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The First Pyramids

The Pyramid Age began during the Old Kingdom (2650-2134 B.C.), when the first pyramids were built by King Djoser in the third dynasty. Construction of pyramids continued until 1640 B.C. During the first and second dynasties, Egyptian kings were buried in mastabas. The deceased were laid to rest in an underground chamber at the bottom of a shaft, and a flat-topped tomb was placed over them.

King Djoser established a powerful centralized administration based in the city of Memphis, not far from the present-day city of Cairo. One of his officials was the famous architect and scholar Imhotep, who designed the Step Pyramid, a pharaoh's tomb at Saqqara that looks like a stairway to heaven. This tomb is an elaboration of the original mastabas, with its central burial chamber.

Bent Pyramid; 
CMC PCD 2001-295-022 Imhotep; 
CMC PCD 2001-310-037 Step Pyramid; 
CMC S97 10684; 
PCD 2001-272-057
Bent Pyramid Step Pyramid

In the fourth dynasty, the Pharaoh Snefru built the first geometrically true pyramids at Dahshur, south of Saqqara. He started by adding a smooth casing over the steps of two pyramids that were built by his predecessors. He then built two pyramids of his own.

The pyramids built during the fifth dynasty had a core of rubble and mud bricks, and a limestone facing. When the limestone was removed, the core collapsed.

Akhnaten worshipping the sun god; 
CMC PCD 2001-310-058 Why the pharaohs chose a pyramid for their tombs is still a mystery. Perhaps the shape originated from the creation story, in which the world is conceived as a flat plane with four corners representing the north, east, south and west. When the sky rose up, forming an invisible central axis like a pole or tree in the centre, the world took on the shape of a pyramid. The pyramid may also represent the primeval mound that rose out of chaos and provided a resting place for the sun god, Re. Its peak may symbolize the point where sacred energy from the sky world enters the human world. Another theory suggests that when Re became more important in the Egyptian religion, the pyramid (like the obelisk) represented a ray of the sun.

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