(πυραμίς, perhaps from the Egyptian br), a structure of the shape of the geometric figure so called, erected in different parts of the Old and the New World, the most important being the pyramids of Egypt and Mexico. Those of Egypt were considered one of the seven wonders of the world. They are in all seventy in number, of different sizes, lying between 29° and 30° N. lat., and are masses of stone or brick, with square bases and triangular sides. Although various opinions have prevailed as to their use, as that they were erected for astronomical purposes, for resisting the encroachment of the sand of the desert, for granaries, reservoirs, or sepulchres, the last-mentioned hypothesis has been proved to be correct in recent times by the excavations of the late general Howard Vyse. They were all the tombs of monarchs of Egypt who flourished from the fourth to the twelfth dynasty, none having been constructed later than that time, the subsequent kings being buried at Abydos, Thebes, and other places, in tombs of a very different construction. The picture of a pyramid forms a part of the hieroglyphic name of Memphis, and the immutability of most things in Egypt leads us to infer, from this circumstance, that the foundation of the pyramids was coeval with that of the city. It is probable that the title of being the builders of them, and the honor of being buried in them, were given to the monarchs by whom they were finished. The pyramids are solid mounds raised over the sepulchral chambers of the kings, the first act of an Egyptian monarch being to prepare his future "eternal abode." For this purpose, a passage of the size of the intended sarcophagus was first hollowed in the rock at a suitable incline to lower it, and at a convenient depth a rectangular chamber was excavated in the solid rock. Over this chamber a cubical mass of masonry, of square blocks, was then placed, leaving the orifice of the shaft open. Additions continued to be made to this cubical mass both in height and breadth as long as the monarch lived, so that at his death all that remained to be done was to face or smooth the exterior of the stepformed mound. But in some cases the masonry passed beyond the orifice of the shaft, which involved the construction of a new shaft, having its orifice beyond it. The pyramid was faced by adding courses of long blocks on each layer of the steps, and then cutting the whole to a flat or even surface, commencing from the summit. The outer masonry, however, or casing, as it is called, has in most instances been partially stripped off. Provision was made for protecting the vertical joints by placing each stone half way over another. The masonry is admirably finished, and the mechanical means by which such immense masses of stone were raised to their places has long been a mystery; the discovery, however, of large circular holes in some of the stones has led to the conclusion that they were wound up bv machines. The stones were quarried on or near the spot; sometimes, however, granite taken from the quarries of Syene was partially employed. The entrances were carefully filled up, and the passage protected by stone portcullises and other contrivances, to prevent ingress to the sepulchral chamber. There appears to have been also a door, or pylon, at the entrance of the shaft, ornamented with Egyptian sculptures and hieroglyphs. The sides of the pyramids face the cardinal points, and the entrances face the north. The work of the larger pyramids was executed by corvees of laborers.
The most remarkable and finest pyramids are those of Gizeh, situated on a level space of the Libyan chain at Memphis, on the west bank of the Nile. The largest three are the most famous. The first or Great Pyramid, as appears fiom the excavations of Vyse, was the sepulchre of the Cheeps of Herodotus, the Chembes, or Chlemmis, of Diodoorns, and the Suphis of Manetho and Eratosthenes (Shufu I, B.C. 2218-2186). The name of the founder of the Great Pyramid has been detected in a small tomb in its immediate vicinity. It is written in Greek by Manetho, Σοῦφις, which is said by Eratosthenes to mean in Egyptian κοματος, "one who has much hair." The hieroglyphic name, Shufu, has also the same meaning as in the Coptic, "much hair." Its height was 480 feet 9 inches, and its base 764 feet square, having an area of about 13 acres. Its slope or angle is 51° 50'. It has, however, been much spoiled and stripped of its exterior blocks for the building of Cairo. The original sepulchral chamber, called the Subterranean Apartment, 46 feet by 27 feet, and 11 feet 6 inches high, has been hewn in the solid rock, and was reached by the original passage, 320 feet long, which descended to it by an entrance at the foot of the pyramid. The excavations in this direction were subsequently abandoned on account of the vast size attained by the pyramid, rendering it impracticable to carry on the entrance on a level with the natural rock, which had been cut down and faced for that purpose. Accordingly a second chamber, with a triangular roof, was constructed in the masonry of the pyramid, 17 feet by 18 feet 9 inches, and 20 feet 3 inches high. This was reached by a passage rising at an inclination of 260 18', terminating in a horizontal passage. It is called the Queen's Chamber, and occupies a position nearly in the centre of the pyramid. The monument — probably owing to the long life attained by the monarch — still progressing, a third chamber, called the King's, was finally constructed, by prolonging the ascending passage of the Queen's Chamber for 150 feet farther into the very centre of the pyramid, and, after a short horizontal passage, making a room 17 feet 1 inch by 34 feet 3 inches, and 19 feet 1 inch high. To diminish, however, the pressure of the superincumbent masonry on the flat roof five small chambers were made vertically in succession above the roof. the last one pointed, varying in height from 1 foot 4 inches to 8 feet 7 inches, the apex cf the top one being rather more than 69 feet above the roof of the King's Chamber. The end of the horizontal passage was filnished in a superior style, and cased with red svenitic granite; and in the King's Chamber was the granite sarcophagus of the king, Cheops, 7 feet 6.5 inches long, 3 feet 3 inches broad, and 3 feet 5 inches high, for whom the pyramid was built. As the heat of this chamber was stifling, owing to want of ventilation, two small air-channels, or chimneys, about nine inches square, were made, ascending to the north andi south sides of the pyramid. They perfectly ventilate this chamber. After the mummy was deposited in the King's Chamber, the entrance was closed with granite portcullises, and a well made at the junction of the upward-inclined and horizontal passages, by which the workmen descended into the downward-inclined passage, after carefully closing the access to the sepulchral chambers. The changes which took place in this pyramid gave rise to various traditions, even in the days of Herodotus, Cheops being reported to lie buried in a chamber surrounded by the waters of the Nile. It took a long time for its construction — 100,000 men being employed on it for thirty years. The operations in this pyramid by general Vyse gave rise to the discovery of marks scrawled in red ochre in a kind of cursive hieroglyphs on the blocks brought from the quarries of Turah. These contained the name and titles of Shufiu (the hieroglyphic form of Cheops); numerals and directions for the position of materials: with them were mason's marks.
The second pyramid is situated on a higher elevation than the first, and was built by Shufu II, or Chephren (B.C. 2186-2163), the son of Shufi I. His name reads Shefre: he is called Suphis II by Manetho, and Cephrenes by Herodotus. It is inscribed on a beautiful tablet in the British Museum, which was brought from one of the tombs near Memphis, and was engraved in memory of a personage who acted as superintendent of the building of the pyramid. This pyramid has two sepulchral chambers, and appears to have been broken into by the caliph Alaziz Othman ben Yussuf; A.D. 1196. Subsequently, it was opened by Belzoni. The masonry is inferior to the first, but it was anciently cased below with red granite. The casing still remains at the summit.
The third pyramid, built by Mencheres, or Mycerinus (brother of Chephren, B.C. 2163-2130), is much smaller than the other two, being only 218 feet high by 354 feet 6 inches square. It also has two sepulchral chambers, both in the solid rock. The lower sepulchral chamber, which held a sarcophagus of rectangular shape, of whinstone, had a pointed roof, cut like an arch inside; but the cedar coffin, in shape of a mummy, had been removed to the upper or large apartment, and its contents there rifled. Among the debris of the coffin and in the chambers were found the legs and part of the trunk of a body with linen wrapper, supposed by some to be that of the monarch, but by others to be that of an Arab, on account of the anchvlosed right knee. This body and fragments of the coffin were removed to the British Museum; but the stone sarcophagus was unfortunately lost off Carthagena, by the sinking of the vessel in which it was being transported to England. There is a hieroglyphic inscription very beautifully engraved on the fragment of the coffin. containing a royal name, which reads Menka-re. The masonry of this pyramid is most excellent, and it was anciently cased half-way up with black granite.
The second pyramid has a line of chambers cut in the rock, and on its eastern side are the ruins of a temple. The third has a similar temple and avenue; and, indeed, the eastern face of the Great Pyramid has traces, though more indistinct, of a similar structure; but the second temple, that of Chephren, is distinguished by having the Sphinx ranged in front of the centre of its eastern face, bearing all the marks of having been connected with it by communications cut through the rock under-ground. Between the paws of the Sphinx a perfect temple was discovered, a few years ago, by Belzoni, on clearing away the sand by which it had been choked up for ages. There are six other pyramids of inferior size and interest at Gizeh: one at Abu Rdsh, five miles to the north-west of the same spot, is ruined, but of large dimensions; another at Zowyet el-Arrian, also made of limestone, is still more ruined; another at Rigah, a spot in the vicinity of Abusir, also much ruined, and built for the monarch User-en-Ra, by some supposed to be Busiris. There are five of these monuments at Abusir, one with a name supposed to be that of a monarch of the third dynasty; and another with that of the king Sahura. A group of eleven pyramids remains at Sakkara, one with a doorway inlaid with porcelain tiles, and having a royal name. Five other pyramids are at Dashur, the northernmost of which, built of brick, is supposed to be that of the king Asychis of Herodotus, and has a name of a king apparently about the twelfth dynasty. Others are at Meyduin and IllahMin; and two at Biahmo, at Mecinet el-Fay um, apparently the sepulchres of the last kings of the twelfth dynasty. Some small brick pyramids of the kings of the eleventh dynasty are at the Drah Abu. Negr at Thebes. In Nubia, the ancient Ethiopia, are several pyramids, the tombs of the monarchs of Meromi, and of some of the Ethiopian conquerors of Egypt. They are taller in proportion to their base than the Egyptianu pyramids, and generally hanve a sepulchral hall, or propylon, with sculptures, which faces thle east. The principal groups of these pyramids are at Bege Rauie, or Begromni, 17° N. lat., in one of which gold rings and other objects of late art, resembling that of the Ptolemaic period, were found. SEE EGYPT.
In Assyria, the Birs Nimrud, or Tower of Belus, was a kind of step-shaped pyramid of seven different-colored bricks, dedicated to the planets by Nebuchadnezzar. SEE BABEL. The Mujellibe, another mound, was of pyramidal shape. The pyramid also entered into the architecture of the tomb of Sardanapalus at Tanus, and of the mausoleum of Artemnisia at Halicarnassus. A small pyramid, the sepulchre of C. Cestius, imitated from the Egyptian in the days of Augustus, still exists within the wall of Aurelian at Rome. Temples and other monuments of pyramidal shape are found in India, China, Java, the Polynesian Islands, and elsewhere. The Toltecs and Aztecs erected temples in Mexico, called Teodalli, or abodes of gods, of pyramidal shape, with steps or terraces by which to ascend and reach an altar, generally placed on the summit, where they performed human sacrifices and other rites. These, however, are not true pyramids, the pure and simple form of which is restricted to Egypt. The pyramid entered extensively into the architecture of the Egyptians, and appears on the tops of obeliskos and tombs as a kind of roof. Small models of pyramidnis, with inscribed adorations to the sun, or having royal names, were also placed in the tombs. See Lepsilus, Ueber den Bau der pyramiden (1843), p. 143, 217; Wilkinson, Topogr. of Thebes (Lond. 1835); Vyse, Operations carried on at Gizeh in 1837 (ibid. 1840-42); Perring, Views, etc. (ibid. 1839-42); Gliddon, Olica Egyptiaca (ibid. 1849); Taylor, The Great Pyramid (ibid. 1859, 1864); Smyth, Life cand Work at the Great Pyramid (1867); also, Our Inheritance on the Great Pyramidi (Lond. 1864, 1866, 1877, a work full of fanciful theories); St. Day, Plates and Notes (Edinb. 1869).
PYRAMID, a sepulchral monument in imitation of a spire of flame. Beleth mentions one built at Tours, and another, called St. Peter's Needle, at Rome. — Walcott. SEE EFFIGIES.