The monumental pyramids of Ancient Egypt are perhaps the most famous tombs in the world. The origins of the pyramids were mastabas, Arabic for “benches,” which were mud or brick rectangular structures built over graves during Ancient Egypt’s First Dynasty (c. 2925–c. 2775 B.C.). The Step Pyramid of Djoser, a pyramid built by this pharaoh in the Third Dynasty (c. 2650-2575 B.C.), was the first mastaba to be made of stone and to take on the distinctive pyramid shape.

The most famous of the Egyptian pyramids are the three massive tombs of the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2575–2465 B.C.). These monumental pyramids built for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure housed the royal mummies and their worldly effects thought to protect and be used by the kings in their afterlife. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built for Khufu, is the largest, soaring to a height of around 480 feet, and is the last standing of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is estimated that it took about 20,000 workers to construct the Great Pyramid over a period of about 20 years. The king and queen’s burial chambers are situated deep within the massive pyramid. Also part of the Giza complex are two mortuary temples honoring Khufu. Although the three pyramids have been looted over the centuries, extensive hieroglyphs and some surviving artifacts, such as jewelry and furniture discovered in the Giza pyramid complex, have helped archaeologists to learn about the Ancient Egyptian’s burial and religious practices, as well as their daily life.