Egypt: Secrets of an Ancient WorldGive a year of history
   
FIRST PYRAMID OF A PROLIFIC BUILDER

Builder of several pyramids, Pharaoh Snefru, secured access to monument-building stone via military victories outside Egypt.

Likely influenced by the Step Pyramid of Djoser, Snefru, the first king of the 4th dynasty (time line), began a seven-level stepped pyramid some 35 miles (56 kilometers) south of Saqqara. By the time his workers had reached the fourth or fifth level, Snefru upped the ante to eight steps.

The first Egyptian pyramid with an aboveground burial chamber (just above the first step level), the Maidum tomb may represent an effort to raise the chamber closer to the sun god. Another innovation is the archlike design of the burial chamber's walls.

The pyramid was temporarily abandoned 15 years into Snefru's reign—probably when he moved his court north from Memphis to Dahshur. Before Snefru's death the three lowest steps were filled in to form the smooth edges of a classic pyramid.

Today only the three highest steps are visible above the shifting sands, fallen debris, and sloping base.

NEXT: First Attempt at the Classic Shape >>

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Maidum Pyramid photographs by Kenneth Garrett.

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