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Egyptian Pyramid Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Sarah Caughron

Sarah has a master's degree in Applied Anthropology/Archaeology and has worked in formal and informal education since 2006.

Imagine cutting and moving a 5,000-pound brick into place on a pyramid using only simple machines, like pulleys and levers, with nothing but your own muscles. It's hard to imagine, but it's how the Egyptians created the pyramids. Read on to learn more about how and why the Egyptians made pyramids.

What is an Egyptian Pyramid?

A pyramid is a stone or brick structure that is square at the base and has four walls that slope to form a triangle at the top. Pyramids have been built throughout history by various groups of people, but the ones that come to mind most commonly were those built by the Egyptians starting around 5,000 years ago.

Egyptian pyramids were once covered in white limestone and capped in gold to reflect the sun.
Egyptian pyramids

Why Were the Pyramids Built?

Egyptian's built pyramids as a temple or tomb for their leaders called pharaohs. There have been 130 pyramids discovered in Egypt. In addition to the famous ones in Giza, pyramids are found in the cities of Abu Rawash, Saqqara, Dahshur, Meidum and Nuri, to name a few.

In Egyptian's belief system, the afterlife was very important, and they believed that the dead person would live on after death. The pyramid was a vessel for the dead person to reside. Material offerings were placed in the pyramid with the pharaoh.

Because the items left for the dead pharaoh were valuable like gold, food, and jewels, tomb raiders would frequently raid the tomb. Once the pharaoh's body and funerary objects were placed in the tomb, guards were positioned to protect the pyramid.

Probably the most famous pyramid discovery is that of the tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings. You probably know him as King Tut, and he was a pharaoh more than 3,000 years ago. This tomb was left mostly intact, and the most notable artifact from this expedition was the golden funerary mask of Tutankhamen.

How Big Are the Pyramids?

If you're lucky enough to visit the pyramids in Egypt, you'll notice they are very large! In the Giza pyramid plaza, the smallest pyramid is 200 feet high and the largest Pyramid of Khufu was once 480 feet high. Khufu's pyramid was made using more than two million stone blocks that weigh about 5,000 pounds each! The whole pyramid of Khufu weighs more than 16 Empire State buildings, or over 5.5 million tons!! Each of the millions of blocks used to make the pyramids had to be cut by hand to the exact size needed and brought to the pyramid and placed by skilled laborers living in the area.

The pyramids were built to protect the body and belongings of Egyptian pharaohs.
Giza pyramids

How Were the Pyramids Made?

The most fascinating aspect about the ancient Egyptian pyramids is in their construction. Engineers building the pyramids had to be skilled in mathematics to plan and create a structure of this size and weight. Careful measurements had to be taken before any stones were placed. Doing this without the aid of computers or modern tools would be quite a challenge.

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