How did a pyramid originate

Written by Felgr Pavel on .

Pyramids are buildings from a fairly advanced stage of Egyptian society development, not from the first stage. Monumental architecture never arise „at the beginning of a culture“. Construction of such works requires centuries of experience, exploitation the traditions and their overcoming, creating the economic, technical, organizational and ideological preconditions.

At first scientific researchers for Egypt verify the claim of ancient authors that the pyramids are royal tombs. After that they began to investigate, how were the kings buried before. They didn’t believe for a moment that these tombs in the form of huge stone pyramids „suddenly emerged like volcanic islands out of the sea“ and „crystallized from the desert sand“ with their geometric shapes.

Vyse and Perring already sensed that the step pyramid is the „first stage“ of proper pyramid. Champollion and Rosellini notices numerous similarities between royal tombs and the other ones. They even tried to make an outline of a linking line between pyramids in Giza and rock tombs in the Valley of the Kings. Lepsius got even farther in this groundbreaking period, when he discovered the connection between the pyramids and the tombs of dignitaries located in their surroundings. Local Arabs called them mastabas, what was the same name for massive mud-bricks „benches“ with sloping walls in front of peasant houses with similar shape.

Lepsius expressed the opinion that also Kings were buried in these mastabas (this word went later into egyptology as well). The terraces of these extensions were gradually dwindling and according to Lepsius „step mastaba“ originated from them. He also considered the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara as step mastaba, from which the „proper pyramid“ developed then. Later researches with various corrections and additions basically confirmed this theory of him.

The evidence about pyramids having their predecessors in mastabas was brought by the British archaeologist W. B. Emery, who led extensive research of Saqqara necropolis in 1935-1956. He discovered there a number of mastabas from the Archaic period. All of them were made of bricks of different sizes; even if one of the largest mastaba was greatly dilapidated, it enabled to make the reconstruction relatively easy.

It was formed in a shape of frustum about 5 meters high with the lower base of 28 x 14 meters and upper base of 14 x 7 meters. It originally had about twenty not high steps and it was fenced by a five meter wall with regular niches. A research of it confirmed then, what Emery was hoping for: it wasn’t a mastaba of some dignitary, but of the King himself. It belonged to King Anedjib (Enezib), the first King from the Saqqara King List (Saqqara Tablet), whose name as a „King of the Upper and Lower Egypt“ was Merbiape (Miebîdós). According to Abydos King List and Manetho’s Aegyptiaca he was the sixth ruler of the first dynasty!

The advanced architecture of Anedjib’s mastaba was also without doubt a result of a long development. Evidence of this development was found in its surrounding, in older and simpler tombs from the Archaic period. Emery divided them into several groups acconding to the two viewpoints.

  1. social affiliation of their owners: tombs of Kings and members of their family, as well as tombs of higher and lower dignitaries, officials, artisans etc. up to tombs of peasants and workers
  2. age with a total of six stages with fluent transitions: The oldest architectural prototype of Anedjib’s mastaba occured in the tomb of Queen Herneith. The enclosing wall was almost of the same type, but the part above ground was smaller and without obvious traces of steps. Uncovering of it led to the very threshold of Egyptian history: Queen Herneith was the wife of King Djer, who was the successor of King Hor-Aha or Narmer and is identified with Menes, the unifier of Egypt!

Message from the Nile

  • History of Czech institution of egyptology

    The Czech egyptology founder is Frantisek Lexa, the author of up to now evaluated work about ancient Egypt magic and Demotic grammar. Seminar for egyptology started thanks to him in Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of Charles University in Prague in 1925. Two years later Lexa became the first regular professor of egyptology in then Czechoslovakia.

  • Abusir - outstation of Czech egyptology expedition

    Abusir is an archaeological locality in Egypt named after nearby recent village Abusir. It is situated on western Nile bank on the edge of Libyan tableland approximately 20 kilometers to the south-west of Cairo. The name of this locality is derived from ancient Egypt god Osiris, from Per Usir (Busiris), "(cult) place of Osiris" (Busiris in Greek).

  • Researches in Western desert

    Czech egyptology is successful in researching not only on pyramidal fields in Abusir recently, but also in supporting and organizing smaller expeditions into egyptian Western desert. Czech expedition has been working even in slowly evanescent oasis El-Hajez since 2003, which is situated about 400 km to the south-west from Cairo.

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