One of the things for which the ancient Egyptians are most famous is building pyramids. Pyramid building requires great skill, mathematical and engineering knowledge and practice! It took the ancient Egyptians a long time to figure out how to build the types of pyramids that are most closely associated with them. Take a look at the Pyramid of Djoser (doe-shur). It is Egypt’s oldest (first) pyramid. It is located in an area called Saqqara. Saqqara (sak-kar-ah) is a large ancient Egyptian burial ground. All ancient Egyptian pyramids marked the location of where people were buried.
What does this pyramid remind you of? Are you thinking of a flight of steps? The Pyramid of Djoser is called a step pyramid. A step pyramid is a kind of ancient Egyptian tomb that is constructed out of a series of mastabas. A mastaba is a rectangular structure that has sides that slope outwards.
Mastabas were made of mud bricks. Look carefully at the diagram of the mastaba on the left. Do you see how the walls are sloped outward? This helps to keep the weight of the structure evenly distributed. The Step Pyramid of Djoser is made of five mastabas, one on top of the other. Do you see the burial chambers that descend beneath the mastaba?
This is the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu (s-nay-fer-oo). Sneferu was a pharaoh. This is his burial place. It is located in an area called Dahshur.
The pyramid has a bent appearance because the bottom part of it inclines or slants to a greater degree than the top part of it.
The pyramid to the left is called the Great Pyramid of Giza. It is also one of the most famous structures that has ever been built. It is one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world; the only one still standing.
Look carefully at the dates of each pyramid. How many years have elapsed between each one? What conclusions can you draw about ancient Egyptian construction methods by considering when these pyramids were built and how the techniques changed?
Examine the three pyramids on the next page. Can you see how they changed over time? They are all fundamentally the same shape, but as the ancient Egyptians advanced, and their knowledge of engineering and mathematics improved, the sides of the pyramids became more sophisticated.