Step pyramid

From Academic Kids

The construction of step pyramids has been an ancient part of several cultures throughout history from the. These pyramids typically are large and made of several layers, or steps, of stone. The term refers to pyramids of similar design that emerged separately from one another, as there was no connection between the different civilizations that built them.

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Mesopotamia

Main article: Ziggurat

Missing image
Ancient_ziggurat_at_Ali_Air_Base_Iraq_2005.jpg
The 4100 year old Great Ziggurat of Ur in southern Iraq.

Ziggurats were huge religious monuments built in the ancient Mesopotamian valley and western Iranian plateau, having the form of a terraced step pyramid of successively receding stories or levels. There are 32 ziggurats known at, and near, Mesopotamia. Twenty-eight of them are in Iraq, and four of them are in Iran. Notable Ziggurats include the Great Ziggurat of Ur near Nasiriyah, Iraq, the Ziggurat of Aqar Quf near Baghdad, Iraq, Chogha Zanbil in Khūzestān, Iran, the most recent to be discovered - Sialk near Kashan, Iran and others. Ziggurats were built by the Sumerians, Babylonians, Elamites and Assyrians as monuments to local religions. The earliest examples of the ziggurat were raised platforms that date from the Ubaid period<ref name="Crawford, page 73">Crawford, page 73</ref> during the fourth millennium BC, and the latest date from the 6th century BC. The top of the ziggurat was flat, unlike many pyramids. The step pyramid style began near the end of the Early Dynastic Period.<ref>Crawford, page 73-74</ref> Built in receding tiers upon a rectangular, oval, or square platform, the ziggurat was a pyramidal structure. Sun-baked bricks made up the core of the ziggurat with facings of fired bricks on the outside. The facings were often glazed in different colors and may have had astrological significance. Kings sometimes had their names engraved on these glazed bricks. The number of tiers ranged from two to seven, with a shrine or temple at the summit. Access to the shrine was provided by a series of ramps on one side of the ziggurat or by a spiral ramp from base to summit.

Ancient Egypt

The earliest Egyptian pyramids were step pyramids. During the Third dynasty of Egypt, the architect Imhotep built Egypt's first step pyramid, the Pyramid of Djoser, by building a series of six successively smaller mastabas (an earlier form of tomb structure), one atop of another. Later pharaohs, including Sekhemkhet and Khaba, built similar structures. The first step pyramid was built for Djoser (or Zoser).

By the time of the Fourth dynasty of Egypt, plans had changed into the transformation of the "true pyramid". The earliest smooth-sided pyramid, located at Meidum, started out as a step pyramid under Huni structure. Sneferu's own later monuments, the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid at Dahshur, were the first true pyramids to be built as such from scratch, and it was with this innovation that the age of Egyptian stepped pyramids came to an end.

Mesoamerica

Main article: Mesoamerican pyramids

The most prolific builders of these step pyramids were the Pre-Columbian civilizations. The remains of step pyramids can be found throughout the Mayan cities of the Yucatán, as well as in Aztec, Toltec, and Inca architecture. In many of these cases, successive layers of pyramids were built on top of the pre-existing structures, with which the pyramids expanded in size on a cyclical basis. This is true of the Great Pyramid of Cholula and of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan.

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