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When most people think of Ancient Egypt they think of Pyramids. To construct such great monuments required a mastery of architecture, social organization, and art that few cultures of that period could achieve.
The oldest pyramid, the Step-Pyramids, grow out of the abilities of two men, King Djoser and Imhotep. Djoser, the second king of 3rd dynasty, was the first king to have hired an architect, Imhotep, to design a tomb (Time-Life Books, 74). Imhotep was known as the father of mathematics, medicine, architecture, and as the inventor of the calendar (White, 40). He had a great idea of stacking mastabas until they reached six tiers, a total of 60 meters high and its base 180 meters by 108 meters (Casson, 118). A glistening costing of limestone was added to the mastabas that made them shimmer in the sun. The main feature of the pyramid was its 92-foot underground shafts and burial room lined with pink granite. It was the first time that this feature appeared (White, 41). Imhotep surrounded Djoser?s pyramid with a number of funerary courtyards and temples. He then, surrounded these complexes with a mile long protective wall (Time-Life Books, 74). Another pyramid was Khufu?s Great Pyramid. It is the largest tomb every built. It was the height of a forty-story building, and its base was the average size of eight football fields. The pyramid contains about 2,300,000 stone blocks. The limestone was covered with a layer of polished stone to add a shine. Deep inside the pyramid are the tomb chambers, one for the king and another for the queen. Narrow shafts lined with granite lead the way to the tomb chambers (Time-Life Books, 75).Social organization was another key factor in creating such a grand monument. Imhotep was the man that brought forth this sense of organization. He assembled one workforce to quarry the limestone, another to haul the two and half ton stones to the site, and one more to carve the blocks and put them in place (Casson, 129). Just to move one block took the work of forty men. The daily life of the workers constructing the pyramids was one of immense toil spanning over a long period of time. The quarrymen toiled away with soft copper chisels that hardly made a dent in the limestone. Another team dug a network of canals to transport the stones and food for the workers. Finally, another team of workers would haul the massive blocks on wooden sleds and put them into position (Casson, 130-137). This great social organization became the force that knit the country together. Another important group was the artisans. They were the people who decorated the inside of the pyramids. The artisans, also, brought a sense of social organization by the many processes it took to produce a work of art. For instance, the actual sculpting of a statue was not considered a single process, but as on process among many. The quarrymen had to quarry the stone with soft copper chisels, and it was transported to a sculptor. After the sculptor was finished with it, the sculpture was sent to another artisan. This artist would cut hieroglyphs in the statue. The hieroglyphs were about the life of the person that the statue represented. Then, they would send it to a metal worker who inserted the eyes and other details. Finally, the statue was sent to a painter to be painted (White, 153-154). These sculptures were placed in the tomb of a deceased king, as a ka piece. A ka is considered the life force of the deceased king. One can see how exhausting it would be to have a sculpture made, and how much organization was required to produce it.
The life of Ancient Egyptian painter was somewhat similar to the life of a sculptor. They both had their share of work. A painter had to learn the important skill of making brushes out of reeds and mixing paint (White, 156). The paint that they used was like tempera paints that we use today. It was a mixture of pigment and water with wax or a kind of glue as a binder (Casson, 125). The painter went through the exhaustive course of draftsmanship lasting many years. They were taught to paint figures the scale (White, 160). The Ancient Egyptians were one of the first people to develop such well-proportioned figure. The Egyptian painter painted murals inside of the pyramids depicting the things that the pharaoh accomplished in his life (Cannon, 50).
In conclusion, to create such a great monument, like the Step-Pyramid, took the mastery of architecture, social organization, and art that was amazing for that period. Today, we still do not know how the Ancient Egyptians created such grand monuments. Also, we are still fascinated about all the artifacts inside the tomb, and the possible uses for them. It will forever be a mystery.
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