When Were the Pyramids Built?

The ancient pyramids of Giza.
The ancient pyramids of Giza.

Ancient Egypt was one of the greatest world powers in history. The oldest ancient pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, dates back to around 2670 BCE. The rest of the pyramids were constructed anywhere between 2612 BCE to 664 BCE.  

The rulers of the kingdom were known as Pharaohs. They were held in such great esteem that they were seen as demigods. The Pharaohs had so much power and authority that it was believed that they carried it with them after death to immortality. To facilitate their immortality, Pharaohs invested heavily in mega structures in a scale not witnessed before. These gigantic structures became synonymous with Ancient Egypt and were known as The Pyramids.

The Early Dynastic Period (3100 BC- 2686 BC)

The Early Dynastic Period began after the unification of the Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt around 3100 BC and included the First Dynasty and Second Dynasty. This was an era that the Kingdom of Egypt established itself as a cultural and economic hub of the ancient world. The affluent persons in the society conducted high-profile funerals which comprised of the building of large brick flat-roofed tombs known as mastabas. These mastabas were the precursors of the pyramids. The last Pharaoh of this period; Pharaoh Khasekhemwy had a large mastaba built in the 27th century BC which still stands to date.

The Old Kingdom (2686 BC- 2181BC)

The Old Kingdom was the period between the Third Dynasty and the Sixth Dynasty. This was when Ancient Egypt experienced economic growth which was achieved through political stability. In the Old Kingdom, religious practices became more widespread while funeral rites became more elaborate. The mastabas of the previous era gave way to the new tomb architecture, the Step Pyramid. The first king during the period was Pharaoh Djoser who constructed a necropolis near the then Egyptian capital, Memphis. This necropolis of Saqqara featured the first royal step pyramid built between 2584 BC and 2565 BC. However, the golden age of the pyramids began in the Fourth Dynasty during the reign of Pharaoh Sneferu whose pyramid at Meidum, constructed between 2520 BC and 2505 BC, was the first real pyramid.

After Sneferu’s death, his son Khufu ascended to the throne and, inspired by his father’s work, proceeded to build the greatest necropolis of all time - the Giza Pyramid Complex. This included his masterpiece, the 481-foot Great Pyramid of Giza, which was built between 2580 BC and 2560 BC. The Great Pyramid of Giza became synonymous with Ancient Egypt and the oldest and largest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Khufu was succeeded by his son Djedefra who moved his father’s Necropolis from Giza to Abu Rowash where he built himself a pyramid between 2447 BC and 2439 BC. Khafra ascended to the throne to succeed his elder brother Djedefra and moved the royal necropolis back to Giza from Abu Rowash where he built his pyramid between 2437 BC and 2414 BC. The end of the Fourth Dynasty in 2496 BC marked the end of the golden age of the pyramids as Egypt began the worship of the sun deity of Ra. Pharaohs spent less effort on the construction of pyramids to focus on temples dedicated to Ra. Numerous pyramids were built nonetheless but on a smaller scale, including the Pyramid of Nyuserre and the Pyramid of Unas.

The Decline: The Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom (2055 BC- 1070 BC)

The ascension of Pharaoh Mentuhotep II in 2055 BC marked the beginning of a new era known as the Middle Kingdom. During this period, Pharaohs ceased the construction of pyramids for fear of vandalism and opted to be buried in secret tombs. During the New Kingdom (1550 BC- 1077 BC) Pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings and few pyramids were built.


More in Society