Why Did Ancient Civilizations Build Pyramids?
March 14, 2017|Alonso Martínez
The tale of the Tower of Babel, in the Book of Genesis, explains the existence of different languages. According to the legend, some time after the Great Flood, humans started to build a tower that would reach the sky. God felt threatened by human's determination and, to prevent their success, he decided to meddle with their communication. He gave them different languages, which spread throughout the world, making it impossible for them to understand one another. As a result, the tower became a failed project, and with it, humanity's union ended.
There's no evidence of the existence of this tower, but many have associated it with the architectonic legacy of the ancient world, including pyramids.
Pyramids have always astonished humanity. Whether we know them through photographs or by visiting them, we can't help but feel amazed when we imagine the time it took for ancient cultures to build these giants. From coming up with their perfect structure, to erecting them so that they would remain almost as they were for hundreds of years. There are many styles of pyramids: from the first ones created in Mesopotamia, Egypt, Mesoamerica, and India, to the ones in China, Spain, Nigeria, and Sudan, among others. Each type has a particular meaning and purpose.
When we talk about these buildings, the most common thing is to mention the most important architectonic features of each civilization. For instance, through pyramids, these cultures would display their intellectual and social power. If some foreigner visited these places, they would be intimidated by the greatness of those edifices. Also, some of these have been associated with religious matters, such as the veneration of gods.
According to many historians, the design of pyramids wasn't the product of imagination, but a human attempt to emulate the greatness of mountains and volcanoes that surrounded them. They were erected in specific places where they had access to natural resources. Also, the top of a pyramid was seen as a place to bond spiritually with deities related to natural forces such as rain, the sun, storms, and even volcanic explosions. So, pyramids became the centers of ancient cities, as well as meaningful buildings for each civilization.
Egyptians, who used pyramids as tombs for their deceased pharaohs, based their design on mastabas (primitive tombs) that were built with bricks stacked vertically. The ones in Mesoamerica were ceremonial centers to honor their gods. Due to their height, these buildings were used as sacred places where priests could speak to their Gods. The same happened in India and China.
The pyramidal shape was not conceived as perfect, but it was the easiest way to create monumental buildings. When they noticed that this kind of structure would allow them to create even taller constructions, they perfected it. The triangular shape allows a better flux of air, and rain would slip through its sides. Moreover, these buildings would become the perfect reference points for visitors and iconic symbols of their culture.
Their grandeur has survived the passing of time, natural disasters, and wars, showing that, even from the earliest of times, humanity has found ways to do the inconceivable. Some people even assure they were not built by humans, but by alien creatures. Others claim these structures are so perfect they have supernatural properties due to their connection with the celestial. However, these assumptions only diminish humanity's creativity and achievement.
Pyramids embody the greatness of ancient civilizations. Their perfect structures prove humans' capacity to create majestic and complex pieces that survive beyond our lifetime.
If you want to read more about history, check out these articles:
The Mysterious Egyptian Pharaoh Who Was Erased From History For Being Female
7 Myths About Medieval Times We Thought Were Real
Translated by María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards