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

Contents

Mesopotamia

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 probable predecessors of the ziggurat were temples supported on raised platforms or terraces that date from the Ubaid period[1] during the fourth millennium BC, and the latest date from the 6th century BC. The earliest ziggurats probably date from the latter part of the Early Dynastic Period of Sumer.[2] 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. It was also called Hill of Heaven or Mountain of the gods.[citation needed]

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

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 and Toltec 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.

South America

Step pyramids were also a part of South American architecture, such as that of the Moche, the Chavín culture and the Inca civilization.

North America

Monk's Mound in summer. The concrete staircase follows the approximate course of the ancient wooden stairs.

There are a number of earthwork step pyramids within North America. Often associated with mounds and other mortuary complexes across the Eastern Woodlands (concentrated in the North American Southeast), step pyramids were constructed as ceremonial centres by the Mississippian cultures (900-1500CE), and are regarded as a facet of the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex. The largest earthen work step pyramid of this type in North America is Monk's Mound, located in present-day Illinois. With a basal area exceeding 1000 ft Monks Mound is also one of the largest pyramids by area in the world (after La Danta and Great Pyramid of Cholula).

See also

References

  1. ^ Crawford, page 73
  2. ^ Crawford, page 73-74
  • Harriet Crawford, Sumer and the Sumerians, Cambridge University Press, (New York 1993), ISBN 0-521-38850-3.
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Simple English

, is one example of an enormous step pyramid.]] , in Ancient Egypt]] Step pyramids are a form of pyramid. They are usually large. Several civilisations developed them. Several step pyramids can be found in Egypt, what is now Mexico, and what is now Sudan.


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