The word "pyramid" comes from the Greek word pyramis which meant "wheat cake." The ancient Egyptian word for them was something like "mr."
Egyptian Pyramids[change | change source]
In Egypt (a country in north Africa), kings and queens called pharaohs were buried in very large square-bottomed pyramids built of stone. They were usually built to be used as tombs for Pharoahs. It is thought that the pyramid builders intended them to last forever.
The oldest man-made pyramid ever found is called the Step Pyramid, located near Cairo, Egypt. It was built for King Djoser thousands of years ago. Later pyramids were built much larger, the largest of which is the Great Pyramid of Giza, also near Cairo. It was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower was built in Paris, in 1889. The Great Pyramid was built by the pharaoh Khufu (= Cheops) from the Ancient Egyptian Old Kingdom and amazingly, it took twenty years to build. It was once thought that the pyramids were built by slaves, but more recent evidence suggests the workers who built the pyramids were paid and well-cared for, and were loyal to the Pharaoh. Inside the Great Pyramid, some of the most famous man-made objects have been found from ancient times. There were once many valuable items buried with the dead Pharoahs, in the hope that they would take them to the afterlife. Pyramids were usually equipped with traps to stop thieves from escaping easily. Tomb thieves were punished by death if they were caught. However, by 1000 BC, many of the pyramids had been robbed of their precious treasures.
A large statue of a Sphinx stands near the pyramids at Giza. It has the body of a Lion and the head of a Pharaoh.
The other pyramids at Giza were built by Menkaura and Khufu (both from the Old Kingdom). The ancient Greeks called it one of the seven wonders of the world. There are over 100 pyramids in Egypt and most of them can be found on the western side of the Nile. Some Egyptologists have different opinions on why the ancient Egyptian Kings built pyramids as their tombs. Pyramids have been excavated for about the last 200 years.
Pyramids in America[change | change source]
The Aztecs and Mayans also built many massive pyramids. Though none are as old or big as the oldest or biggest Egyptian pyramids, some are still thousands of years old. Most of these are step pyramids.
Unlike Egyptian pyramids, which were used as tombs for rulers and wealthy people, Aztec and Mayan pyramids are believed to have been used for public displays of human sacrifice.
Other Pyramids[change | change source]
There are also ancient pyramids in other parts of Africa, Central America, Europe, North America, and Asia. The fabled White Pyramid in China is thought to be larger than the Great Pyramid, though its existence has never been officially confirmed.
See also[change | change source]