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Ancient Egypt

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When most people mention Ancient Egypt the first thing that

comes to mind is the Pyramids. To construct such monuments required a

mastery of art, architecture and social organization that few cultures

would ever rival. The pyramids are said to have built Egypt by being

the force that knit together the kingdom's economy. Their creations

were so subeztial, that the sight of these vast pyramids would take

your breath away. Today, the valley of the Nile has an open air

museum so people can witness these grand monuments.

Obsessed with the afterlife, Egypt's rulers of 4,500 years ago

glorified themselves in stone, thereby laying the foundation of the

first great nation-state. A Pyramid is an enormous machine that helps

the king go through the wall of the dead, achieve resurrection and

live forever in the happiness of the gods. The start of the Old

Kingdom is said to be the building of the Djoser's monument. The

construction of Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser began around 2630 B.C.

and was designed to awe the ancient Egyptians, to impress them with

their rule's godlike strength. It was the world's first great

construction project; indeed, it was the world's largest building.

Djoser, the second king of the 3rd dynasty, hired an architect

called Imhoptep who for the first time constructed a tomb completely

of stone. Imhoptep is considered the preeminent genius of the Old

Kingdom. He assembled one workforce to quarry limestone at the cliff

of Tura, across the Nile, another to haul the stone to the site where

master carvers shaped each block and put it in place.

The Step Pyramid is a terraced structure rising in six unequal

stages to a height of 60 meters, its base measuring 120 meters by 108

meters. The substructure has a system of underground corridors and

rooms. Its main feature being a central shaft 25 meters deep and 8

meters wide. The step pyramid rises within a vast walled court 544

meters long and 277 meters wide, in which are the remnants of several

stone edifices built to supply the wants of the king in the here

after. Towering limestone columns were shaped to mimic the sway and

droop of leafy plants. Immovable doors hung on great carved hinges.

Facades called false doors through which the pharaoh's ka, or vital

force, was presumed to pass, lay recessed within walls. The interiors

of dummy temples were packed with rubble. Everything about the place

bespoke illusion. The Step Pyramid was a ladder. Not a symbol of a

ladder but an actual one, by which the soul of a dead ruler might

climb to the sky, joining the gods in immortality.

No one knows why the Egyptians created this fantastic scene,

but some archaeologists speculate that there was an Old Kingdom belief

that a work of art, a building, had power and utility in the afterlife

in direct proportion to its uselessness in the real world. In this

view, each false door, each dummy temple worked in the afterlife

precisely because it could not function in this one.

On the north side of the pyramid is a small stone cubicle,

with a pair of tiny holes in its facade. When you look through these

holes, you see two eyes retuning your stare, the blank gaze of a life

size statue of Djoser sitting on the throne. The holes are there for

the pharaoh to look out perhaps at the stars in the northern sky

called the Imperishables because they never set.

Many believe that the building of Djoser's pyramid complex,

which was accomplished by hundreds of workers from across the land,

served to join those provinces into the world's first nation-state.

During the Old Kingdom, which began around 2700 B.C. and lasted some

550 years, each pharaoh after Djoser marshaled a vast portion of his

country's manpower and wealth to build his own tomb and ensure his


To build such outezding monuments required a preciseness of

architecture, and years of endless labor from so many Egyptians. The

kingdom developed a funerary tradition around the worship of their

divine pharaohs, both living and dead. Every aspect of life was

affected. The Egyptians dug a network of canals off the Nile to

transport stone for the pyramids and food for the workers, and a

simple, local agriculture became the force that knit together the

kingdom's economy. The need to keep records of the harvest may have

led to the invention of a written language.



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