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Egypt Unwrapped:



1 hour

Monday May 20 at 9.30am EST/ NZ

This program raises some of the perennial ‘mysteries’ about pyramids and Ancient Egypt. It presents a coherent theory of pyramid evolution.
A number of famous Egyptologists and experts share their discoveries and theories as the passage from mastaba to pyramid is plotted.
Students should have a sound understanding of the pyramids and pyramid builders after viewing this program. This will be a good antidote to the nonsense about aliens and pyramids that proliferates modern media.

Denis Mootz

This is the data collection stage of the activity.

The detailed questioning is designed to ensure that students decode the visual and aural materials presented to them in the video.

The video programs can be stopped at the end of each section. This will allow students to share and discuss answers.

Note the terms in which Egypt is described.

Note the terms in which Egyptian technology is described.

Note the questions asked.

Act 1.
What was the practical application of a pyramid?
Note the derivation of the Egyptian word (m-r) for pyramid. Implications?

Note how many pyramids have been found.

When were most built?
Note details of the pyramid of Khufu.

Note details of its location, construction and dimensions.

Note Robert Bianchi’s comments on the “mystique” of the pyramids.

Why do the pyramids still intrigue modern Egyptologists?

When did the belief in the after-life originate?

Note details of these early beliefs. Result?

Note Salima Ikram’s description of the evolution of pyramids.

Note details of the mastaba and its construction.

Note Gunther Dreyer’s comments on the use of the mastaba.

Note details of the tomb of Khasekhemwy at Abydos. Implications?

When did the ‘great leap’ in pyramid building occur?

Note details of Djoser’s tomb at Saqqara.

Note Dreyer’s description of the evolution of Djoser’s mastaba / pyramid.

What is the significance of this building? Result?

Note what is below Djoser’s pyramid.

Act 2.
Note the things that are considered “remarkable” about the pyramids.

Who is named as the architect of the stone pyramid? Significance?

Note the work of Jonathan Foyle.

Note details of the dimensions and design of the Step Pyramid.

Why did later Egyptians revere Imhotep?

Why are archaeologists looking for Imhotep’s tomb?

Note the work of Campbell Price and the use of a magneto graviometer. Result? Implications?

What was the result of Imhotep’s innovation?

Note details of the monuments of Snefru.

Note details of the step pyramid at Meidum.

Note details of the Bent pyramid.

Why was the original design changed?

Note details of the Red pyramid at Dashur. Implications?

Note the counter theory of Vassil Dobrev. Implications?

Note Robert Bianchi’s description of the Ben-ben theory.

How does Dobrev combine these theories? Result?

Note the “achievements” of Snefru. Implication?

Act 3.
What contribution did Snefru make to the Great pyramid at Giza?

Note details of Hemiunu.

Note the ‘statistics’ of the Great pyramid at Giza.

Where is the evidence of human imperfection?

Note details of the “Grand Gallery” and Khufu’s burial chamber.

How do we know tomb robbers were active in ancient Egypt?

How did Khufu attempt to protect his tomb?

What were the “relieving chambers” for?

What evidence is there of the men who built the Great pyramid? Implications?

Note evidence of the support staff for the pyramid builders.

What evidence is there that the pyramid builders were free men? Implications?

Act 4.
Why were pyramids abandoned as tombs for Pharaohs? Result?

Note the site and details of Djedefre’s pyramid. Implications?

Note details of the pyramid of Unas.

Why are the interior walls covered with religious texts?

Why was the Valley of the Kings chosen for burials in the New Kingdom?

Note Robert Bianchi’s comments on the tomb of Tutankhamun.

Note the legacy of the pyramid.

Note the legacy of Imhotep.

Useful, interesting, challenging, books, sources and websites will provide materials to supplement and complement the History presented in the video program.

The data collected here should be used in the notemaking below.

Some useful Internet sites:

Egyptian beliefs about the after life:

Egyptian tombs:




Gunter Dreyer:ünter_Dreyer


Great Pyramid:



Pyramid of Unas:

Pyramid texts:

Valley of the Kings:

Tomb robbers:

This is the collation stage of the activity. Students need to organise the field of information and begin to explore its context.
Directions and /or Inquiry questions are provided for notemaking / summary exercises that will follow the viewing of the video.

The materials / data for the summaries have been collected above.
The activity could be done in teams, groups, or by individuals, or as a class with teacher direction.

  1. Draw up a timeline / chronological chart of the events described and discussed in this program.

  1. Note details of Old Kingdom Egypt.

  1. Note details of Egyptian beliefs regarding the after life.

  1. Note details of Egyptian tombs.

  1. Note details of the mastaba.

  1. Note details of the pyramids of Snefru.

  1. Note details of the Great Pyramid at Giza.

  1. Note details of later pyramids.

  1. Note details of the pyramid texts.

  1. Note details of the tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

  1. Note details of the problems caused by tomb robbers.

Key issues and inquiry questions that have been raised by the video are addressed at this stage for discussion and research.

  1. Why were tombs so important to ancient Egyptians?

  1. Who built the pyramids? Why?

Questions of reliability and validity of the perspectives, evidence and sources presented in the video program need to be considered, tested and researched.

  1. Why did Khufu have a ‘bad’ reputation in the ancient world?

How did it compare with his father Snefru? Implications?

  1. Can a coherent ‘evolution’ from grave to pyramid be found in Egypt?

The key issues and inquiry questions are potential topics for debate, essay writing, reports, historical recount and explanation.

  1. Write a REPORT on early Egyptian burials.

  1. Prepare notes (both sides) for a DEBATE of the proposition that

There are still many ‘mysteries’ to be solved in the building of the pyramids.

  1. Explain why was the provision of a secure burial site for the pharaoh important?

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