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First pyramids

Location map showing the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Above the Nile valley to the west lies the plateau of the Western Desert,...Read More >>Location map showing the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Above the Nile valley to the west lies the plateau of the Western Desert, part of the Sahara. The pyramids were all built on the edge of the plateau, just at the point where it slopes down to meet the lush lowlands of the Nile floodplain. The pyramids were sited within a few kilometres of the royal capital, Memphis. The pyramids of ancient Egypt were designed as monumental tombs for the pharaohs. Years before the first pyramids were built, pharaohs were buried in smaller tombs. Later, larger and grander structures were erected as burial places, until the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid, was completed in the 2600s BC. Later, perfect, smooth-sided pyramids were built. The last royal pyramid was built for Ahmose I (1550–1525 BC). The pyramids were built on the edge of the Western Desert, part of the Sahara Desert, just at the point where it slopes down to meet the lush lowlands of the Nile floodplain. Most were sited within a few kilometres of the royal capital, Memphis.



Early royal burial sites

Early burial pit (left); a more elaborate ruler's grave (centre); stela, a stone slab marking a grave (right)Centuries before the first pharaohs, local rulers were buried in pits in the ground, covered by small mounds of sand and gravel. Their bodies were accompanied by figurines (miniature statues), pots and weapons. Over the years, their graves became more elaborate. They resembled underground apartments, divided into separate pits or “rooms” with mudbrick walls. The graves were marked on the surface by stone slabs, called stelae.
 

Imhotep, the architect of the Step Pyramid, was thought of as a god: the son of Ptah, god of Memphis.

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