Royal Pyramid Complexes
Ancient Egypt’s royal pyramids were not isolated monuments. A pyramid joined with several other buildings to form a complex. The other major buildings include a Pyramid Temple next to the pyramid itself, a Valley Temple further way from the pyramid, and a causeway (a large, built ramp or pathway) connecting the two temples. All of these buildings operated together for two main purposes. First, they were the settings for the royal funeral (possibly including the mummification of the deceased ruler), ceremonies to prepare the way to the afterlife that was expected for the king’s spirit after death, and funeral processions leading up to burial within or underneath the pyramid. Second, after burial, the pyramid complex was a place for living Egyptians – mostly different kinds of priests – to care for and present offerings in memory of their deceased kings. Often offerings and readings of religious writings would be presented to statues of the king set at various places in the temples. These were activities of the “royal offering cult,” which were meant to provide for their kings’ needs in the afterlife for eternity. Some pyramid complexes include additional features, such as small “satellite” pyramids and Queens’ pyramids, and in rare cases, boat burials. The second pyramid at Giza, constructed for King Khafre, is unique in having the Great Sphinx and a Sphinx Temple as part of its complex.