Archive for the ‘Pyramids’ Category
The pyramids of Egypt remain one of the great wonders of the world.
How the Ancient Egyptians managed to cut the huge solid limestone blocks, transport them and lift them into position before the wheel was even invented remains a mystery.
The first pyramid to be built was the Stepped Pyramid of Djoser (Netjerikhet) which is part of a complex in Saqqara Egypt that appears to be a grain storage and distribution center. The Step Pyramid itself was built on top of a shaft that was originally used as a grain silo but then converted into a tomb for the Pharaoh. The Step Pyramid is really a series of Mastabas, made from solid limestone blocks, stacked up on top of one another. The Step Pyramid was used to bury Netjerikhet’s 3 wives and 11 daughters and Netjerikhet’s sarcophagus was placed on a platform in the shaft beneath the Stepped Pyramid.
The Step Pyramid was designed by Imhotep who may well be the Joseph of the Bible. Joseph and Imhotep have many similarities but have not been thought to be one in the same person because of discrepancies between the estimated dates of their existence.
The Step Pyramid became the standard for the burial of pharaohs in subsequent dynasties.
Joseph would have lived well into the fourth dynasty if he was Imhotep of the 3rd dynasty and would no doubt have served more than one pharaoh.
The great pyramids of Giza far surpass the size of the first pyramid at Saqqara and contain enormous blocks that still leave the experts puzzled as to how they could have been lifted into place with the technology of the day.
The 12th dynasty appears to have arisen out of the 11th dynasty based in Thebes which was contemporary with the 6th dynasty based in Memphis. The Middle Kingdom of Egypt, therefore, directly followed the Old Kingdom. There was no First Intermediate Period as such.
The pyramids of the 12th dynasty were made from mudbricks that contained straw as a reinforcement. Each pyramid would have contained millions upon millions of these mudbricks which were about 24 inches by 12 inches by 6 inches in size. The 12th dynasty pyramids thus had a core that was made of mud bricks but the outer veneer was made of limestone which was becoming more difficult to quarry by the 12th dynasty and therefore in short supply. Over the centuries, the outer veneer of limestone has fallen down and been pilfered exposing the inner mudbrick core.
Paradoxically, the first pyramids to have been built, those of the 3rd and 4th dynasty (Old Kingdom Pyramids), have stood the test of time better than those built in the 12th dynasty (Middle Kingdom Pyramids). This is because the Old Kingdom Pyramids were made entirely out of solid limestone blocks while the Middle Kingdom Pyramids were made largely from Mud Bricks (the core) and only had a veneer of limestone.
The pharaohs of the 12th dynasty would have required a large slave labor force to make the mudbricks for the 12th dynasty pyramids.
The Israelites had come to number around 2 million by the time of the Exodus. The seven pyramids of the 12th dynasty were built over a 200 year period. Flinders Petrie found evidence of a sudden massive exodus of slaves from the town of Kahun in the 13th dynasty. The town of Kahun was a semetic workers village where the builders of the 12th dynasty pyramids lived.
If the Israelite exodus took place in the 13th dynasty then it would seem likely that it was the Israelites who were enslaved during the 12th dynasty and given the task of making mudbricks for the pyramids. After the Exodus in the 13th dynasty, no more pyramids were built.
If the first pyramid was designed by an Israelite, Joseph-Imhotep, and the Israelites were slaves in Egypt up until the last pyramid of the 12th dynasty was built, then the Pyramid age would coincide with the Israelite Sojourn in Egypt! It therefore follows that the pyramid age spanned a 400 year period from around 1900BC to 1500BC.
Joseph was a very prominent person in Egyptian History. By the 18th dynasty, Netjerikhet was known after his vizier as Pharaoh Djoser; the Pharaoh of Joseph (or Zozer in Greek).
Joseph saved Egypt from a seven year famine and brought all the land of Egypt for the Pharaoh. He would have been a very prominent person in Egyptian History.
The Bible is silent about what Joseph did in the last 66 years of his life but it does say that when he died at the age of 110 years, he was given a Royal Egyptian burial.
It is quite likely that Joseph was the Imhotep of the third dynasty, the vizier of Pharaoh Netjerikhet and the designer of the Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara (which was really a grain storage and distribution centre).
After saving Egypt from a seven year famine, he continued to serve the Pharaohs of the 3rd and 4th dynasty and was, therefore, in a position to ensure the safety of his family, the Israelites who had settled in the best part of the Land of Ra and were rapidly increasing in number.
Joseph-Imhotep was responsible for burying the pharaoh when Netjerikhet died in the 5th year of the famine. Joseph-Imhotep decided to bury Netjerikhet in the first grain silo that he built (it was fraught with ventilation issues making it difficult to use as a grain silo anyway). The grain silo was to make an excellent tomb in which to place Netjerikhet’s sarcophagus. Joseph-Imhotep just had to make a platform at the bottom of the silo and line the silo with ornate limestone and then lower the Sarcophagus into place. There was already a number of access tunnels which could be extended to become the galleries in which Netjeriket’s funerary vessels and treasures were placed. Joseph-Imhotep sealed the tomb with a granite slab and then built a mastaba out of solid limestone on top. Prior to this, mastabas were much smaller structures and made out of mud bricks with a much smaller shaft in which the pharaoh was buried. As time went by, Joseph added more mastabas, made from solid limestone, to that of Netjerikhet’s, to bury his 3 wives and 11 daughters. The mastabas were added initially on the same level but eventually were stacked on top of one another to give rise to a step pyramid structure that was finally faced with smooth limestone.
As time went by, Netjerikhet eventually became known after his vizier as Pharaoh Djoser (the Pharaoh of Joseph).
The Egyptians and the Greeks tried to deify him (Imhotep). Temples were built in Imhotep’s name and pilgrims in the Ptolemaic period would bring mummified animals to offer to his tomb in the hope of being healed; over a 1000 years after Joseph-Imhotep’s death!
The Israelites numbered about 70 when they first came to live in Egypt at the invitation of the Pharaoh whose vizier was Jacob’s 11th son Jospeh-Imhotep. They were allowed to live in the best part of the land; Goshen. Here they flourished and multiplied under the protection of Joseph who was second in charge of Egypt and had saved the country from a seven year famine by storing up grain to sell before the famine started. Joseph had brought up all the land of Egypt and had made the Pharaoh very rich and powerful. Joseph lived until the age of 110 years and served several pharaohs. When he died, he was embalmed and given a royal Egyptian burial – some 80 yrs after he first entered Egypt.
The Israelites came to Egypt in the 3rd dynasty when Netjerikhet was the Pharaoh. Pharaoh Netjerikhet came to be know as Pharaoh Djoser as time went by (the pharaoh of Joseph). The Israelites flourished and multiplied during the 3rd & 4th dynasties while Joseph was alive and continued to multiply during the 5th & 6th dynasties after his death. The 6th dynasty, which was based in Memphis in Lower Egypt, was contemporary with the 9th and 10th dynasties based in Herakleopolis and the 11th dynasty based in Thebes.
About 100 years after Joseph’s death, a pharaoh who did not know Joseph came to power. Amenemhet I was the vizier of Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty based in Thebes (Upper Egypt). He assassinated Mentuhotep IV of the 11th dynasty and took over both Upper and Lower Egypt to start what is known as the 12th dynasty (or Egypt’s Middle Kingdom). The pharaohs of the middle kingdom did not like the Israelites and felt threatened by them. Fearing that they would join their enemies, they forced the Israelites into slavery.
The 12th dynasty pharaohs constructed their pyramids from mud brick with only a veneer of limestone. The 12th dynasty pharaohs needed a large slave labor force to make the mud bricks required for their pyramids. This became the task of the Israelites who by the time of the Exodus had come to number over two million. The 12th dynasty lasted some 200 years and during this time, 7 pyramids were constructed as well as the Labyrinth. The Labyrinth was considered one of wonders of the ancient world by Heroditis.
Moses was born during the co-reign of Senusret III and Amenemhet III about 4yrs into Amenemhet III’s reign. Amenemhet III built two pyramids and the Labyrinth. He was very cruel to the Israelites and it was probably he who ordered the midwives to kill the Hebrew baby boys. His daughter Sobeknefru was childless and there was no male heir to the throne. Sobeknefru adopted a Hebrew baby Moses that she found in a basket amongst the reeds of the Nile and she brought him up as her own in her household. He was known as Amenemhet IV.
When Amenemhet IV was old enough, 30yrs, he began a co-regency with Amenemhet III. This lasted 9 yrs and then Amenemhet IV suddenly disappeared. This left no male heir to the throne. Consequently, Sobeknefru had to assume the throne but she only lived for 8yrs and then she died. When she died, the 12th dynasty ended and Egypt became unstable. There was a rapid succession of pharaohs in the 13th dynasty. The longest ruling was Neferhotep I who reigned for 11 years. It was Neferhotep I who was the pharaoh when Moses-Amenemhet IV returned from exile. Neferhotep I was the Exodus Pharaoh who chased the Israelites and whose army and chariots were drowned in the Red Sea.
Egypt was crippled by the Exodus of the Israelites and became vulnerable to invasion. Not long after the Exodus, the Hyksos, shepherd kings from Arabia, invaded Egypt and built a fort at Avaris. From there, they occupied and controlled Lower Egypt for the next 400years.
The Left entrance would have required a ladder or a rope to get in and out while the Right entrance had stairs.
The main entrance leads straight to the Central Shaft in which Djoser’s Sarcophagus was placed. The Right tunnel leads to another tunnel that gradually descends and connects to the galleries connecting to the bottom of the shaft. The Left entrance tunnel leads to a vertical shaft that connects to the another set of galleries that are a bit like a maze. The only way out would be through the central shaft to the galleries on the Right that connect to the stairs or to climb back up the vertical shaft in the Left entrance. If the central shaft was full of grain it would not be possible to cross through to the Right side from the Left. People who fell down the vertical shaft in the Left entrance tunnel would, therefore, be trapped if they survived the fall (unless they had a ladder or a rope to climb back up). This is a scary thought!
Djoser’s sarcophagus was placed on a platform which was above the level of the galleries and tunnels that connected to the bottom of the shaft. It was therefore possible to cross from L to R through the central shaft underneath Djoser’s sarcophagus when the shaft was being used as a tomb.