Fancy-Pants Tombs: Egypt’s Pyramids

Cemeteries Funeral Industry News November 30, 2022

Fancy-Pants Tombs: Egypt’s Pyramids

Ancient history’s monuments to dead leaders were typically, well, monumental.  Nowhere on earth is that as evident as it is in Egypt.

Great Pyramids of Giza are arguably the world’s most famous tombs.  Built from approximately 2550 to 2490 BC, they house the remains of three Egyptian kings, or “pharaohs”.  Pharaohs were both heads of state and religious leaders, and were believed to be divine intermediaries between the gods and the Egyptian people.  Sounds a bit like “ruling by divine right, doesn’t it?  They also expected to become gods themselves in the next life.  Their burial monuments were built to that end, intended to provide the guidance and supplies for the journey from this world to the next. 

The Great Pyramid, largest of the three, was built for the Pharaoh Khufu.  At 481 feet high, it was the tallest manmade structure for over 3800 years.  Khafre’s pyramid, second largest, was 448 feet high, and Menkaure’s, the last of the three at Giza, a more modest 215.  Even for the times, these structures were remarkable. 

Dramatic Presence

Magisterial, externally, by sheer size alone; each pyramid is also part of an elaborate funerary complex.  Back then, if you were ruling by divine right, you didn’t just get your own pyramid when death promoted you.  You got your own burial estate.  Separate necropoli were built for each ruler and included pyramid and temples, a palace, solar boat pits and boats, and other features. 

The boats are interesting, though the details of their purpose are still (like much else about the pyramids) somewhat of a mystery.  The pits near the pyramids which held the boats were discovered in the 1950’s, and the boats within had fallen apart.  The pit structure had protected them, making reconstruction possible, so while we know what the boats look like, the truth about their purpose has yet to be found.

The ships may have been part of the pharaoh’s fleet in life, or perhaps their purpose was to carry the pharaoh’s soul to the afterworld (characterized as an ocean) after death.

And Inside?

Ranging from 350-700+ feet at the base and towering hundreds of feet high, the pyramids cover some serious ground.  While superficially they do resemble one another, each pyramid and complex is unique in number of chambers, layout, and orientation.  They’re immense.  Do you see any of that space on the inside, though?  Not so much. 

The interiors are nearly solid stone.  Narrow passages lead to a few modest-sized chambers, sometimes bearing inscriptions such as “Queen’s,” “King’s,” but sometimes not; various corridors and shafts run through.  Clear purposes may be absent. 

(You may hear some talk about tomb curses, but there’s little evidence to support any of that. It’s probably nothing.)

Tales From the Crypt

The pyramids were built 4500 years ago.  What might a modern-day equivalent look like?

A solid stone construct the size of multiple city blocks, expired politician/celebrity/magnate inside; surround with vast grounds, with added palace, added outbuildings, connecting underground corridors.  Attach a hangar with a jet – no, a helipad – and drop it all onto its own island.

Oh, wait…