Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Who Built the Pyramids and Why?
Posted: April 21, 2002
An analysis by
Dr. Kwame Nantambu

Introduction: What are Pyramids? Pyramids of ancient Kemet (Egypt) are large structures with four triangular sides that meet in a point at the top, directly over the center of the pyramid's square base.

The ancient Egyptians built about 104 royal pyramids, from about 2630 B.C. until about 1530 B.C. During that time, the pyramid form evolved from a series of stepped terraces that resembled the layers of a wedding cake to the better known, sloped pyramidal shape. The first pyramid, the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah, was constructed during the reign of King Djoser (2630B.C.-2611 B.C.).

The largest pyramid is the one built for King Khufu, at the site of modern Giza. Khufu's pyramid, known as the Great Pyramid, is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Purpose of the Pyramids Egyptian pyramids served as tombs for kings and queens, but they were also places of ongoing religious activity. After a ruler died, his or her body was carefully treated and wrapped to preserve it as long as a mummy.

According to ancient Egyptian belief, the pyramid, where the mummy was placed, provided a place for the monarch to pass into the afterlife. In temples nearby, priests performed rituals to nourish the dead monarch's spirit, which was believed to stay with the body after death.

In the Old Kingdom (a period of Egyptian history from about 2575 B.C. to about 2134 B.C.), Egyptian artists carved Medu Netcher on the walls of the burial chamber, designed to safeguard the dead monarch's passage into the afterlife. These writings, which include hymns, magical spells, instructions on how to act in front of the gods, and other pieces of useful knowledge, are known as the Pyramid Texts. The mummified body of the Pharaoh or King was placed in the Nb Ankh, which means "Above life"; it was called the Sacorphagus by the Greeks and today in the A.D. era it is called a casket or coffin.

Building of the Pyramids During the Old Kingdom, the Egyptians built their largest and most ambitious pyramids, typically of the large stone blocks. Over time, the size and quality of the pyramids decreased, probably because they were extremely costly. In the Middle Kingdom (2040 B.C.- 1640 B.C.), the Egyptians built pyramids mostly of mud brick. All pyramids were aligned to the cardinal directions, meaning that their sides ran almost exactly due north-south and east-west. Most pyramids rose from desert plateaus on the west bank of the Nile River, behind which the sunset. The Egyptians believed that a dead monarch's spirit left the body and traveled through the sky with the sun each day. When the sun sets in the west, the royal spirits settled into their pyramid tombs to renew themselves.

Pyramids at Giza The largest pyramid ever built, King Khufu's, is often called the Great Pyramid. It lies in the desert west of Giza, accompanied by the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure (Khufu's son and grandson). The Great Pyramid was built during Khufu's reign (2551 B.C.- 2528 B.C.). Vandals and erosion have stripped away some of the Great Pyramid's outer material, and some of its uppermost levels have been dismantled, but it still retains its sense of majesty. The Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre took about 20-25 years to build while Menkaue's took 10-15 years.

The Great Pyramid is 280 meters or 50 stories high; it measures 140 meters at each base at a 51 degree- 52-inch angle. The pyramid's core probably includes a hill of unexcavated rubble, making it impossible to determine its exact number of blocks. Researchers estimate that 2.3 million blocks were used to build the Great Pyramid, with an average weight of about 2.5 metric tons per block. The largest block weighs as much as 15 metric tons.

The work of quarrying, moving, setting, and sculpting the huge amount of stone used to build the Great Pyramid was most likely accomplished by two crews of 2,000 workers each. Teams of bakers, carpenters, water carriers, and others probably served the pyramid builders, so that a total of about 25,000 men and women may have lived year-round near the construction site.

None of the workers were slaves. Most were probably farmers, contracted to work for a limited period. Specialists, who were permanently employed by the king, filled the positions that required the most skill-architects, masons, metal workers, and carpenters.

In building Khufu's pyramid, the architects used techniques developed by earlier pyramid builders. They selected a site at Giza on a relatively flat area of bedrock-not sand-which provided a stable foundation. After carefully surveying the site and laying down the first level of stones, they constructed the Great Pyramid in horizontal levels, one on top of the other. Most of the stone for the interior of the Great Pyramid was quarried immediately to the south of the construction site. The smooth exterior of the pyramid was made of a fine grade of white limestone that was quarried across the Nile.

These exterior blocks had to be carefully cut, transported by river barge to Giza, and dragged up ramps to the construction site. Only a few exterior blocks remain in place at the bottom of the Great Pyramid. During the Middle Ages (5th century to 15th century) people took the rest away for building projects in the city of Cairo. To ensure that the pyramid remained symmetrical, the exterior casing stones all had to be equal in height and width. Workers marked all the blocks to indicate the angle of the pyramid wall and trimmed the surfaces carefully so that the blocks fit together.

During construction, the outer surface of the stone was left unfinished; excess stone was removed later. As the Great Pyramid rose, the workers built large ramps to drag their materials up the sides of the structure. The exact form of these ramps is not known, but scholars believe that they were probably built wrapping around the pyramid as they rose. These ramps were probably made of desert clay mixed with water and bonded with limestone debris left over from the construction work.

When the workers had completed the pyramid and installed the pyramid, or capstone, ramps still covered the surface of the pyramid. As the workers dismantled the ramps from the top down, they slowly exposed the pyramid's stone surface, which stonemasons smoothed and polished. When the ramp was gone, the pyramid was displayed in its full majesty.

Mathematics of Khufu's Pyramid It consists of a line drawn from North to South which is a mere three minutes and six seconds deviant from the celestial meridian which means that the Pyramid was built to face true North. The measurements are staggering. Its base length is 230m 36 cm 4mm. And the circumference is 921m 45cm 6mm. In other words, if we consider a circle with a radius of the Pyramid's height, they will be identical. This speaks to the geniusness of the ancient Afrikans in the B.C. era.

If we multiply the length of the side of the Pyramid by 2 and divide the result by the height, the answer will be 230. 364 multiplied by 2 and divided by 146.599 equals 3.14 which is the modern day Pi, that is, the ratio of the circle's circumference to its diameter contained in the Pyramid. This degree of accuracy proves that the ancient Afrikans- Kemites were well aware of the spherical nature of the earth. They possessed this advanced knowledge of mathematics. They had already calculated the radius and circumference of the earth.

Interior of Pyramid The interior of the Great Pyramid is complex, with a series of passages leading to several rooms. The most important room is the King's Chamber, the room in which Khufu's body was placed during his funeral. In this room, the priests left items that Khufu, like all Egyptians, would need for the afterlife. Although the builders tried to block passages and doors when they left the pyramid after the king's funeral, tomb robbers did eventually take out everything of value. The entrance to the Great Pyramid was set 17m (55 ft) above ground level.

It was intended to be used only once, during Khufu's funeral, when special scaffolding was erected. Once the scaffolding was dismantled, the entrance's height served as a security measure against tomb robbers. The entrance leads to the Descending Passage, which runs down through the pyramid into the bedrock beneath the pyramid and levels out until it reaches the Subterranean Chamber. About 18m (60 ft.) from the pyramid entrance, before entering the bedrock, the Descending Passage intersects another corridor, called the Ascending Passage, now sealed with three large granite blocks.

How Pyramids Developed The Egyptian pyramids developed from royal tombs of the earliest periods of Egyptian history. In the 1st and 2nd dynasties (2920 B.C.- 2770 B.C. and 2770 B.C. -2649 B.C.), kings were buried at the city of Abydos in graves topped with a pile of clean sand inside low-lying brick walls. By the 3rd Dynasty (2649 B.C. - 2575 B.C.), kings were being buried underneath large mud brick rectangles called mastabas, from the Arabic word meaning "bench."

King Djoser, who reigned from 2630 B.C.- 2611 B.C., built a more elaborate royal tomb known as the Step Pyramid at Saqqarah. This tomb started out as a mastaba, but its architect, Imhotep, first expanded the mastaba then topped it with successively smaller mastabas. In the end, Djoser's tomb looked like a rectangular wedding cake with six layers. Imhotep is "the world's first recorded multi-genius." The Step Pyramid and later pyramids of the 3rd Dynasty were constructed of small, almost brick-sized stones that were laid in vertical courses and inward-leaning to create the sloped sides. King Sneferu, the father of Khufu, built the initial true pyramids, developing the new technique during construction.

The earliest true pyramid, at the town of Maydum, began as a step pyramid with inward-leaning walls and eight levels. After working on the structure for 14 years, Sneferu moved his burial ground north to Dashur for unknown reasons, and construction began on another pyramid. This one, too, was made of stone blocks that leaned inward. The architects had designed it with an angle of 60 degrees (to the ground), but as the pyramid rose, it started to sink because of the weight and angle of the stones. To solve this problem, the builders put up an outer supporting wall, giving the architects finished the upper portion of the pyramid off with a slope of only 43 degrees. This shift in angle from 55 to 43 degrees gives this pyramid its name-the Bent Pyramid. During construction of the Bent Pyramid, the architects made a discovery:

On the upper portion, instead of leaning the stones inward, they laid down horizontal layers of larger stone blocks. With the new technique, the pyramids shape resulted because each level was slightly smaller than the one it lay upon. The new technique was then used to construct another giant pyramid for Sneferu, now called the North Pyramid, located about 1.6 km (1 mi) north of the Bent Pyramid. It proved so successful that Sneferu returned to Maydum, while construction was still in progress on the Dashur pyramids, and refined the Maydum pyramid by adding an outer level constructed with the new approach. All the pyramid builders of the 4th Dynasty (2575 B.C.-2467 B.C.), including the builders of the Great Pyramid at Giza, used Sneferu's new technique.

Over the course of the 5th Dynasty (2465 B.C.- 2323 B.C.), however, the quality of the pyramids declined. The cores were made of smaller blocks of stone, laid more irregularly. By the end of the Old Kingdom around 2134 B.C., the pyramids had a core of shoddy masonry and debris covered with a veneer of fine limestone. After a chaotic period in Egyptian history called the First Intermediate Period (2134 B.C.- 2040 B.C.), Egyptian kings chose to be buried in pyramids at their new capital city near modern Lisht. These pyramids of the Middle Kingdom resemble those of the late Old Kingdom, being loosely constructed of rough stones, debris, and mud-brick, and coated with fine limestone. However, the associated temples were much larger than those of the Old Kingdom.

Alignment of Giza Pyramids The alignment or constellation of the Orion (Osirian) Belt occurred in 1050 B.C. above the Giza plateau in ancient Kemet (Egypt). The alignment of the three pyramids at the Giza plateau on earth is a perfect spiritual and terrestrial re-enactment of the map of Orion's Belt as it occurred in the sky above in 1050 B.C. as corroborated by engineer Robert Bovell during TLC's Cable TV Channel program entitled "Secrets of the Pyramids and the Sphinx."

In the Belt of Orion, (Osiris) three stars run in a row but the top star (the smallest one) is slightly offset to the left. At the Giza plateau, two of the pyramids are of almost identical size and set along a diagonal line but the third pyramid is not only much smaller but also is also off-set to the left of this diagonal line just as the alignment of the three stars in Orion's Belt.

Conclusion For more than 4,000 years, the Pyramids at Giza have towered over the Egyptian desert arousing awe and speculation among all those who gazed upon them. One of the significance and uniqueness of the Pyramids is that each stone monument is built in the form of the human body. In other words, the parts of the human body form the identical parts or components of the Pyramid. See Diagram 1. The Holy of the Hollies is the most important part of the Temple because this is where only the Pharaoh or Highpreist offered incense, food, and spiritual services to the God. They are the only two persons who can enter the Holy of Hollies.

This is sacred ground. As such, these ancient Afrikans incorporated the physical and spiritual aspects or phenomena in their monuments. Finally, it is important to note that the building of the Pyramids was a form of national service. They were not built by slaves, aliens from out of space or "Tanned Europeans." Afrikans-Kemites built the Pyramids. The stark, historical reality is that these Afrikans never called their original stone monuments, Pyramids. The ancient Afrikans--Kemites called their colossal stone monuments "Ben Ben", which means "House of extension into light." Foreign invaders and occupiers called them Pyramid, which means "house of fire." Indeed, the word or title Pharaoh is also of foreign origin and was not used in ancient Kemet until the New Kingdom Period (1550 B.C.- 1196 B.C.).

This word or title was used by an Asian King when he referred to his regal counterpart in Kemet. The original Afrikan-Kemetic word or title for Pharaoh is "Ngu."

Shem Hotep ("I go in peace").

Dr. Nantambu is an Associate Professor, Dept. of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, U.S.A.

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