The famous wedged-shaped masonry and stone structures known as pyramids are synonymous with ancient Egyptian culture. Of the more than 100 pyramids discovered thus far in Egypt, most were constructed to serve as tombs for pharaohs, queens and dignitaries during the Old and Middle Kingdom, with the earliest, the Pyramid of Djoser, dating to around 2620 B.C.
The mummies of pharaohs and their families were placed inside a sarcophagus and then buried inside the pyramids. Within each pyramid, often toward the center of the structure, was a king's chamber. Queen's chambers were also included in many pyramids.
The Egyptian people believed that their dead loved traveled to the afterlife. The pharaohs were buried with food for sustenance. Mummies might also be buried with religious artifacts, such as amulets and scarabs, and sacrificial objects intended for use in this new realm.
Pharaohs were buried with priceless treasures to take to the afterlife with them. Gold, other precious metals and rare jewels are examples of treasure often placed in a tomb. Masks, statues and jewelry are additional examples of treasures often placed in a pyramid. In the Pyramid Complex of Senwosret III, located in Dahshur, intricate pieces of jewelry that belonged to Queen Weret were discovered.
In some cases, a mummified pet would be buried in a pyramid with its owner, so the owner could spend the afterlife with beloved animal. Murals are another item that are often found in pyramids. Religious texts were often inscribed on the interior walls of pyramids, and all the kings of the Sixth Dynasty (2345 through 2181 B.C.) had such inscriptions. The Pyramid of King Unas, last ruler of the Fifth Dynasty, had magical spells inscribed on the interior walls, which were believed to help the king as he entered the afterlife.
- National Geographic: Pyramids at Giza
- PBS NOVA: Who Built the Pyramids?
- Think Quest: Ancient Egyptian Pyramids
- Digital Eygpt: Evolution of the Pyramids
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: Pyramid Complex of Senwosret III, Dahshur
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids
- Pyramids of Ancient Egypt; Christopher Forest
- Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images