More Pointy

A final day of exploration and history – I’m getting pretty saturated on museums and piles of stone at this point, but today was worth it:

First up, Saqqara, and the funerary complex and step-pyramid of Zoser. This was the world’s first pyramid, and indeed possibly the first large stone construction ever. It’s currently under renovation / conservation, and of course has lost its outer limestone casing, but is still an impressive sight. After this, an excellent noble tomb (great frescoes, much less focus on religious scenes than the royal tombs) with all kinds of scenes depicted – fishing, hunting, construction. Beside the tomb is what appears to be a small mound but is actually the soft core of the pyramid of Teti. The interior is accessible, and includes early examples of the pyramid texts inscribed on the walls, and with the familiar star motif on the ceiling -the evolution towards the New Kingdom tombs is pretty clear. One un-nerving aspect is that several of the huge angled roof slabs of the chambers have dropped dramatically (pictures to follow). They’re not braced or bolted back, hopefully someone has checked that the odds of another ‘drop’ is low.

Then it was on to Dashur for the ‘Red’ pyramid, which has a number of things to recommend it: it was the first true, stable pyramid; it has an impressive, accessible interior, and best of all, is avoided by most tour groups. The entrance is high up the north face, with a long descent inside into two tall galleries. You ascend the second gallery via a wooden staircase to enter the burial chamber. The whole experience is simple but breath-taking in scale – there’s a pyramid, you can go in it, and look around, and do so without anyone trying to sell you tat.

South of the Red pyramid, is Sneferu’s first (actually, current academic opinion says second) attempt at a ‘proper’ pyramid; the bent pyramid. About half-way through construction, the builders switched from the 52-degree incline used at Meidum (and all the Giza pyramids) to a more conservative 43 degrees, possibly because of the structural failure of Meidum pyramid.

Posted Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 under history, travel.


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