The pyramids of Egypt are such recognizable symbols of antiquity that for millennia, people have made assumptions about what they are and why they exist, without full consideration of the various meanings these ancient symbolic structures have had over the centuries. Generations have viewed them as symbols of a lost past, which in turn is often portrayed as a world full of romance and mystery. This verbal meaning has become associated with the structures through the tourism industry, where intrigue obviously boosts ticket sales. In fact, the Egyptian pyramids are so old that they were also drawing tourists even in ancient times. In antiquity, the Great Pyramid of Giza was listed as one of Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, and it is the only one still surviving today.
The age and structural integrity of the pyramids also make them symbols of longevity and power, which is only fitting because those are two purposes the ancient pharaohs who commissioned these works intended them to serve. For the pharaohs, the construction of these large monuments presented an opportunity for them to showcase their influence and become something to be remembered by, both in the society they ruled and in the annals of history that would follow. Even as new dynasties came and went, and even as Egypt was subjected to foreign domination and rulers from across the world, the pyramids have continued to stand as a prominent testament to ancient Egypt’s glorious past.
While the Great Pyramid of Giza is the most recognizable, the tradition of pyramid building was a long one in ancient Egypt occurring over hundreds of years, with techniques developing and improving, only to be forgotten and lost again. As a result, even as subsequent generations contributed new large-scale construction programs that changed the face of Egypt, they did so in quite different manners.