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Egyptian Pyramid Studies
pyramids egypt studies
The Pyramids of Egypt

pyramids egypt studies


By Nabil Swelim

This page is divided into two sections. The Academic or Subjective Branch of Pyramid Studies (which itself is divided into terms, concepts and properties), and The Field or Objective Branch of Pyramid Studies found at the bottom of the page.

The Academic or Subjective Branch of Pyramid Studies

Pyramid research investigates fields concerning: terms, concepts and properties. These fields are further broken down into subjects within each field.

Click 'Tabs' below for terms, concepts and properties.


In various locations around the world - Central American, Egypt, and China - pyramids acquire the terms of their principal identity. A pioneering step was taken by Maxim Yakovenko, in his linguistic report on the meaning of the term “pyramid” at a few locations.  He shows that there are more meanings for the term 'pyramid' in those languages than we have in the Greek and Latin origin. www.world-pyramids.com

The latter agree however on the geometrical meaning as a structure with a base which is a polygon and triangular sides meeting at the vertex. In ancient Egypt pyramids and obelisks stem from a common root, a mythological hill of the sun cult at Heliopolis named 'bnbn' and the words for these monuments are 'mr' and 'txn'. They appear in the hieroglyphs as 2 dimensional drawings of the monuments.

Thus it is taken for granted that in Ancient Egypt this structure is a square base and 4 equal triangular sides meeting at an apex, this famous shape restrained the Greek and Latin meaning, we call it a true pyramid. But the word pyramid is also used to describe another category of shapes where the sides of the structure are stepped, bent or benben shaped. Other words added will indicate the material used in their construction: stone, brick or natural pyramid hill within and so on, Example1, Example2, Example3 and Example4. With more words added we can also tell what function the pyramid served: funerary, ritual, and religious or for any special purpose.

The Ancient Egyptians gave each pyramid a romantic name, Horizon of Khufu; Khafra is Great, Devine is Menkura, Beautiful are the places of Unas etc. These names refer to the king’s pyramid in the surrounding tombs of his courtiers and in other parts of the country, a subject studied in Ancient Egyptian philology. We have modern names and numbering systems for such monuments, which we prefer in our pyramid studies. 

Globally each pyramid has a superstructure and a substructure. In our modern literature, terms are given to all components of superstructure from foundations to the top and to all components of the substructure from entrance to the innermost. On the local scale pyramid terms suffer from disharmony in this nomenclature, nevertheless these items have constituted long lists of terms which become fields in a data base.


Pyramids are conceived from monumental projects, historical survivals and religious rituals and beliefs.

Concerning the monumental concepts, pyramid construction is dealt with at the end of this note. Yet no ancient records have been found on: the planning, logistics, building techniques and the general administration of the building project of the pyramid.

Concerning historical concepts, quarry marks on building material at the site and at the quarries have helped calculate some questions on the progress of certain parts of building. They tell something about the administration of stone supplies. Contemporary records and buildings close to the pyramid complex have shed some light on this concept. And accounts on the periods of: construction, maintenance of the cult, neglect and discovery of the monument. Pollen caught in the mortar tells us some things about the flora at the time of building.

Concerning religious concepts, much has been learnt on the origins and functions. We have to understand more on this concept from within the religious pyramid texts found in the substructures of the pyramids of the 5th and 6th dynasties.

Moreover every funerary pyramid was expected to fulfill a number of religious demands, namely:

· The cult of the upper world.
· The cult of the netherworld.
· Some astral cults.
· The cult of the dead king.

The demands mentioned were the motives behind building:

· The superstructure.
· The substructure.
· Partly the corridors.
· All the other complex components served the cult of the dead king.

These demands are not rigid and not necessarily found 100% in every pyramid.


Pyramids have common and local properties. In Egypt the local properties are:

· A building with aesthetic geometry.
· A stable height adhering to the angle of repose.
· Maintenance of ancestral traditions.
· A fulfilment of religious concepts.

The Field or Objective Branch of Pyramid Studies



In Egypt the main pyramids are the funerary ones. There are more than 120 royal pyramids and 20 pyramid-like monuments. Each of them was built during one reign, from the third to the 13th dynasty.


Lingering traditions from the royal tomb complexes of the 1st and 2nd dynasties, for example the step pyramid is surrounded by a rectangular enclosing Temenos wall. This in turn is enclosed by a dry moat.

The step pyramid complex of Horus Netjerykhet click here for diagram. The orientation is 4 degrees. The temenos wall, entrance colonnade, step pyramid, southern tomb etc are surrounded by a great 40 m wide trench, which I named the Dry Moat; at some places at the inner south channel the depth reaches 27 m. Within the Dry Moat at the top right is the pyramid of King Userkaf, the first king of the 5th dynasty, and at the lower part is the pyramid of King Unas the last king of the same dynasty, 2500 BC. They are oriented north. There is a Late Period shaft # 21 by Lepsius. Drawn by Nabil Swelim 2005.


A valley temple, causeway, funerary temple, subsidiary pyramid, temenos wall and several boats pits. In the plan we have one of the most complete pyramid complexes.

The pyramid Complex of King Khafra, at Giza, click here for diagram - he is the 4th king of the 4th dynasty, 2600 BC, numbered G2. The base length is 215 m and the height is 144 m. The contour lines of the map show the various heights above sea level. The dark patch around the apex is what remains of the outer facing. The shaded part around the pyramid is an unfinished court delimited by a remarkable temenos wall. Four boat pits surround the funerary temple. The causeway goes in an easterly straight declining direction to the valley temple. This temple is in line with another temple of the Sphinx and immediately south of it. The cultivation lies to the east of the temples where the height is 18 meters above sea level. Drawn by Nabil Swelim 1997.

pyramids egypt studies

egypt pyramids

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