The purpose of the Egyptian pyramids was to protect the pharaohs in their afterlife. The Egyptians were deeply religious and believed in over 2000 gods and goddesses. They believed death as a transition into another world. Pharaohs were believed to become gods in the next world. Individuals had three souls: “ka”, “ba”, and “akh”. Care of the mortal remains after a person’s death was very important to help these souls travel easily to afterlife. It’s this belief that inspired Egyptians to construct such magnificent tombs for the high and mighty.
Most ancient Egypt pyramids are located at Giza, just outside Cairo. The earliest structures, however, were found 12 miles away from Cairo at Saqqara. Giza was chosen for many practical reasons. For one, it was close to the Nile and the limestone could be carried easily to the site on boats. Also, Giza was (and still is) situated on the west of the river. According to Egyptian mythology, west was the land of the setting sun, and hence the land of the dead. The pyramids were erected on the edge of a desert because dry conditions helped withstand the vagaries of nature.
Archaeologists are almost united in opinion that the Great Sphinx was constructed to guard the other pyramids. It’s the world’s oldest and biggest statue, believed to have been constructed around 2500BC, and has the body of a lion and head of a human. Arguably modeled on pharaoh Khafra, the Sphinx is 241 feet long, 66 feet high, and 20 feet wide. It was once painted in bright colors but nature has taken its toll and it now looks different than when it was first built.
The missing nose of the Great Sphinx has been subject to much speculation and conspiracy theories. You may think that the nose was vandalized when Napoleon arrived at Egypt or during one of the World Wars. But all these events took place many years after the first known sketches of the Great Sphinx without a nose appeared around in the 1730s. There’s no documentation lead regarding the missing nose, though Sa’im al-dahr, an Islamic cleric vandalized the statue in the 1370s and was punished in this regard. The broken nose is still a mystery.
The child pharaoh Tutankhamun, popularly known as King Tut, ruled Egypt from 1332 to 1323BC. His tomb was discovered almost in perfect condition by George Herbert and Howard Carter in 1922. Unlike other tombs that were raided by robbers, King Tut’s tomb escaped their eyes. Artifacts inside the tomb were exactly as they were left by the Egyptians when the pharaoh was buried. Tutankhamun’s burial mask was one of the most iconic discoveries and is now housed at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Cairo.
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