The Egyptian pyramids are ancient pyramid-shaped masonry structures located in Egypt. As of November 2008, sources cite either 118 or 138 as the number of identified Egyptian pyramids. Most were built as tombs for the country's pharaohs and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods.
The earliest known Egyptian pyramids are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis. The earliest among these is the Pyramid of Djoser, which was built 2630–2610 BC during the Third Dynasty. This pyramid and its surrounding complex were designed by the architect Imhotep, and are generally considered to be the world's oldest monumental structures constructed of dressed masonry.
The most famous Egyptian pyramids are those found at Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo. Several of the Giza pyramids are counted among the largest structures ever built. The Pyramid of Khufu at Giza is the largest Egyptian pyramid. It is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still in existence.
The second historically-documented Egyptian pyramid is attributed to the architect Imhotep, who planned what Egyptologists believe to be a tomb for the pharaoh Djoser. Imhotep is credited with being the first to conceive the notion of stacking mastabas on top of each other, creating an edifice composed of a number of "steps" that decreased in size towards its apex.
The result was the Pyramid of Djoser, which was designed to serve as a gigantic stairway by which the soul of the deceased pharaoh could ascend to the heavens. Such was the importance of Imhotep's achievement that he was deified by later Egyptians.
Long after the end of Egypt's own pyramid-building period, a burst of pyramid-building occurred in what is present-day Sudan, after much of Egypt came under the rule of the Kingdom of Kush, which was then based at Napata.
While Napatan rule was brief, ending in 661 BC, Egyptian culture made an indelible impression. The Meroitic period of Kushite history, when the kingdom was centered on Meroë, (approximately in the period between 300 BCE and 300 CE), saw a full-blown pyramid-building revival, which saw more than two hundred Egyptian-inspired indigenous royal pyramid-tombs constructed in the vicinity of the kingdom's capital cities.
The shape of Egyptian pyramids is thought to represent the primordial mound from which the Egyptians believed the earth was created. The shape of a pyramid is thought to be representative of the descending rays of the sun, and most pyramids were faced with polished, highly reflective white limestone, in order to give them a brilliant appearance when viewed from a distance.
Pyramids were often also named in ways that referred to solar luminescence. For example, the formal name of the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur was The Southern Shining Pyramid, and that of Senwosret at el-Lahun was Senwosret is Shining.
In 1842, Karl Richard Lepsius produced the first modern list of pyramids – now known as the Lepsius list of pyramids – in which he counted 67. A great many more have since been discovered. As of November 2008, 118 Egyptian pyramids have been identified.
The most recent pyramid to be discovered was that of Sesheshet at Saqqara, mother of the Sixth Dynasty pharaoh Teti, announced on 11 November 2008.
All of Egypt's pyramids, except the small Third Dynasty pyramid of Zawyet el-Amwat (or Zawyet el-Mayitin), are sited on the west bank of the Nile, and most are grouped together in a number of pyramid fields. The most important of these are listed geographically, from north to south, below.
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