Of all the ancient Egyptian pyramids, none are perhaps as perplexing as the largest in Egypt, and the oldest in Egypt. These two pyramids hide unexpected secrets, rigth beneath the surface.
More than 100 years ago, more precisely in 1842, Egyptologist Kard Richar Lepsius penned down the first modern list of Egyptian pyramids—known as the Lepsius List of Pyramids—where he counted 67. Since then, this list has doubled, depending on the sources you look at.
It is generally accepted that there are around 120 pyramids in Egypt, ranging in different sizes, built starting from the Third Dynasty reign of Pharaoh Djoser.
The exact number of pyramids that were built in Egypt is difficult to assess since many of these ancient structures are in ruins or buried beneath Egypt’s golden sands. Many pyramids remain in a poor state of preservation. If visible at all on the surface, they may appear no more than mounds of rubble. This is precisely what makes it nearly impossible for experts to identify them.
Of around 120 pyramids in Egypt, no more than half-a-dozen or so are considered large pyramids.
The Great Pyramid
The largest pyramid in Egypt is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, an ancient monument thought to have been commissioned in the Fourth Dynasty by Sneferu’s son and successor to the throne. The pyramid was supposedly designed, planned and built by Khufu’s royal vizier and architect Hemiuni.
Mainstream scholars argue that to build the pyramid, the ancient Egyptians needed no more than 20 years. In two decades, it is theorized that the builders stacked up as many as 2.3 million blocks of stone and constructed a pyramid with a total weight of around 6.5 million tons.
Once completed, with an original height of 146.7 meters (481 ft) or 280 Egyptian Royal cubits, the Pyramid of Khufu remained the tallest man-made construction on the surface of the planet.
The completion of the Great Pyramid of Giza marked the peak of ancient Egyptian pyramid building.
Egyptologists agree that Khufu’s pyramid was built to house the Pharaoh’s body and protect it in the afterlife. In fact, experts argue that all ancient Egyptian pyramids were tombs, an nothing other than that, even though a recent internet poll revealed that no more than 5% of people believe pyramids were tombs.
Today, the Great Pyramid stands at 138.8 meters (455 ft), lacking its capstone or summit.
Of all the pyramids in Egypt, this is the only pyramid that was built with eight and not four sides. Furthermore, it is the only pyramid that has both ascending and descending passages. It remains unclear what their purpose is.
The Great Pyramid also features a total of three chambers inside. One—the most mysterious—is located just beneath the pyramid and was left entirely unfinished, almost as if the builders abandoned it in a hurry.
Just above the base of the pyramid lies the so-called Queen’s Chamber. Above it, nearly to the middle of the Great Pyramid is the King’s Chamber which was crudely finished and features a massive, empty stone sarcophagus. Egyptologists claim that it was inside this sarcophagus where the mummified remains of King Khufu were once located.
Although many scholars argue the Great Pyramid is the most perfect structure built in ancient Egypt, more ancient pyramids paved the way for its construction.
The first pyramid of Egypt is believed to be the Step Pyramid of Saqqara, thought to have been completed around 4,700 years ago.
Planned, designed and built by Imhotep, the Step Pyramid is regarded as the earliest colossal stone building and the earliest large-scale cut stone construction in Egypt.
This pyramid, which is thought to have initially started off as a kind of square mastaba, draws many precedents from earlier structures. Nonetheless, it revolutionized ancient Egyptian architecture in more ways than one.
Egyptologists maintain that Imhotep built the Step Pyramid in a total of six stages, which are spread through the nineteen years Djoser is thought to have reigned over Egypt.
Starting of as a kind of experimental structure—a square mastaba—the structure is thought to have been gradually enlarged. The first stage saw builders enlarge it evenly on all four sides, and later the structure was enlarged on the eastern sides.
Egyptologists believe this proto-mastaba was built in two phases, first to form a four stepped structure—which was already then, a four-step Pyramid—and then to form a six-stepped structure, resulting in the six-stepped pyramid we see today.
Once completed with its six, superimposed mastabas, the Step Pyramid was cased with finely-polished limestone blocks which made the pyramid reflect the rays of the sun.
Most of the stone used in its construction originated from Saqqara. Although no ancient texts have ever been discovered that detail the exact construction or transportation methods used to build the pyramid, Egyptologists theorize that ramps may have been used to raise the heavy stones in order to build the pyramid.
To transport the massive blocks of stone, and since the Egyptians of the Third Dynasty had no knowledge of the wheel or pulley, rollers were most likely used to transport the stones from pone position to the other.
Although the Great Pyramid of Giza is popular and famous due to its size, precision, and intricate design, there are many other facts that make it one of the most unique pyramids on Earth.
One such feature are the pyramid’s electromagnetic capabilities. Yup, you read right.
A study in 2016, led by scientists from ITMO University (Russia) and the Laser Zentrum Hannover (Germany) demonstrated that the 4,500-year-old pyramid was able to focus electromagnetic energy.
The researchers successfully calculated the extinction cross-section and estimated how the energy is scattered or absorbed by the Great Pyramid.
Multipole analysis allowed the scientists to confirm that the scattered fields concentrated inside the Pyramids chambers as well as beneath its base.
Of course, scientists say that the Egyptians couldn’t have possibly known about this feature and that it is most likely random.
The Step Pyramid is fascinating, not only because of what it means as a monument but because beneath its surface t hides a massive subterranean world.
Before the pyramid was built, the workers were tasked with excavating a complex network of magazines, tunnels, shafts, and chambers.
Experts have found that this incredible network spans more than 5.7 kilometers in length. More than 400 rooms were discovered beneath the pyramid and many feature artifacts that predate Pharaoh Djoser by several generations.
How the ancient Egyptians excavated 5.7 kilometers of material remains a mystery, but never again in history did the builders create such a massive world beneath a pyramid. This means that the beauty of the entire Pyramid complex above the surface is just one small speck compared to the behemoth underground world created beneath the structure.
The exact purpose of this massive subterranean world remains an enigma, as does the mysterious disappearance of the Pharaoh’s mummy which has never been found.