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Among the general public, there is often confusion about the origins of the pyramids, which is frequently the result of fantastic theories and outright falsehoods that are perpetuated on television programs and other media. An examination of early Egyptian history reveals that there was actually a very clear progression that began with small burial mounds, developing gradually into “true” pyramids. In Egypt’s First and Second Dynasties, kings were buried in mud-brick mounds that are known as <i>mastabas</i>, which is an Arabic word for “bench.” Most scholars believe that the mound, or bench, represented the primordial mound of creation discussed above. The earliest mastabas were built in the Upper Egyptian (southern) city of Hierakonpolis, which is probably where the Egyptian concept of divine kingship was first articulated. <ref> Lehner, p. 72</ref> Later in the Second Dynasty, the royal burials moved a bit farther north to Abydos and finally to the area near the modern village of Saqqara in Lower Egypt, just outside of the ancient capital of Memphis on the west bank of the Nile River. <ref> Lehner, pgs. 75-81</ref> By the end of the Second Dynasty the mastabas had grown in size and extended members of the royal family, as well as non-royal government officials, began to be buried near the kings in the royal necropolis.
The next step in Egyptian royal burial construction was to stack successively smaller mastabas on top of each other to create a “step pyramid.” The famed architect and scientist, Imhotep, is generally credited with being the “inventor” of the step pyramid as he was the vizier and “overseer of the works” under the first king of the Third Dynasty, Djoser (ruled ca. 2667-2648 BC). <ref> Wilkinson, Richard H. <i>The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt.</i> (London: Routledge, 2003), p. 111</ref> Not only was Djoser’s step pyramid the first Egyptian burial monument made of stone, it also provided a template for later pyramids as a “temple complex.” The king’s tomb was located beneath the 196 foot high solid structure, but all around it was a 5,397 foot long wall that enclosed the pyramid and several other religious buildings. <ref> Lehner, p. 84</ref> Essentially, the entire complex was dedicated to the divinity of the kingship god Horus and Osiris, god of the dead, who were merged with the sun-god in the pyramid. Besides the religious significance, pyramid complexes became economic and population focal points of the community: merchants and artisans all were drawn to them for various professional reasons. <ref> Lehner, p. 9<ref>
===The Pyramid Age===