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sand pyramid at the beach

Pyramid project: building a sand pyramid

A pyramid project

Ancient Egyptian pharaohs, like Mayan lords, built pyramids because they’re a pretty easy shape to build. Pyramids are especially easy to build if they are mostly solid piles of dirt or stone. That’s what the early pyramids were like: mostly solid.

Build a pyramid out of sand

Check out how easy it is to build a pyramid for yourself next time you go to the beach, or a playground with a sandbox. Get the sand a little damp (not too wet). Then try packing it into the shape of a pyramid. Do you at first get a step pyramid or a bent pyramid, as the Egyptians did?

Keep trying!  Can you get your sand into a nice straight pyramid after some practice? Why or why not?

Or maybe a Mesopotamian ziggurat

For a more Egyptian pyramid, build a little house out of sticks or stones – a mastaba – and then build your pyramid on top of that. Or, try building a Mesopotamian ziggurat. That’s like a pyramid, but built in a series of platforms, each one a little smaller than the one below it. On one side, carve a long staircase going up to a little temple on the flat top.

How did your pyramid project work out? Let us know in the comments! Send pictures!

More about Egyptian pyramids
Or about pyramids in Sudan
More about Mesopotamian ziggurats
Or about South American pyramids
Geometry of Pyramids

Bibliography and further reading about Egyptian pyramids:

Pyramid, by David Macaulay (1982). His architectural drawings are great, and his explanations are simple and clear. Easy reading.

Eyewitness: Pyramid, by James Putnam (2000). Easy reading. Good photographs.

The Art and Architecture of Ancient Egypt (Yale University Press Pelican History of Art), by William Stevenson Smith and William Kelly Simpson (revised edition 1999). Standard college textbook.

More about Egypt’s Old Kingdom
More about Egyptian Architecture home