When most people mention Ancient Egypt the first thing that
comes to mind is the Pyramids. To construct such monuments required a
mastery of art, architecture and social organization that few cultures
would ever rival. The pyramids are said to have built Egypt by being
the force that knit together the kingdom\'s economy. Their creations
were so substantial, that the sight of these vast pyramids would take
your breath away. Today, the valley of the Nile has an open air
museum so people can witness these grand monuments.

Obsessed with the afterlife, Egypt\'s rulers of 4,500 years ago
glorified themselves in stone, thereby laying the foundation of the
first great nation-state. A Pyramid is an enormous machine that helps
the king go through the wall of the dead, achieve resurrection and
live forever in the happiness of the gods. The start of the Old

Kingdom is said to be the building of the Djoser\'s monument. The
construction of Step Pyramid of Pharaoh Djoser began around 2630 B.C.
and was designed to awe the ancient Egyptians, to impress them with
their rule\'s godlike strength. It was the world\'s first great
construction project; indeed, it was the world\'s largest building.

Djoser, the second king of the 3rd dynasty, hired an architect
called Imhoptep who for the first time constructed a tomb completely
of stone. Imhoptep is considered the preeminent genius of the Old

Kingdom. He assembled one workforce to quarry limestone at the cliff
of Tura, across the Nile, another to haul the stone to the site where
master carvers shaped each block and put it in place.

The Step Pyramid is a terraced structure rising in six unequal
stages to a height of 60 meters, its base measuring 120 meters by 108
meters. The substructure has a system of underground corridors and
rooms. Its main feature being a central shaft 25 meters deep and 8
meters wide. The step pyramid rises within a vast walled court 544
meters long and 277 meters wide, in which are the remnants of several
stone edifices built to supply the wants of the king in the here
after. Towering limestone columns were shaped to mimic the sway and
droop of leafy plants. Immovable doors hung on great carved hinges.

Facades called false doors through which the pharaoh\'s ka, or vital
force, was presumed to pass, lay recessed within walls. The interiors
of dummy temples were packed with rubble. Everything about the place
bespoke illusion. The Step Pyramid was a ladder. Not a symbol of a
ladder but an actual one, by which the soul of a dead ruler might
climb to the sky, joining the gods in immortality.

No one knows why the Egyptians created this fantastic scene,
but some archaeologists speculate that there was an Old Kingdom belief
that a work of art, a building, had power and utility in the afterlife
in direct proportion to its uselessness in the real world. In this
view, each false door, each dummy temple worked in the afterlife
precisely because it could not function in this one.

On the north side of the pyramid is a small stone cubicle,
with a pair of tiny holes in its facade. When you look through these
holes, you see two eyes retuning your stare, the blank gaze of a life
size statue of Djoser sitting on the throne. The holes are there for
the pharaoh to look out perhaps at the stars in the northern sky
called the Imperishables because they never set.

Many believe that the building of Djoser\'s pyramid complex,
which was accomplished by hundreds of workers from across the land,
served to join those provinces into the world\'s first nation-state.

During the Old Kingdom, which began around 2700 B.C. and lasted some

550 years, each pharaoh after Djoser marshaled a vast portion of his
country\'s manpower and wealth to build his own tomb and ensure his

To build such outstanding monuments required a preciseness of
architecture, and years of endless labor from so many Egyptians. The
kingdom developed a funerary tradition around the worship of their
divine pharaohs, both living and dead. Every aspect of life was
affected. The Egyptians dug a network of canals off the Nile to
transport stone for the pyramids and food for the workers, and a
simple, local agriculture became the force that knit together the
kingdom\'s economy. The need to keep records of the harvest may have
led to the invention of a written language.

Yet after five and a half centuries this flourishing
civilization collapsed, plunging Egypt into disorder. Perhaps the
seeds of the collapse were planted in the soil of the civilization
that, for all its grandeur, seemed obsessed with the