The interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Shutterstock.

20 Stunning Images From Inside Egypt’s Ancient Pyramids

Here's what ancient Egyptian pyramids look like from the inside.

There are around 130 pyramids that have been identified by Egyptologists in Egypt. The first of these structures were built more than 4,700 years ago in the royal necropolis of Saqqara. It was there where the Egyptian pyramid building was born when the mastaba tomb was converted into the first stone structure by Imhotep, Pharaoh Djoser’s royal vizier and architect.

Northwest of Memphis, the royal capital, Pharaoh Djoser chose the land to build a structure that would forever revolutionize and change Egyptian architecture.

The inside of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.
The inside of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.

Pushing the limits of ancient Egyptian construction techniques, the Step Pyramid of Djoser marked the beginning of a pyramid-building fever that would take over the ancient Egyptian civilization for more than one thousand years.

Menkaure's Burial Chamber. Image Credit: Egypt Archive.
Menkaure’s Burial Chamber. Image Credit: Egypt Archive.

Although the most famous ancient Egyptian pyramids are those located at the Giza plateau, many pyramids built before the Great Pyramid of Khufu marked important stages in ancient Egyptian pyramid building development.

The Roof of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.
The Roof of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.

The Pyramids at Giza may be the largest and most impressive, but before these massive structures were built, previous Pharaohs worked hard laying down the necessary foundations for their construction.

Everything started with Djoser’s step pyramid. The design of the Step Pyramid is attributed to Imhotep, the man who Egyptologists say was the first to conceive the notion of stacking several mastabas on top of each other, eventually building a structure composed of several steps, whose site decreased towards the monument’s apex, resulting in the familiar pyramid shape.

Tourist inside the tunnel of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.
Tourist inside the tunnel of the Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Shutterstock.

The Step pyramid was meant to serve as a massive stairway by which the deceased pharaoh could ascend towards his ancestors and into the cosmic realm.

Some of the tunnels inside the pyramids are very narrow.
Some of the tunnels inside the pyramids are very narrow.

Imhotep made this possible for the Pharaoh, and as he did, he revolutionized Egyptian monumental buildings. Such was the accomplishment of Imhotep that the ancient Egyptians later deified him.

Many ancient Egyptian pyramids were built with tunnels inside them leading towards different chambers. Shutterstock.
Many ancient Egyptian pyramids were built with tunnels inside them leading towards different chambers. Shutterstock.

But the shape of the pyramid holds a special meaning in Egyptian mythology. According to the ancient Egyptians, the shape of the Egyptian pyramids is thought to represent the primordial mound from which the Earth formed.

The short inscription that reads Ḫwfw śmrw ˤpr (“the gang, Fiends or Companions of Khufu”).
The short inscription reads Ḫwfw śmrw ˤpr (“the gang, Fiends or Companions of Khufu”).

This shape is believed to represent de descending rays of the sun above. Most pyramids erected in Egypt were cased with highly polished limestone, which gave the pyramids a brilliant, almost blinding appearance when viewed from a distance. It is this why pyramids were often called names that refer to solar radiance.

The interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Shutterstock.
The interior of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Shutterstock.

For example, one of the most important pyramids in Egyptian history, the Bent Pyramid of Sneferu, was called the Southern Shining Pyramid. In contrast, the pyramid of Senwosret at el-Lahun was called Senwosret Shines.

The mystery block inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The mystery block inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. A robot managed to take a peek at what’s on the other side.
Mysterious marks found inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Mysterious marks were found inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Although it is generally agreed that the Pyramids in Egypt served as tombs, there have been contradictory discoveries that may suggest otherwise. Furthermore, given the lack of actual discoveries pointing to the fact that Egyptian pyramids were tombs, one must carefully thread when making such assumptions.

The corbelled roof inside the Great Pyramid first introduced by Pharaoh Djoser. Shutterstock.
Pharaoh Djoser first introduced the corbelled roof inside the Great Pyramid. Shutterstock.

There are at least seven pyramids in Egypt that are known not to have been tombs ever. Many others could join that list. Continued academic disagreement on the theological principles that may have given rise to them further fuels the debate on Pyramids being tombs. One suggestion tells us that Pyramids may have been designed as a kind of “resurrection machine.”

Notice the truly massive stones used in the construction of the pyramids. Shutterstock.
Notice the truly massive stones used in the construction of the pyramids. Shutterstock.

But the truth is other than theories. There’s not much we know about these monstrous structures scattered across the world. When it comes down to the ancient Egyptian pyramids, there is no ancient text that mentions how these structures were built. There’s nothing on pyramid building that may help shed some light on constructions that some say predate even the Egyptian civilization.

An example of some of the massive stone blocks used in the construction of some of the ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Shutterstock.
An example of some of the massive stone blocks used in constructing some of the ancient Egyptian Pyramids. Shutterstock.

The exact number of ancient Egyptian pyramids is obscure. The first modern list of pyramids was published in 1842, composed by Karl Richard Lepsius, known as the Lepsius list of Pyramids. The list features 67 pyramids. Since then, more pyramids have been uncovered in Egypt.

Narrow tunnel inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The narrow tunnel inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Today, it is generally accepted that there are anywhere between 110 and 130 pyramids in Egypt. The inexact number is mostly because many ancient Egyptian pyramids are in an abysmal state of preservation or are buried beneath the golden sands.

Kheops Cambell's Chamber.
Kheops Cambell’s Chamber.

Some pyramids that are visible appear no more than simple mounds of rubble, the reason why archaeologists have a hard time identifying the structures as pyramids.

Odd marks on the floor of Lady Arbuthnots's Chamber.
Odd marks on the floor of Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber.

Egyptian pyramids were built in phases throughout history. For example, after Djoser’s successful pyramid complex at Saqqara, a few generations of Pharaohs came and went until another pyramid was built.

Does this look like a King's burial chamber? Se any inscriptions or hieroglyphs?
Does this look like a King’s burial chamber? Se any inscriptions or hieroglyphs?

The early pharaohs that came to the throne after Djoser tried mimicking his accomplishments but failed not succeeding to build a proper step pyramid.

The Portcullis room inside Menkaure's Pyramid. Image Credit: Jon Bodsworth. Egypt Archive.
The Portcullis room inside Menkaure’s Pyramid. Image Credit: Jon Bodsworth. Egypt Archive.

It wasn’t until Pharaoh Sneferu when ancient Egyptian pyramid was picked up properly again.

Sneferu is ancient Egypt’s greatest pyramid builder.

The sarcophagus inside the King's Chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The sarcophagus inside the King’s Chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.

After Djoser’s Step Pyramid, it wasn’t until Sneferu when Egyptian pyramid building lifted off again. Sneferu built the pyramid at Meidum (which collapsed in early stages, probably during construction) and experimented with the Bent Pyramid (Egypt’s first attempt at a smooth pyramid) and peaked with the completion of the Red Pyramid, also referred to as the Northern Pyramid.

Mystery ‘bowls’ located on the floor of ‘Campbell’s Chamber’.
Mystery ‘bowls’ located on the floor of ‘Campbell’s Chamber.’

The Bent Pyramid would lay the foundations of future pyramid building in Egypt and gave rise to the construction of the Red Pyramid, also built by Sneferu. The Red Pyramid would eventually give rise to constructing the most imposing pyramid of ancient Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Giza.


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Written by Ivan Petricevic

I've been writing passionately about ancient civilizations, history, alien life, and various other subjects for more than eight years. You may have seen me appear on Discovery Channel's What On Earth series, History Channel's Ancient Aliens, and Gaia's Ancient Civilizations among others.

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