Unformatted text preview: the Eloquent Peasant”
at MyHistoryLab.com CRAIMC01_001-039hr.qxp 8/12/10 3:57 PM Page 17 Chapter 1 Nothing better illustrates the nature of Old Kingdom
royal power than the pyramids built as pharaonic tombs. Beginning in the Early Dynastic period, kings constructed increasingly elaborate burial complexes in Upper Egypt.
Djoser, a Third Dynasty king, was the first to erect a monumental six-step pyramid of hard stone. Subsequent pharaohs
built other stepped pyramids until Snefru, the founder of the
Fourth Dynasty, converted a stepped pyramid to a true pyramid over the course of putting up three monuments.
Djoser’s son Khufu (Cheops in the Greek version of his
name) chose the desert plateau of Giza, south of Memphis, as
the site for the largest pyramid ever constructed. Its dimensions are prodigious: 481 feet high, 756 feet long on each side,
with its base covering 13.1 acres. The pyramid is made of 2.3
million stone blocks averaging 2.5 tons each. It is also a geometrical wonder, deviating from absolutely level and square
only by the most minute measurements
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using the latest modern devices. Khufu’s
The Pyramids at Giza
successors, Khafre (Chephren) and
Menkaure (Mycerinus), built equally
perfect pyramids at Giza, and together the three constitute
one of the most extraordinary achievements in human history. Khafre also built the huge composite creature, part lion
and part human, which the Greeks named the Sphinx. Recent research has shown that the Sphinx
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played a crucial role in the solar cult asThe Sphinx
pects of the pyramid complex.
The pyramids are remarkable not only for the great technical skill they demonstrate, but also for the concentration of
resources they represent. They are evidence that the
pharaohs controlled vast wealth and had the power to focus
and organize enormous human effort over the years it took to
build each pyramid. They also provide a visible indication of
the nature of the Egyptian state: The pyramids, like the
pharaohs, tower above the land, while the low tombs at their
base, like the officials buried there, seem to huddle in relative unimportance.
The First Intermediate Period and Middle Kingdom
(2200–1630 B.C.E.) Toward the end of the Old Kingdom
absolute pharaonic power waned as royal officials called nomarchs became more independent and influential. About
2200 B.C.E. the Old Kingdom collapsed and gave way to the
decentralization and disorder of the First Intermediate period, which lasted until about 2025 B.C.E.
Amunemhet I, the founder of Dynasty 12 and the Middle Kingdom, probably began his career as a successful vizier
under an Eleventh Dynasty king. After reuniting Upper and
Lower Egypt, he turned his attention to making three important and long-lasting administrative changes. First, he moved
his royal residence from Thebes to a brand-new town, just
south of the old capital at Memphis, signaling a fresh start
rooted in past glories. Second, he reorganized the nome The Birth of Civ...
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This document was uploaded on 04/03/2014.
- Spring '14