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Last Part - Part 6 of 6 -
After Giza -
After Giza : The later Old Kingdom pyramids
The first pyramid texts adorn the burial chamber of King Unas
Pyramid Texts in the Pyramid of Unas, Saqqara, from Old Kingdom
Menkaure died c. 2472 BC. But pyramids continued to be built. The Giza
pyramids had set a standard for future construction. Within these standards,
the later Pharaohs continued to add their own innovations. But Giza was
certainly at the peak of the Pyramid age. After the Fourth Dynasty, the
Fifth Dynasty kings decided to change their cemetery to Saqqara, then to Abu
Sir, then again to Saqqara. These pyramids can still be seen there, but they
are badly damaged. These were mostly built of small limestone pieces --
which are easy to carry. The Fifth Dynasty King Unas' (ruled c. 2375-2345
BC) comparatively small pyramid at Saqqara
boasts the first 'pyramid texts' -- these spells for afterlife are still seen
today with their blue pigments of color. Among the other famous pyramids from late Old
Kingdom are those of Sahure, Neferirkare, Niuserre, etc. -- all these
are located at Abu Sir. Most of the pyramids of Fifth and Sixth
Dynasty have a height of around 53 meter (the highest of them 72m) --
compared to Khufu's 146.59 meters. Pharaoh Pepi II's (ruled c. 2278-2184 BC) is the last
most notable pyramid before the First Intermediate Period with a base length
The pyramid of Neferirkare Kakai (ruled c. 2477-2467 BC) at Abu
Sir. This is the tallest of the series (105m base length, 70m
height). Although it looks like to have degraded to a hill, it is the
Middle Kingdom Pyramids
During the decentralized feudal state of Egypt of the First Intermediate
Period, pyramids were built by the chiefs and rulers of different regions.
They claimed for themselves the Peaceful Afterlife in pyramids like the
Pharaohs themselves. After this state of confusion was over with the emergence
of the Middle Kingdom (dynasties 12, 13 and 14) around c. 2055 BC, the new
rulers were quite the more enthusiastic about continuing pyramid building.
But they figured out more economic ways of building their tombs. Most of the
pyramids of the Middle Kingdom Pharaohs have stone framework and mud-brick
core -- a more economical and easy way to build tombs, because mud-bricks
could be made on the construction site and were easier to work on. These
pyramids, however, had beautiful limestone casing on the outer faces like
their predecessors, so they probably looked very beautiful. A Pharaoh from the 11th dynasty,
just before Middle Kingdom, Mentuhotep I (ruled c. 2055-2004 BC), went a step farther
and gave Egypt its first terraced tomb. This is located at Deir-el-Bahri.
The entire tomb was a mortuary temple topped by a pyramidal structure. Pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom era preferred the site of El-Lisht, halfway
between Meydum and Saqqara, for their
tombs. The biggest of the pyramids from this age is that of Senusret I, with
a base of 107m. The other big pyramids have bases around 105m.
Reconstruction of the Mortuary Temple of Mentuhotep I (or II,
ruled 2055-2004 BC) from 11th Dynasty at Deir-el-Bahri in West Thebes.
Before the Middle Kingdom, he conquered both Upper and Lower Egypt, and
proclaimed himself the Protector of the Two Lands. His tomb was cut deep
into the bedrock behind and underneath the building.
Collected from The Absolute Egyptology site
After the dismantling of the fine white casing stones, the whole
Hawara pyramid belonging to Amenemhet III (ruled c. 1817-1772 BC) has
decayed to a pile of mud-brick rubble. Under the sand are the scanty
remains of the attraction that brought tourists here already in Roman
times - 'The Labyrinth'. This was a Mortuary Temple. The Greeks used to
say that this was the prototype of the Labyrinth of King Minos of Crete.
Collected from The Absolute Egyptology site
huge mountain of earth can be seen at Hawara, this was the pyramid of
Amenemhet III, all the outer casing stones have been quarried away long ago.
The mud-brick core has degraded into a huge pile of earth. The last notable
pyramid from the Middle Kingdom is that of Khendjer at South Saqqara
with a 52.5m base which was built around 1750-60 BC, some 700 years after Menkaure's death. Another
unidentified pyramid (thought to have belonged to Ai I) from the same time at South Saqqara has a base of 78.75m. The pyramid culture
survived until the end of Middle Kingdom -- when the Asiatic Hyksos invaded
and conquered Egypt. After they were rooted out around 1539 BC by
the New Kingdom or Empire age of Egypt was established. Now, the pyramids
gave way to rock tombs hidden in remote places, to keep the pharaohs'
eternal sleep undisturbed. The underground tombs were a less obvious and
more secret means to protect the Pharaoh and his treasures from robbers. The total number of pyramids in Egypt today, of
all sizes, small or large, intact or destroyed, is 117, excluding the much
later Nubian pyramids of 25th dynasty (c. 747-716 BC) of Late Kingdom Period.
Kushite Pyramids of Nubia
The Nubians south of Egypt proper were for centuries under Egyptian rule.
They adopted many Egyptian customs, like their writing system of
hieroglyphics, many of their gods and goddesses -- although in some cases,
we find their resistance to some gods imposed on them by the Egyptians.
During the late period around 8th century BC, Lower Egypt was overrun by the
mighty Assyrian Army. The Egyptian rule was weakened. During this time, the
Nubians claimed the supreme throne of the 'Two Lands' and declared their
king the Pharaoh. Their army swept into Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt,
and subdued the Feudal lords. Although they were under constant pressure from the
Assyrians, they managed to keep their power uncurbed mainly in Upper Egypt
and Nubia. The kingdom they established is called the Kushite Kingdom, after
'Kush' -- the name Egyptians gave Nubia. The Nubian Pharaohs formed the 25th
Dynasty, until they were ousted from Egypt by the Egyptian Pharaoh Psammetik
in 664 BC. But they continued to rule in Nubia until much later. The
Nubians were also the founders of Ethiopian kingdoms in a later era. The
Kushite kings revived the tradition of pyramid building and chose several
sites around modern Egypt and Sudan for their cemeteries. Their pyramids can
now be seen at the ancient capital of Meroë, al-Kurru
and Nuri, in Sudan. These pyramids are no match for the Egyptian giants, but
they are far more numerous, around 180 in total -- if counted beyond the 3rd
cataract on the Nile. The angle of inclination of Nubian pyramids are
steeper than their Egyptian counterparts.
El-Kurru lies on the right bank of the Nile and contains pyramids from
Egypt's 25th Dynasty kings. The pyramid of Piankhi, founder of the dynasty,
had a base of 8m and angle of 68°. Total of 4 Pharaohs and 14 Queens were
buried here. The Kings' pyramids had 8 to 11m bases, while the queens' had
bases of 6 to 7m square.
The Kushite pyramids at Nuri. Notice the steeper angles.
Collected from Ancient Egypt -
History & Chronology
Later kings from the 25th dynasty had their cemetery at Nuri, containing
the burials of 21 kings and 52 queens and princesses. The first to build a
pyramid here was the second last Pharaoh of 25th dynasty, Taharqa. His
pyramid had 51.75m square base and was 40-50m high. Taharqa's subterranean
chambers are the most elaborate of any Kushite tomb. The Nuri pyramids were
generally much larger than those at el-Kurru, reaching heights of 20 to 30m. The last king to be buried at Nuri died in about 308 BC.
After 308 BC, the Meroitic Kingdom rose to prominence, and kings began build pyramids at the
cemetery of Meroë (modern al-Marawwi in Sudan, 120 miles north of Khartoum), between the 5th and 6th cataracts. Meroë
royal cemetery for 600 years, until 350 AD, when the Khushites' successors
of Axum converted to Christianity. The step-sided pyramids of Meroë were
built of sandstone, 10 to 30m high.
Although it is commonly assumed that the Nubian pyramids were inspired by
the great pyramids in Egypt, but in fact these smaller steeper pyramids bear
a closer resemblance to the non-royal 'private' tombs of the New Kingdom.
These private tombs became popular towards the end of the 18th dynasty (c.
1550 - 1292 BC),
when the pyramid was no longer the exclusive prerogative of the king.
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