, different world. But in order for the ancient Egyptian to live after his death, two conditions needed to be fulfilled: first, the body of the dead had to be preserved by the decay of time (to be mummified), and second, his soul (or soul doppelganger "ka") had to get everything he needed for that world: food, clothes, weapons, household goods, and so on. Thus, the dead man would live in that world according his property status, and the living people would be patronized by him in return of sacrifices.
FROM MASTABAS TO PYRMIDES
Thus, in their quest to keep the already mummified body away from the predatory hyenas and vicious enemies and to preserve the earthly gifts and riches of robbery, the ancient Egyptians began to build several types of tombs. Initially, these were the mastabas. Considered the forerunners of the pyramids, they evolved from even earlier ordinary stone-built graves in the sand pit. They were built of brick and stone and had the shape of a truncated pyramid. The earliest are from the time of the I Dynasty (Archaic period) and were discovered by the British archaeologist W.B. Emerry near the Sahara. They consisted of two parts: above ground and underground, wherein were the casket of the deceased and a separate room for gifts and sacrifices.
But the wealthier and high-standing the Egyptian was, the greater his tomb had to be. Of course, it was necessary to show greatness and superiority – even after death. But let's not forget death was not even close to the end for the Egyptians.
What then remains for the pharaohs? How large did their tombs had to be to show their might? The answer is simple: very, very, very large, as for example... the pyramids! Gradually the room for gifts and sacrifices grew more and more to finally become a mortuary temple. But the tombs of the Pharaohs needed to be not only the largest, with the most lavish gifts, with more spacious temple premises, but also to differ significantly from the others. This is how the mastaba became a pyramid. Here the archeology has long proven this evolution, and all conspiracies are redundant.
For the first attempt to move from the traditional mastaba to the mighty pyramids, as we have already mentioned, is considered the Step pyramid of Djoser near the Sahara, designed by the great ancient architect Imhotep. However, some researchers even think it's more accurate to call it a "stepped mastaba". Indeed, it was originally a simple stone mastaba, but later Imhotep said: "Why not have six more smaller mastabas built on it?". Thus the stepped pyramid was formed, from which all the right pyramids would later develop. The very perfect shape itself is also a matter of architectural evolution.
HOW WERE THE GREAT PYRAMIDES CONSTRUCTED? Relation to the constellation Orion.
The famous Pyramids near Giza are direct descendants of the Step pyramid of Djoser. But the main question remains how exactly they were built. "The mind does not understand how they could accumulate such an immeasurable amount of stone blocks.", Philon of Byzantine wondered himself. It is here that many conspiracy theories have arisen, but with which science stiffly fights. However, despite the many extensive, in-depth scientific analyzes and rational explanations of how the pyramids were built, mysticism and conspiracy continue to pave their way. "Well, let's assume that the ancient Egyptians really had such good engineering abilities, but how would you explain the connection of the pyramids to the cosmic constellations, specifically to Oreon?", would an adherent of these theories say. This connection is a fact, but many people think it is a consequence of a contact with the aliens. It turns out that a much more rational explanation can be given. Both the Egyptian and all ancient civilizations have had a very good knowledge of the cosmic objects that are directly related to the lack of material burden typical for the modern man and also to their long-term observations. What is also important, on the other hand, is the Egyptian religion itself, according to which certain stars and cosmic objects on the Sky map are projections of certain deities. Egyptian pyramids, of course, are also related to them. When it comes to the Great Pyramid, the connection is precisely with the constellation of Orion and the star Sirius and it is fulfilled through the so-called "ventilation shafts" that are located in the burial chambers. They are directed straight to the corresponding space objects. This was established by Egyptologists in the 1960s, thanks to astronomical research. It is supposed that these "channels" were built so that the soul of the ruler (Ba), breaking away from the body, can ascend on them and reach the specific cosmic body. Thus, according to the Egyptian beliefs, the Pharaoh would become one of the never going doing stars of the sky map, and his spirit would remain there until the end of time, merging with the eternal cosmic circle.
REBIRTH OF THE INTEREST TOWARDS EGYPT. THE ROSSETA STONE AND CHAMPOLION.
At the beginning of the text, we mentioned the unstinting interest towards Egypt. And it is proven also by the fact that the country is still one of the most desired tourist destinations for holiday, share from Tez Tour Bulgaria. Why, despite all the millennia that have passed, people are still exceptionally curious about this long-vanished civilization? Well, it turns out that this has not always been like that. As early as Ancient Egypt vanished from the map as an independent state it was gradually forgotten. For a long time the Western European man knew about it only because of the few stories in the Bible. After the Crusaders' unsuccessful attempts to conquer it, only some European travelers came to these lands. Egyptian knowledge remained a secret and was hidden from the Old Continent for centuries (probably because of this Egypt owes its mystical halo). But just in the late 18th and early 19th century things would rapidly change. After the well-known Napoleonic hikes and the conquest of Egypt by the French soldiers, the lost civilization was finally discovered by science! From that moment everything would change. Or at least it seemed so... Europe was crazy about the stories of the pyramids, the gods, the pharaohs, their incredible images painted on the frescoes and especially the Egyptian hieroglyphs! They were of a great interest for the European, perhaps mostly, because no one understood their meaning. They were mysterious just like Egypt. 23 years had to pass since the discovery of the Rosetta stone (a plate of 2 Old-Egyptian texts and one text in Ancient Greek) so that the Egyptian letter could finally be deciphered by the genius Champolion. It is the day of this discovery that is considered the birth date of the science of Egyptology – September 27, 1822.
Thus, despite all the harsh trials of the sands of the time under which Egyptian richness were hidden for such a long time, they finally appeared in the world. Today, Egypt is visited by more than 8 million tourists per year. The pyramids are one of the most famous cultural and historical sites, and this is certainly no accident. But many of the Egyptian relicts have not been found yet – archaeologists work hard, and we continue discovering new and new parts of the Egyptian history. “Man fears time, but time fears the pyramids.”, says the Arab proverb, that is why don’t waste time but chose of the of excursions to Cairo offered by Tez Tour Bulgaria and see them with your own eyes.