What Riches Were Found in the Pyramids?
- Although the pyramids were located in the center of an extensive temple complex, the burial chambers were robbed at some point in their history. In the Great Pyramid, nothing remains but a stone sarcophagus. The date of the robbery is not known. Because of these robberies, we do not know exactly what goods were buried with the pharaohs in the pyramids. However, by examining remains from other Egyptian tombs, we can get some idea of the ritual goods that would have been deposited.
Funerary Customs in the Old Kingdom
- The main period of pyramid construction was the Old Kingdom (2686 -- 2181 BC). During this period, the practice of interring the dead person with a large variety of goods for use in the afterlife went into decline. Emphasis shifted to the monument commemorating the dead person, whether this was a pyramid or a flat-topped tomb called a mastaba. The number of grave goods was therefore smaller than in the Predynastic Period. Nonetheless, some artifacts continued to accompany the burial.
- One type of object found in many Old Kingdom tombs is furniture. This might include beds, or simply headrests. These crescent-shaped objects were used by the Egyptians as a type of pillow. Many graves contained only a headrest, but royal tombs could contain very elaborate furniture. The tomb of Hetepheres I, Khufu's mother, contains a gold covered bed and bed canopy, as well as a headrest. Chairs and parts of a tent were also found in the grave.
- In addition to furniture, ritual objects were found in Old Kingdom graves. These include canopic jars which held the organs of the deceased, removed during mummification. These were first introduced during this period. Small replicas of objects such as tools were sometimes deposited, as were pottery vessels. These pots may have contained offerings of food and drink to nourish the dead person on their journey to the afterlife. A group of boats were buried near the pyramid of Khufu, and may have been intended to carry the pharaoh's spirit.