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Pyramid (architecture), ceremonial structures used as tombs or temples that were built by the people of certain ancient civilization, notably the ancient Egyptians, the Aztecs, and the Maya, and certain other ancient peoples of the northern Andean region of South America. The Pyramids of Egypt are of an exact pyramidal form, having four triangular sides that meet at a point at the summit.
Pyramids in Central and South America by contrast are flat-topped, and usually have steps leading to the summit.
The Egyptian pyramids were built as royal tombs, and were designed to hold the body of the pharaon. Those in Central and South America were temples on the summit of which religious rituals were performed, although they sometimes also served as the tombs of important rulers.
In Egypt, the first pyramid were built in about 2700 bc. They probably developed from the mastaba, a low, rectangular tomb with a flat roof, originally built in mudbrick and later in stone. These gradually increased in size and complexity until they looked like a stepped pyramid-that is, a pyramid with sides that rose in giant steps. The most famous example of a step pyramid is the pyramid of Dsozer at Saqqara, which was built in about 2630 bc. It was six steps on each side, each step 60 m (200 ft) high. Over time, the step pyramid developed into the true pyramid with smooth sides.
The largest and most famous pyramids of ancient Egypt are those that held the bodies of the pharaons Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure at Giza, near modern Cairo. The Great Pyramid of Khufu has a volume of some 2. 6 million cu m (91. 8, million cu ft), and it is believed that 2. 5 million blocks of stone, each weighing an average of 2. 5 tonnes, were used to built it. Each side of the pyramide is 230m (750 ft) long, and it is 146 m (480 ft) high. The pyramids of ancient Egypt were usually planned as part of a group of different buildings known as a pyramid complex or mortuary complex. A typical complex consisted of the main pyramid itself; smaller pyramids, often built for the pharaon; a mortuary temple; a causeway leading to the temple where the cult of the pharaon was honoured; mastaba tombs for relatives of the pharaon and important officials; funerary pits for lesser officials; and an enclosure wall. The bestexample of a pyramid complex is that at Giza where boat pits also formed part of the complex. The pyramids were built by farm labourers, who made up 90 per cent of the population of ancient egypt. Working on the pyramids probably under the supervision of skilled, was a kind of tax that everyone had to pay. The work took place during the three or four months of the year when the Nile was in flood, when fields were underwater and no farming could be done. The way that the pyramids were built is not known for certain. After a site had been chosen, always on the west bank of the Nile (for spiritual reasons), the ground was carefully surveyed ...

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