Blog Post 1: It’s just a burial site.

Many view the pyramids as mysterious mega-structures built to display the power of a civilization. However, I believe they are simply apart of a glorified cemetery whose owners were hell-bent to build the largest representation of them. I am not attacking the purpose or engineering feat of the pyramids, they are incredible, but only pointing out their relative service.  For example, extraordinarily large structures are built today to honor the dead in the form of monuments, head stones, or buildings. In modern commentaries you commonly find an assortment of head stones and monuments all varying in size and extravagance relative to the importance, riches, or ego of the individual who lies beneath.

The Giza Plato is essentially a giant cemetery. On nearly every side of the three larger pyramids exits common graveyards and burial temples, complete with enclosures, and were viewed as a sacred place, not so different from today. The Egyptians even buried with them important items, commonly boats, a common practice in cultures all over the world.

The great pyramids of Giza sit on a granite plateau above the surrounding landscape. There are three extremely large pyramids; they are called Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Khufu was built around 2560-2540 BC and Khafre was finished between 2558 and 2532 BC. However, Menkaure’s date is unknown. Menkaure was a monarch and was not exactly known when he died. Khufu was the tallest man made structure in the word until the 14th century AD. Although the pyramids look like a giant rock piles today, they were once covered with smooth stones. Many used limestone and granite and gave off a bright white color in the sunlight. Menkaure’s pyramid still has a lot of the casing stone in tact of the pyramid on the bottom. This is because Menkaure died before the pyramid was finished. Due to this incomplete nature, it provides archaeologies an idea of the process that was used to build the pyramids. Much like the memorials today, they were seen as a display of pristine stone work.

Although these pyramids were designed as a sacred resting place of Pharaohs, as a medium into their next life, they are essentially enormous monuments representative of an individual’s wealth, power, ego, or importance surrounded by other burial and sacred areas. Essentially the same as today, but on a much more dramatic scale, which may be proportional to the level of said qualities associated with the Pharaoh.

It begs the question- in thousands of years will people look back on our civilization’s monuments of individuals and associate our viewpoints of them like the Egyptians of the Pharaohs? Will the future civilizations see Mount Rushmore as the ‘Gods’ of America? Do our monuments have secret meanings? A historical example of similar occurrence can shed light on theses questions.

In 1799 Napoleon invaded Egypt to build a passage from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. His primary motivation was conquest. On July 21, 1799, at the Battle of Pyramids, Napoleon attacked the forces of the local rulers to control the Nile Valley. After Napoleon took control, his hundreds of scientists went all over Egypt to document and record the findings. They were responsible for finding things like the Rosetta Stone, which allowed the translation of the hieroglyphics.  Many artistic drawings were made of the exterior and interior of the pyramids.  This work was extremely important because it was widely distrusted throughout Europe to people who never had a chance to see Egypt.

This created a strong obsession with all things ancient Egyptian. As an effect, many Egyptian architectural features began appearing throughout Europe. The most obvious are the obelisk that appeared in nearly every major capital. The ancient Egyptian conspiracy of secret meaning of their monuments other than for burial purposes is still with us today. I can only wonder what future civilizations will think about our monuments and burial sites.

4 thoughts on “Blog Post 1: It’s just a burial site.

  1. I think you have a really good point here. It’s interesting that people are so intrigued and somewhat obsessed with the pyramids. They are essentially structures whose main purpose is to be a burial ground. When it really comes down to it, they are extravagant gravestones. Not to be crass, but in essence that is what they are.

    I like how you brought up Mount Rushmore. My sister actually visited Mount Rushmore and found it to be kind of disturbing. She expressed that she was uncomfortable with how it seems as though we are worshiping these men (or at least putting them on a pedestal higher than other presidents and rulers.) I mean we took all the time to carve out their faces didn’t we? But how many people actually feel that that was necessary? Certainly they’re respected figures, but carving their faces in nature seems a little extreme. I suppose that’s just my opinion. Along the same lines as you though I wonder what that will cause future civilizations to assume about us. What will they assume about the way that we felt towards leaders such as those carved in Mount Rushmore?

    I think it’s the extravagance of these two structures (the pyramids and Mount Rushmore) that draws people in. It makes people think, “Why did they spend so much time on this? It must have been pretty important. Or rather, these people must have been very important.” But I think it’s harder to say what that civilization thought as a whole about the structures. It makes me wonder what the people of ancient Egypt thought about the pyramids.

    Overall, I think that it’s easy for us to look into these past monuments and create mystery out of nothing. Maybe they’re just monuments.

  2. I just want to say that this is an excellent post! The pyramids were probably the first things that piqued my interest in Egypt when I was younger, and I didn’t even know what they were! I just thought they were pretty. As I got older, of course, I learned what they were constructed for and it all made sense. I love how you bring up that people of the future might see Mount Rushmore as a monument to “American Gods” of sorts. It makes sense based on what we are learning about other cultures’ attempts to immortalize their leaders, but I think that the Egyptian rulers are seen as Gods because there isn’t a whole lot of writing about them saying differently, so when someone discovers a statue of an unknown person, they would automatically assume it to be a deity of sorts. The obsession with Egyptian culture is also fascinating to me. I love how other cultures have taken Egyptian concepts and twisted them around to make them their own. The obelisk in Vatican City is definitely my favorite example of this. This post makes me ask myself a question; if Ancient Egyptians could see what burials were like nowadays, what would they think of our society? Would they think that we are dishonoring the deceased by not building them a pyramid to use to cross over to the afterlife? And what would they have to say about burying men and women in the same types of graves, when they themselves reserved the grandest type of burial places for their kings, while the queens got significantly smaller Mastabas? As I said before, this is an excellent, question evoking blog post that I thoroughly enjoyed.

  3. I agree with you; I think the pyramids were, first and foremost, a glorified cemetery. The pride of the civilization itself does come into account to some extent, but if it weren’t for the pride of the Pharaohs, I don’t believe they would have spent the time and resources building them simply to show off. The pyramids were created by a nation devoted to their Pharaohs to the point where they believed them to be virtually divine, and thus deserving of extravagance beyond the ordinary.

    The attachment of hidden or abstract meaning to odd objects goes back to the dawn of the study of archaeology. A classic example is Stonehenge. The meaning of the strange ring of stone slabs has been debated, mulled over, discussed, and debated again. Our best efforts have thus far been in vain; we still can’t say for absolute certain what it was, and likely we never will. It may be a simple monument, or it might be some sort of calendar. It may be a public meeting place. It may be the location of the Pandorica. It may be an arcane weapon ready to destroy Iceland. Or it may have simply been an ancient pizza shop. (Bonus points if you can spot both of the references.)

    The fact is, meanings may or may not be quite as abstract as we expect. Perhaps the Pentagon in the distant future may be regarded as some sort of shrine to the mysterious gods of filing cabinets.

    In short? Trolling future civilizations sure is easy!

  4. The human obsession with the pyramids can be easily explained by the human obsession with death. Part of humanity is the strive to fight, the craving for immortality, and the fascination of what happens after this body dies. The Egyptians were an extreme circumstance of this aspect of humanity. The pyramids are “glorified cemeteries”. Yet, they’re purpose for the Pharaohs were a bit more hopeful. Once the pharaohs died they’re spirits would be sent with the Gods through the use of the mummification and pyramids. The entire civilization thrived upon its death ceremonies and construction for the cemeteries.

    Countless other civilizations have built monuments with similar purposes, none quite as staggering. Throughout history people constantly find ways to ease the imminent news of death. Other structures such as Mount Rushmore and Stonehenge provide fascinating context but don’t evoke our continuous human thoughts that last thousands of years.

    It’s no wonder then, why humans have been watching these structures ever since. Although other cultures have glorified death and made assumptions for the after life, none has gone so far as the Egyptians. They’re Kings, Gods, and culture revolved around the reincarnation and death of its people. Although there is plenty else to discover about the culture, I find myself fixated on this particular fact. The concept that civilizations worked together to build such astounding monuments for their dead is mind boggling. The amount of man power and resources required is shocking, and yet this ancient civilization pulled it off.

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