Why Did the Egyptians Build Pyramids?

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The Pyramids of Giza, standing proud and tall in Greater Cairo, Egypt, are one of the oldest, most visually stunning architectural wonders of the world. Their structures have stood still and unfazed through time and tide. It makes one wonder- at a time when there were no heavy machinery or complicated tools, how did the workers engineer such a magnificent edifice?

Construction of The Pyramids of Giza

According to Egyptologists, it took nearly ten years of construction with at least a hundred thousand workers. In the 1990s, after thorough excavation was done, it was discovered that the construction workers weren’t foreigner slaves (as supposed before), but Egyptian laborers who came from low-income families.

The three pyramids of Giza are situated on the Giza plateau, around the Nile valley. They are surrounded by smaller pyramids. The largest one, known as the Great Pyramid of Giza, was built by Pharaoh Khufu, the smaller one by his son, Pharaoh Khafre, and the lowest by Pharaoh Menkaure. The Great Sphinx, which stands on the Giza plateau, has the head of a pharaoh and the body of a lion, representing the mythological character Sphinx. This site is visited by many tourists every year, simply because they represent one of the most ancient times of the world, yet also one of the most complex structures.

The Pyramids of Giza
Nadine Doerle

Archaeologists and Egyptologists are still conducting in-depth research to find out why Egyptians built pyramids. There are several theories about the real intent behind them. And while some seem convincing, others seem unlikely. But to know and understand the purpose, you must be educated on what the experts say. These are some of the theories that are widely in circulation:

1. Pyramids Were Meant to Be Tombs

For the most part, it is strongly believed that the purpose of the pyramids in Egypt was to bury the Pharaohs, i.e., the monarch. According to Egyptian mythology, the dead must be buried with respect, so that they lead a good afterlife. For the pharaohs, tombs were built inside pyramids to protect their bodies. They were buried in sarcophagi (stone coffins) so that their bodies don’t decay and remain preserved. They were also buried with gold, jewels, silk, and other valuable items that would be useful to them in their afterlife.

Sarcophagus of Tutenkhamen
Pixabay

But centuries ago, tomb robbers emptied these pyramids after discovering the value of these burials. Though they still stand unscathed on the exterior, the preserved bodies and mummies are no longer there. After that, tombs were created underground, where they were found years later.

This theory is supported by substantial evidence. When all the pyramids were carefully examined, archaeologists found scattered remains of sarcophagi, mummies, and jewels in the depths of a few. There were also inscriptions on the pyramid walls, which depicted the dead and their journey to the afterlife. In fact, in 1934, mummified remains of a foot were found in an Egyptian pyramid. It made sense that the Egyptians, who gave so much power and prestige to their rulers, would build an elaborate structure to pay respect to them even after their death, thus explaining why Egyptians built pyramids.

The shape of the pyramids also gives more weightage to this theory. They have slope-shaped sides with a pointed top. These slanted sides are meant to be rays of the Sun, and they are like that so that the spirits of the dead have ease in traveling to Heaven.

Pyramids in Egypt
Mouad Mabrouk

Still, many set out to disprove this theory. It was questioned why the pharaohs would have created such large structures to bury themselves, especially since sometimes one pharaoh would be responsible for the construction of multiple pyramids. Archaeologists also found that in the pyramids in Giza, which was the pyramid of Khufu, the chamber meant for the king, wasn’t decorated like it. So if you were sure tombs were the reason why Egyptians built pyramids, think again!

2. Pyramids Were Designed as Abode of Gods

Through Egyptian structures, it is evident that they were very religious and devoted to their faith. That leads to the belief that the pyramids must have had something to do with God. Could Godly spirits have anything to do with why Egyptians built pyramids? Many are confident that pyramids were not tombs for the dead, but was a dwelling for Osiris, God of the afterlife. That explains why these pyramids were empty when they were discovered. Pyramids were elaborate and made with so much care and detail because Egyptians wanted to pay respect to their Gods and give them a space to dwell where they can be close to people. In that way, they linked Heaven, the abode of Gods, to Earth, the home of humans.

Pyramid walls
KathleenPirroArts

However, this theory seems far-fetched to many researchers, because building pyramids in those times must have been a challenge, requiring proper planning and engineering. There are Egyptologists who argue that providing a dwelling for God couldn’t have been the reason why Egyptians built pyramids. They believe that better reasoning is that pyramids were meant for housing tombs of pharaohs.

3. A New Revelation- Pyramids Were Meant for Storing Grains

But the explanations don’t end here. In 1998, Ben Carson, a Republican politician in the U.S made a statement saying that the pyramids were built to store grains. This controversial statement was condemned by researchers and scientists. They retaliated by saying that ancient Egyptians would not spend so much energy and resources on building such extravagant structures just for storing grains, especially since other remains of actual storage houses for grain and pulses were found in Egypt.

However, remains of actual grains were indeed found in pyramids, leading to many asking- could storage of grains be why Egyptians built pyramids?. But a reasonable explanation for that would be that they were buried along with pharaohs, to be taken with them to their afterlife.

4. The Alien Theory

Now, the most startling, disputed, and bizarre theory of why Egyptians built pyramids is that they didn’t; aliens built them. Many scholars have found that the pyramids have electromagnetic properties and a strange configuration that is similar to that of Orion’s belt, the group of stars in the constellation Orion. Besides, the pyramids have not seen much damage in centuries, unlike other structures built at the time. But does this mean the involvement of aliens? Most Egyptologists believe that all of this was just a coincidence, and the ancient Egyptians weren’t even aware of such electromagnetic effects when they built the pyramids.

As many alien theories go, this one is also mainly based on assumptions. Many scientists have disregarded this theory, but can we rule it out until we receive a further proof?

Why Egyptians built pyramids
Pexels

There could be many reasons why Egyptians built pyramids. New ones keep coming up, and old ones keep getting debunked. After thorough excavation and archaeology, we have only theories. There is no other way to know for sure unless, of course, we manage to create a time machine someday, and then we could ask them ourselves!

To know more about the pyramids of Giza, click here.

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