Ancient Egyptians

The inspiration for today's topic came from the morning paper, which we were reading over breakfast. There was an article about how volcanoes may have led to the fall of ancient Egypt. Having done some work on volcanoes recently I thought this might be of interest to Jenson. We also got the globe out and Jenson was able to identify where Egypt was on the map.

He had barely finished his bowl of cereal when he began rummaging around looking for his LEGO book. When he found it he flicked through the pages as if his life depended on it. Eventually he stopped on a page that unbelievably had the exact same picture as the one he had seen in the newspaper. It was of the Great Sphinx of Egypt and he had soon submersed himself in the building of it. A good few hours later and the creature had been reborn in all its LEGO glory.

Better still a few improvements had been made to the original version: this creature could transform! 

From the Great Sphinx we moved onto the Pyramids of Giza. Again, all Jenson's idea. His enthusiasm was fantastic. He pulled on my arm literally dragging me into his and Wren's bedroom to begin this next project. When one speaks about ancient Egypt there is a mass of knowledge to accumulate, but we barely touched the surface. We didn't even get onto hieroglyphics but this next exercise was totally relevant and excellent for his maths, where we are working on 3D shapes. 

So what did we learn? Well, we learned that Egypt's most famous pyramids are at Giza. Giza was a necropolis where three of ancient Egypt's most famous kings were buried. 

The three pyramids of Giza were built for one family. The first was built for pharaoh Khufu. The second pyramid was built for Khafre, Khufu's son. Last of all came the pyramid for Menkaure, son of Khafre, grandson of Khufu. Much like the Greek gods, I had no idea how to pronounce any of these names. Names like Tom, Dick and Harry would have been so much more simple for the uneducated like me!

Khufu's pyramid is known as the Great Pyramid and is one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is about 4,500 years old. It is the largest Egyptian pyramid ever built, rising 146 metres into the sky. Experts think it took about 25,000 people to build it over a period of 20 years. Khufu was pharaoh for 23 years so it must have been built within his reign, or it wouldn't have been ready to use as his tomb. A narrow, sloping passage leads up to the Grand Gallery. Beyond that are three huge granite slabs that block the way. They were designed to stop tomb robbers from getting into the King's Chamber, where Khufu was buried.

Khafre's pyramid is 143 metres high and is guarded by the famous Sphinx.

The smallest Giza pyramid was built for Menkaure. It is only 65 metres high. Only the top two thirds of it were covered with expensive slabs of white limestone. The bottom third was covered with cheaper blocks of granite. 


We also learned that the ancient Egyptians built their pyramids on the west bank of the Nile. This was because the Egyptians linked the west with death, as this was where the sun set. The site had to be far enough away from the river to avoid flooding, but close enough for building materials to be transported to it. 

After a site was chosen, the position of the pyramid was decided. Egyptian pyramids have sides that face North, South, East and West. The site had to be flat.

Pyramid workers used simple tools, they didn't have large diggers that we have today. Hundreds or thousands of men worked in the quarries, cutting blocks of limestone. The blocks were then moved by boat along the Nile and wooden rollers were used to move the blocks over land. 

Historians believe the blocks were then dragged up ramps made from hard soil and rubble to their final destination. The last block to be put in place was called the capstone. It was covered in a thin layer of gold, which shone brightly in the sunlight.

Finally the ramps were removed and workers set slabs of limestone in place. These gave the sides a smooth finish. Inside, painters decorated the burial chamber walls and ceilings with pictures and magical spells. The pyramid was finished and ready to be used as a pharaoh's tomb.

When Jenson learned that the pharaohs were buried inside the pyramids, he hastily made some mini LEGO figures and inserted them into the middle of the pyramids he had made. 

Jenson's imagination then ran began to run wild as the Great Sphinx came to life and started hurling the Giza Pyramids around its head!

As if that wasn't enough, the LEGO pharaohs then transformed into giant LEGO skeletons!   

We also read up about mummification, which captivated the children's imagination. I'm thinking some real life mummification might be on the cards in the not too distant future! That experience of being wrapped from head to toe would really bring ancient Egyptian civilisation to life. We also touched on Tutankhamun. Jenson thought it absolutely brilliant that this boy was just eight years old when he ruled Egypt. Clearly you're never too young to be the boss!

All the while, Wren was building some amazing constructions from blocks of tens and hundreds. Here are three people - the white squares denote eyes and noses, the green blocks denote legs and arms and the blue hundred blocks denote bodies and heads. A very creative use of a recent maths purchase. 

Here is another of her creations - a little doggy. She uses a totally different approach to building with LEGO than Jenson does, but it is so endearing and much softer.

Finally, after a late lunch the children got stuck in with these, which turned up in the post this morning. They had such super fun, it was a delight to watch.