As Seen From Above: 8 Stumping Birdlike Images of Egypt’s Ancient Pyramids

Gaze down at the magnificent ancient Egyptian Pyramids.

What’s better than seeing the ancient Egyptian pyramids from up close? Probably seeing them from a birdlike view.

Have you ever wondered what the ancient Egyptian Pyramids look like from the air? The stunning ancient Egyptian pyramids are scattered across the desert from north to south, from Lower Egypt to Upper Egypt.

The most famous Egyptian pyramids are its largest as well. The most massive pyramid ever built in Egypt is the Great Pyramid of Giza, believed to have been erected–according to mainstream experts–around 4,500 years ago, during the Fourth Dynasty reign of Khafre.

The Great Pyramid of Giza has a total volume of 2,583,283 cubic meters (91,227,778 cu ft). Believed to have been built with around 2.3 million blocks of stone, mainstream experts have calculated that the Great Pyramid of Giza has a total weight of around 6.5 million tons.

Aerial view of the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

Despite its behemoth size, the Great Pyramid of Giza is not the largest pyramid on the surface of the planet.

Two massive pyramid structures erected thousands of years ago in Central America hold the first and second place as the largest pyramids in terms of volume.

Nonetheless, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the tallest pyramid ever built, with a total height of 138.8 meters. Once completed, around 4,500 years ago, the pyramid is thought to have had a total height of 146.7 meters (481 ft) or 280 Egyptian Royal cubits.

Direct view of the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre from above. Image Credit: Náprstek Museum, National Museum in Prague / Wikimedia Commons.
Direct view of the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre from above. Image Credit: Náprstek Museum, National Museum in Prague / Wikimedia Commons.

Not far from it lies the second-largest pyramid of ancient Egypt. Believed to have been built during the reign of King Khafre–also during the Fourth Dynasty–, the Pyramid is the second largest of the ancient Pyramids of Egypt. With a base length of 215.5 meters (706 ft), Khafre’s Pyramid rises up to a height of 136.4 meters (448 ft).

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Made with megalithic limestone blocks just as the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre appears taller than Khufu’s because it sits on bedrock 10 meters high, which gives off an impression that its taller than Khufu’s pyramid.

Next to these two massive pyramids lies a much smaller pyramid, thought to have been commissioned by Khafre’s successor to the throne, King Menkaure. This pyramid is believed to have been commissioned also during the Fourth Dynasty.

Just like the pyramid of Khufu and Khafre, mainstream Egyptologists maintain the Pyramid of Menkaure served as a tomb to protect the mummified remains of the pharaoh, despite ample evidence pointing to the contrary.

With a total volume of only 235,183 cubic meters (8,305,409 cu ft), the Pyramid of Menkaure is much smaller in terms of volume than what is believed to be Egypt’s oldest pyramid; the Step Pyramid of King Djoser.

Although the three pyramids at Giza (and their so-called satellite pyramids) are the most famous of all Egyptian pyramids, there are many others that decorate the landscape of one of the greatest ancient civilizations in the history of the world.

The Pyramids at Dahshur as seen from space. Image Credit: NASA.
The Pyramids at Dahshur as seen from space. Image Credit: NASA.

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is argued to be the oldest of all ancient Egyptian pyramids. This ancient structure is thought to date back to around 4,700 years ago, during the Third Dynasty reign of King Djoser.

The Step Pyramid is considered by Egyptologists the mother of all ancient Egyptian Pyramids.

Constructed in the Royal Necropolis at Saqqara, the pyramid’s construction is thought to have been planned and carried out by the Royal Vizier and architect Imhotep.

 

Considered the earliest colossal stone building in ancient Egypt, the Pyramid of Djoser revolutionized ancient Egyptian architecture with its completion.

Thought to have started off as a mastaba made of stone, Djoser’s pyramid is also considered the earliest large-scale cut stone construction of Egypt.

Drawing precedents from ancient mastabas, the pyramid is believed to have been completed in six distinctive phases during which the builders added to the initial structure every three years or so.

Egyptologists believe the Step Pyramid was laid out as a square mastaba which was gradually enlarged. The first phase saw the builders expand all four sides. As construction moved forward, the builders enlarged the eastern side of the structure.

Stunning view of the Pyramids at Giza as seen from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA / Flickr.
Stunning view of the Pyramids at Giza as seen from the International Space Station. Image Credit: NASA / Flickr.

Djoser’s pyramid is believed to have been built as a two-stage mastaba, first to form a four-stepped structure, and was later enlarged resulting in a six stepped structure with a rectangular base on an east-west axis.

Egyptologists have long maintained that the Step Pyramid of Djoser was never meant to be a mastaba pointing to the fact that since the initial structure was square, there are no other known mastabas that were built in Egypt’s long history as a square mastaba.

 

As to the question “how the pyramid was built,” Egyptologists do not have a definite answer, although it is widely accepted that the ancient builders most likely made use of ramps that may have been used to raise the massive stones to build the pyramid.

Other possible construction methods have been suggested, although none of them have ever been proven due to the lack of physical evidence.

The transportation of the stones is another enigma. Egyptologists suggest that the ancient Egyptians may have used rollers upon which the heavy stones were placed and then rolled into position.

Moving on: After the Step Pyramid of Djoser, a couple of Pharaohs attempted–but failed–in building a similar structure.

A distant view of the Pyramids at Giza from a different perspective. Shutterstock.
A distant view of the Pyramids at Giza from a different perspective. Shutterstock.

It wasn’t until the reign of Sneferu that another pyramid would be erected in Egypt.

This is thought to have been the (Step?) Pyramid at Meidum. Although partially unsuccessful because it is thought to have collapsed as it was being remodeled, the pyramid-builders of Egypt learned a great deal from that structure.

This allowed them eventually to perfect their skills and build the famous Bent Pyramid at Dahshur. This pyramid is the most unique of all pyramids in Egypt not only because of its odd, bent shape but because it retains most of its casing stones.

After having completed the Bent Pyramid, Sneferu ordered the construction of another pyramid: The Red Pyramid.

This pyramid would become Egypt’s third-largest pyramid and a structure that is hailed as ancient Egypt’s first successful attempt at building a true, smooth-sided pyramid.

The top of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Image Credit: Pinterest.
Image Credit: Pinterest.

The skills and techniques learned during the construction of the Red Pyramid would eventually be used to build the most magnificent of all ancient Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Pyramid of Giza. This is why many authors argue Sneferu laid down the necessary formations for the great Pyramid with his three pyramids.

The social implications of building such massive pyramids in Egypt are staggering. Experts agree that the process of building such structures became–each time–far more labor-intensive than previous monuments.

The strangest part is, all of the above is mostly based on the archeological survey of the sites surrounding the pyramids, and a whole bunch of academic guesswork.

Satellite view of the Pyramids at Giza. Image Credit: JAXA.
Satellite view of the Pyramids at Giza. Image Credit: JAXA.

There are no known ancient texts that happen to record how the ancient Egyptian pyramids were built. We still have no clue what tools, techniques, and methods were used thousands of years ago to build such massive pyramids.

We also can’t possibly know whether or not the mainstream timeline of ancient Egypt’s pyramids is correct, since, just as their construction methods are absent from history, so are the names of the people who may or may not have commissioned them.

Although many mysteries continue to surround the ancient Egyptian pyramids, we remain marveled by their complexity, size and incredible beauty which has stood the test of time.