Pyramids of Egypt
When one thinks of Egypt it is hard to do so without seeing the pyramids of Giza in the mind's eye. These piles of limestone or mudbrick are the oldest known manmade structures on our planet and have actually survived longer in the period known as BCE (before the common era) than they have in CE (the common era). Since the dawn of recorded history they have been an enigma, and this continues through to the present day, with more books and papers being written about them than any of the other ancient monuments in Egypt. Library shelves, throughout the world, are full of the various theories about how they were built, why they were built, and why they are located in certain places; and the full gambit of writing is used in these theories; from the well researched and referenced volumes, to the ones which, quite frankly, deserve to be in either the science-fiction sections or the children's ones.
So, why were they built? It is generally accepted that they were tombs for the kings who built them; the fact that some of the Egypt pyramids had granite sarcophagi inside them being a major clue, as well as the lack of actual burial tombs being found for the majority of these kings (though one or two did have tombs built as well). But there are those who will point to the fact that no body, or mummy, of a king was ever discovered in any of these pyramids, which is a very good point, until other facts are brought in; namely the known fact that the pyramids were broken into in antiquity and any objects within, if any, were stolen and sold. If one goes into the main burial chamber of the Great Pyramid (the Pyramid of Khufu, or Cheops), which is known as the "King's Chamber", why would a massive granite sarcophagus be in there if it was not to hold a body (inside a coffin), and who, but the king, would be in a position to build such a grandiose edifice? Sometimes it is easier to look at things using common sense rather than looking at ways to disprove the obvious.
How were they built? There are literally thousands of books and papers on this subject, as well as a vast plethora of websites. Learned scholars have written theories about it right through to glorified science-fiction authors, with various architects; archaeologists; engineers; dedicated pyramidologists (yes, they do actually exist); laymen; and an assortment of interested parties, all thrown in for good measure. The simple answer is that there is no answer, or at least no answer that everyone agrees on! Straight ramps; spiral ramps; multi ramps; internal ramps; internal spiral ramps; levers; pulley systems; pulleys based on the Djed symbol; counterweighed shuttles; even aliens! Every known, and unknown, concoction has been theorised and we are still not any closer to the answer as Herodotus in the 5th century BCE, whose 'Histories: Book II' is the first known work that actually mentions a theory on how they were built.
Can "Ask-aladdin " help? Only if you believe that the ancient Egyptians were simple people, not Einstein's, and would have done things the simple, and easiest, way. They did not go out of their way to invent things, most of their inventions happening by chance, though they were good at adapting things for their own needs: they did not invent the chariot, but when it was introduced by the Hyksos, at the end of the Second Intermediate Period, they adapted it and became one of the most feared, if not THE most feared, chariot armies in the ancient world. Because of our modern day interpretations of hieroglyphs, as well as our better understanding of what tomb reliefs mean, we know that very little changed during the pharaonic period. Because of this many of the theories can be discounted, due to the lack of evidence for them being used for other construction work from the time of Djoser (2667BCE) until the invasion by the Persians (525BCE). Even when the rest of the world was starting to use iron, the ancient Egyptians continued using brass and so there was nothing that can be called unique in the way that they did things. So the pyramids had to be built using the simple tools that they had, as well as the simple methods of transportation, especially for heavy objects. How did the ancient Egyptians build the pyramids? By the simplest method possible!
Why were they built at those sites? Recently this has become a popular question and more books and papers are starting to fill library shelves, with just as many websites dedicated to the subject as well. Again, there is a simple answer to this question and this is that the pyramids were built where they are because they are all on solid outcrops of limestone (well, not so solid in South Dashur, as the Bent Pyramid will testify). This serves 2 major purposes:
1/ a strong base on which to build the pyramid
2/ an adjacent supply of limestone to quarry for building the pyramid
But yet again, the simple is not good enough for some people and various theories have sprung up "proving" why the pyramids were built in those locations. The one that has been most prominent over the past 20 years or so is that they were built where they were to ape the stars in the sky, or the Orion Correlation Theory, with the 3 Giza Pyramids representing the 3 major stars in Orion's belt and the other pyramids representing other stars in the constellation. Many different people have tried to push this theory forward, but just as many have managed to discredit it: the angles are wrong; the land map is reversed; the alignment would have meant the pyramids being about 10,000-15,000 years old. Every theory has its critic! Yes, on paper it looks good, but there would have to be one huge coincidence for the outcrops of rock to be in just the right place as well.
Recently a new theory has been put forward and most of what it says matches known evidence. It is called the "Cult of Re" theory and has shown that the positioning of the pyramids in the various pyramid fields create lines which, when elongated, all reach the same point in modern day Heliopolis in Cairo. Prior to the Greeks renaming the site as the "City of the Sun" it was known as Iunu and there was a huge sun temple, dedicated to the sun god Re, built here. Apart from this idiosyncrasy another interesting fact is that each of the pyramids that line up with Iunu was built by a pharaoh whose name ended with Re. The only field that does not measure up is the one at Abu Sir; the hill on which Saladin's Citadel sits obscures the line of sight, yet interestingly enough, just a few hundred metres to the northwest of the Abu Sir field lie the remnants of a couple of sun temples; and these are in the direct line of site from Iunu. Sun Temples are not near as heavy as pyramids, so could these have been used as some kind of mirror to the cult? Whether this is just another coincidence or not, at least the facts and figures measure up, so perhaps there was another reason for the pyramids being built on the exact spot they occupy in each of the fields.
Why they were built, how they were built and why were they built where they were will go on giving many peoples hours of pleasure working out. The main fact is that they were built and still stand majestically on the edge of the Western Desert for us all to look at, except for those at Zawyet el-Mayitin (near Minya), which is on the East Bank of the Nile, and the pyramid on Elephantine Island that has been accredited to Huni.
How many are there? Well, estimates range from 93 to 138 and this discrepancy is mainly due to arguments over what constitutes a pyramid. Most main pyramids had "queens" and/or supplementary pyramids built close to them, but sometimes it is hard to determine whether a pile of rocks is the remains of a pyramid, or just a pile of rocks.