Egyptian Technology Thesis

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Egyptian Technology

Since their creation, the pyramids of Egypt have been a source of awe, wonder, and amazement, from both an artistic viewpoint as well as from a technological and archeological examination of their structure, creation, and form. Created for kings and built not by slaves but by loyal citizens of the pharaoh, these pyramids required a massive undertaking of not only man power, but true architectural genius and a highly skilled technical force that was responsible for their construction. Through an in depth look at the history of Egyptian technology, specifically in terms of the creation of the pyramids, it is easy to see how advanced this civilization was in terms of their architectural prowess as well as their command of quarrying, transportation, and tools necessary to build structures that have lasted several thousand years.

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Ancient Egyptians were, even without including the pyramids, highly successful in terms of technological advancement. In the Early Dynastic period, from 2950-2575 B.C., the Egyptians were creating the capitol city of Memphis, designing underground burial tombs, practicing mummification, and using early forms of hieroglyphs (Baines). Further, these highly intellectual individuals developed, according to author Peter James, antibiotics (9), numerous surgical instruments (14), canals (88), automatically opening doors (122), plank built ships (83), black ink (94), and a host of other inventions. After improving stone working technologies in the Predynastic period (5,500-3,100 B.C.), the Egyptians of the Dynastic period discovered and improved masonry, allowing them to develop multiple artifacts of limestone, sandstone, granite, calcite, basalt, and quartzite. Those artifacts included statues, vessels, beads, sarcophagi, obelisks, and, of course, the pyramids (Stocks, 13).

TOPIC: Thesis on Egyptian Technology Assignment

Pyramid construction began in the Third Dynasty, classified as beginning in 2,650 B.C. (Baines), but it important to examine the reasons for the creation of pyramids and the history of their development prior to examining the pyramids themselves, in order to ensure a thorough understanding of the technological advancements in techniques. The Egyptian population believed firmly in a polytheistic religion that saw death as a transitional stage between this life and a better life. In order for a person to travel to the next life, and therefore achieve his or her true potential, the three portions of the soul, or the "ka," "ba" and "akh" had to remain intact, which required a fully preserved and intact physical body (Brier, 45). During a seventy day process, the body's organs were removed and stored in canopic jars, the body was washed and then packed with a salt, left for forty days, and then filled with linen or sawdust, resin, and natron (Brier, 45-50). It was then wrapped in bandages with jewelry, amulets, and other possessions wrapped between layers (Brier, 54). The idea was that these possessions, and any in the near vicinity of the body, would travel with the person, whose body was intact thanks to mummification, into the afterlife.

Originally, the Egyptians began redesigning basic grave structures due to high levels of looting and destruction of existing graves of kings. Considerable resources were therefore devoted to obtaining a way of preserving the mummified body and securing his or her possessions, and the technological advancements that developed in Egypt during this time were primary done for that purpose alone. It is only over the course of time that such technologies began to benefit general society (David, a.R., 22).

The first of these new burial structures was that of the mastaba, seen in the First Dynasty (2950 B.C.), nearly 300 years before the first modern pyramids (Stocks, 13). Mastabas were made of mud-brick, and consisted of a burial chamber, into which the mummified body was placed. Around this area, within a flat roofed rectangular structure, a kind of house was built, with divided chambers representing various rooms within the dwelling, all of which were connected to the entrance (David, Rosalie, 9).

By the Second and Third Dynasty, the Egyptians noted this method, which somewhat successful, offered little protection for the physical body, since the chambers were often being looted by robbers or ravaged by animals. As a result, the burial chamber began to be dug out underground, with the superstructure for belongings built on top, and the two connected to one another and the entrances through shafts. Additionally, the structure on top of the burial chamber began to be built using stone rubble, faced with brick (David, a.R., 22).

By the Third Dynasty, however, this method also failed, in that as technology for building burial chambers improved, so did technologies used by tomb robbers (David, a.R., 22). The materials used needed to be updated, as did the design of the tomb to help reduce animal destruction and robbery. In the 27th century B.C., it is believed an architect known as Imhotep built what is now thought to be the first of the pyramid forms, the step pyramid, for ruler Djoser, or Zoser. In order to further protect the burial chamber and the possessions within the tomb, Imhotep layered mastabas on top of one another, from largest to smallest, in six layers (David, a.R., 24). The underground chamber was square, and 28 meters underground. The entrance is sealed with a three ton piece of granite. The structure was built in three stages, hence the step form of the architecture. Eventually, this first pyramid stood 60 meters high, contained over 850,000 tons of stone which was excavated and quarried within a lifetime, and was encased in fine Tura limestone (Rice, 103). By far, this was the most impressive architectural burial tomb at the time in ancient Egypt.

It is clear that the development of better architecture and stone usage was highly related to the development of the pyramid, which brings us to the final forms of the pyramid and the primary focus of this paper, those of the bent pyramid of Dahshur, and the red pyramid, both built by pharaoh Snefru in the Fourth Dynasty (2575 B.C.). The bent pyramid is named because of the less steep incline used at the bottom of the pyramid in comparison to the top portion. The angle of the top of the pyramid was used as the base angle for the red pyramids, or those found at Giza for pharaoh Khufu (Woldering, 70). These tombs were elaborate in detail, with hidden chambers, false passageways, false burial chambers, shafts leading to nowhere, vastly complex subdivisions of stories-high layers of rooms, and other ingenious architectural wonders. Many used several hundred thousand tons of stone, rock and limestone, all of which had to be quarried, transported, and then lifts to dizzying heights without modern tools.

To achieve such an awesome display of money, power, and prestige was no simple feat. Even before the physical building could begin, the pyramid had to be carefully planned out by the architect. The plans were designed on papyrus, and revised as building proceeded on flat limestone slabs. In some cases, models were even used, as is shown by the archeological evidence found at the Pyramid of Amenemhet III which consisted of a limestone model of one of the substructures. It is clear from the remains of these plans that the ancient Egyptians had a large knowledge of mathematics that allowed them to develop technologies at a rapid pace. The mathematical equations incorporated decimals, fractions, calculations for the areas of triangles, circles, and the surfaces of shapes, as well as geometrical equations for angles, lengths, width, height, and even Pythagorean's theorem (Verner, 55). They also understood astronomy, in that most archeologists agree they would have used stellar measurements to make buildings conform to primary coordinates (Verner, 57).

Once planned, the site had to be located. The reasons for choices of location differ by author, but several agree that area of royal residences, limitations of areas of previous burial sites, and proximity to limestone quarries all played a part in the decision to locate a pyramid in a specific spot (Verner, 56). On the site, the planners then marked out a reference line along true north, and created a true square from that line using, some believe, a Pythagorean triangle method of measurement. This technique uses three equal units on one side, four on the next, and five on the hypotenuse of the triangle to give a true right angle. This was then repeated to make a four sided square marker for the base of the pyramid (Brunes, 331).

Next, the pyramid architects needed laborers. For many years, historians believed the pyramids were built using slave labor. However, over the last several centuries, new evidence has shown these individuals were not slaves in the purest sense of the word. Now, many believe that most of the workforce was made of recruited peasants, or appointed slaves of the wealthy (David, a.R., 58). Each citizen, it is believed, was required to work for the state for a given number of days each year. Those who could afford to were allowed to send their own workers in their place, but those who could not performed much of the building of the pyramids. These laborers… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Egyptian Technology.  (2008, November 11).  Retrieved December 1, 2021, from

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"Egyptian Technology."  11 November 2008.  Web.  1 December 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Egyptian Technology."  November 11, 2008.  Accessed December 1, 2021.