Sun Tech Egypt

Egyptian Mastaba

Concepts & Structures

Sun Tech Egypt

This book is for those, aiming to take pleasure in the understanding of Ancient Egyptian civilization, and who wish to go further than the usual queries about travel and history in Egypt.
Will cover the meaningful structures, motivations, and conceptual ideas behind them, which significantly influenced the Pharaonic architecture.

Table of Content

01: Mastaba: Precursor to Pyramid Structure.

02: Mastaba. What? When? Where? And much more.

03: How Popular Were They? The Giza Mastabas Complex.

04: The Building Block of Ancient Egyptian Architecture.

05: Solar & Mortuary Temples: Mastaba Links.

06: Sarcophagus and Altars also engrained in Mastabas Concepts.

07: Pylons as well were based on the Mastaba design and believes.

08: Mastaba: Body Spirit and Soul allegorical Ideas.

09: Niches and Arches were the Afterlife world's gateway.




Mastaba: Precursor to Pyramid Structure

Mastabas (house-like Egyptian funerary buildings) eventually evolved into or/and influenced the construction of altars, temples, pylons (temple entrance towers), step pyramids and true pyramids of the magnificent Ancient Pharaonic Architecture. This leads to several important questions:

What caused Ancient Egyptians to spend their time and resources to create these structures?

Why did they carry out a project of such colossal undertaking?

What were mastabas were made for, and what did they actually represent?

How did mastabas, with their basic trapezoidal structure appearance, become the fundamental foundation of Ancient Egyptian architectural concepts and construction structures?

Why were arches and false doors, or niches, used to decorate mastabas?

In Ancient Egypt, mastabas and pyramids, in addition to serving funerary purposes, were also used by some as shrines or temples. It is thought that, by means of appropriate rituals and ceremonies, these places were capable of providing the necessary phenomenal connection to communicate with departed spirits, believed to be living in the sky or heaven. Mastabas and pyramids were thus endowed with specific qualities, such as being the "Steps to Reach Heaven", the means to sustain a spirit in its imaginary heaven, and other wishful thoughts.

Ancient Egyptians considered that performing magical rituals in a mastaba enabled the spirits of the departed to flourish and rise to the sky, or heaven. Consequently, the use of such assemblies allowed them to receive and enjoy heavenly benefits as a reward for their loyalty and work effort done during their lives. A magnificent compensation as promised by their Pharaoh, who was thought and believed without a doubt to be a God.

In addition, Ancient Egyptians also believed that were going to be able to reciprocate with other gods, hence creating a relation that permitted them to acquire other worldly advantages. These concepts were taken at the time to be real, useful and necessary for the afterlife.

The mastaba is the structural precursor form of a pyramid. In order to build a Pyramid, certain steps were taken. First, Ancient Egyptians, constructed a mastaba-like configuration to make the bottom platform, which included the total Pyramid's base area. After that, they proceeded to build another small-scale structure over the first finished structure, then continued overlaying mastaba-like platforms, one on top of the other, until the desired pyramid's height was reached.

The first step to building a pyramid consisted of making a mastaba-like structure as the pyramid's base.

The second step was adding another, similar but on a smaller structural scale, on the top of the first.

The third and continuing steps were done by adding as many terraces as necessary, repeating the above process until the required building height was reached.

This method was used to build the first Egyptian pyramid at Sakkara, where the superimposed mastaba-like structures are clearly visible. This is the reason why this pyramid is called the "Step Pyramid." The first pyramidal construction development project started at Sakkara, about 4,600 years ago. Although the original plan was to build a massive four-step terrace, sometime later, for multiple reasons, the architects changed the structural design by adding two more steps. This is the actual structure present in pyramids today. Without a doubt, this was a tremendous structural change, representing a significant technological challenge at that time; however, it shows that Egyptians already had a profound and well-grounded building capacity even five thousand years ago. They were able not only to build, but to satisfactorily rectify any unexpected construction structural problems.

Bottom line: A Pyramid is a multi-stage mastaba structure, built with the same intention, to perform ritualistic formalities and funerary ceremonial purposes.

The Step Pyramid: the world's first-ever pyramid, constructed in Egypt in the Sakkara memorial complex.

Sakkara was the Necropolis of Memphis, the Egyptian capital city during the Third Dynasty (twenty-seventh century BC) under the reign of Pharaoh Zoser, 2630-2011 BC. Sakkara is where architects devised one of the world's most substantial techniques, which totally changed the building's construction, and whose projection transformed methods of construction around the world for many thousands of years after. The Step Pyramid was an exceptional assembly over 60 meters height, with base dimensions of 120 by 110 meters. It was an astonishing and distinguishing creation, never seen before in the entire world. The Step Pyramid became one of the greatest historical Egyptian milestones for many centuries, which signaled the starting point of the "Old Egyptian Empire" during the Egyptian Pharaonic times.

Ancient Egyptians labored under the directions of the famous Vizier and High Priest Imhotep, who was one of the greatest wise men of Egypt's Pharaonic times. He was also known for his vast knowledge in medicine, architecture, and various other fields. His architectural discovery became the most tremendous change in Egyptian building structural techniques that ever happened, and was achieved by the simplest act of replacing the elemental building construction materials.

Imhotep substituted out the adobes, which were at that time the most reliable structural foundations of the entire Egyptian building system. Adobes are plain mud bricks, dried in the sun, and as such are limited in strength and durability when carrying out large-scale constructions. Thus, Imhotep came up with the idea to replace this mud component in bricks with stone, making stone bricks by cutting and polishing rocks.

This block innovation seems like such a small detail; however, it was a breakthrough of extraordinary significance. It provided tremendous support to the building's structure, which certainly was the most decisive factor that permitted the first Egyptian Pyramid to have that volume and height in construction.

It is also important to note that besides the pyramid construction, the oldest columns in the world, are also found in this remarkable ancient mortuary enclosure. This further indicates that Sakkara is most likely is the point of origin of this common building structure, now a crucial factor in many architectural developments. Columns are in use even today and are of much importance, because besides their valuable structural and ornate advantages, like the steps they also have ritualistic implications, as well.

A hidden afterlife concept existed behind all these great architectonical achievements, more than the just physical structure. Sakkara was a burial ground and not a regular city, where consequently, the Steps permitted a person to reach a much higher elevation height. A factor that might have motivated them to create that massive structure is the belief that after construction, the structural pyramid steps would become a gateway and the means for their spirits to rise to the sky. This was understood with the aid of the Pharaoh and specific rituals, made for that purpose by the Sakkara priesthood. Their teaching ideas, supported by creator God Ptah and kind God Osiris in the afterlife, were in connection with their mythological resurrection beliefs.


Mastaba: What? When? Where? And much more.

Typical stupendous stone brick mastaba structure. Like many others, it can be appreciated today, either at Sakkara or Giza Valley enclosures.

Mastaba by definition is the Arabic word for 'bench', but the word mastaba in Egypt is used to denote certain house-like funerary buildings, similar to present Christian mausoleums. These Ancient Egyptian rectangular, trapezoidal structures have a shape that resembles a bench, and were specially built at their ancestor's final resting place, so this particular name comes in handy. However, the word's original designation is generally ignored in present times.

The place where the first mastaba was ever built is still unknown. However, there is evidence that mastabas were built in Abydos (Central Egypt), which was Egypt's capital city during the first Egyptian dynasties, about 3111 BC. Egypt was ruled by Pharaoh Aha, whose territory at that time covered all the land on the side of the Nile River from Aswan to the Delta. Mastabas, from their earliest tradition, were already known to have the highest hierarchical burial status, meaning that their initial use likely occurred back beyond written history.

A mastaba was the utmost funerary symbol, a reminder of its power and achievements, which entitled a rightful and meritorious life after death in the other world. Pharaohs and a few notable others in the kingdom were the only few who could have the privilege of being buried in a mastaba. With time, this honor was expanded to a broader circle.

When did mastabas start to be built? It is also impossible to say, as this practice comes from too far back in time for written record. The use of mastabas during the first dynasties was extremely narrow, dedicated only to the Pharaoh and the kingdom's highest ranking personages. This implies that, in order to achieve that lofty position, hundreds or thousands of years could have elapsed since its first practice was put in motion. This first appearance of mastabas undoubtedly stretches back beyond the pre-dynastic period, challenging us to go further back in time. This factor makes it difficult to define or even recognize the first mastaba, as it might already have reintegrated into the soil. Because of this, the date of the first genuine mastaba is likely a fact that will never be known.

During Egypt's earliest times, mastabas, like houses, were made of papyrus-like weeds. Some buildings may have been built with wood; however, wood being scarce in Egypt, adobe bricks were likely the preferred material due to their consistency and climate isolation. Adobes are simple mud bricks dried in the sun, making them reliable construction items, but adobe bricks eventually recombine with the ground after a significant amount of time passes.

Therefore, stone mastabas had a resistant structure and used time sustainable building materials. In addition, their placement and alignment were related to the sky's orientation; these significant features exerted tremendous impact on the outcome of Pharaonic Egyptian architecture. Mastabas had the same essential role and functions in everyday life as a shrine or grave, that is, a final resting place. Thus, giving mastabas the appearance similar to everyday houses could be interpreted as making the mastaba a "House of Eternal Rest", or "House of Eternity," as the most currently accepted idea. This was one of the main reasons why mastabas were built.

Astronomy was considered "The Grand Science" at that time, as it was the most relevant and exclusive knowledge of all. Thanks to an understanding of sky mechanics, Ancient Egyptians were able to predict events like the weather, yearly seasons or river flooding with precision, as calendars can do today. These inevitable events became indispensable for organizing and planning their subsistence.

Because its shape and proportions are made using straight lines, a mastaba was represented a point in the sky where the sun traveled, or was interpreted as the sun's perceived trajectory. Thus, a mastaba's functional significance was also associated with the observation and tracking of sky mechanics. Mastabas provided a means to create a calendar with the help of shade and the sun's rays that pinpointed dates with more precision than even the complicated lunar calendar. Mastabas, in their practical daily use, were built as sky tracking observatories, while also believed to be endowed with the capability to communicate with the heavens.

Ancient Egyptians thought that these buildings were going to last forever. Therefore, believing that whatever was created on this Earth would be recreated in paradise, they also assumed that mastabas would be able to serve these purposes in the other world. Hoping to live forever, and believing that these observatory services were also necessary for the afterlife, they were buried inside mastabas to fulfill that wishful desire. In order to provide more significance and promote the need or desire for these constructions, divine, imaginary magical links were created to the afterlife, somewhere in the sky or heaven.


Mastabas had two different burial stages, one at the ground leveled dedicated to their spiritual counterpart, and the second subterranean level for their resting body.

A mastaba, since early dynastic times, presented two main features:
1- Ground level structures, where most of the edification and decorations were made.
2- A subterranean chamber, consisting of a boot-like shaft that ended in a room containing the sarcophagus.

The ground level was held in the visible rectangular, trapezoidal structure that was built on the surface of the premises. Its distribution was composed of multiple rooms and painted walls, as well as various other worshiping and ornamental matters. In addition, other rooms were built and reserved for services or housing gifts, offerings and deposits brought by visitors, who often frequented the mastaba. This was done with good intentions and concern for the wellbeing and support of that person's spirit in the afterlife, as it was customary in those days.

However, the central piece of respect was a chamber known as the serdab, which had a secret entrance. This off-limits place, where ordinary people were not allowed to enter, usually contained a statue of the deceased. The serdab was meant to be the most sacred room, the abode of the honored person's spirit, and accessed only by means of services and unique corresponding ceremonies requested in advance.

The subterranean chamber, a boot-like shaft ending in the sarcophagus room, used an underground layout that came into use during the Egyptian Dynastic period. These chambers were apparently created to prevent tomb desecration, making it more difficult for tomb robbers to get to the precious treasures, believed to be guarded there for all eternity.

In reality, this precaution was not very useful. Nonetheless, its practice continued for many centuries to come, which implies that it served an additional purpose. This chamber likely served as another imaginary blessed habitat, where the embalmed mummy was deposited and expected to enjoy a marvelous eternal resting life. It is reasonable to theorize that the Ancient Egyptians assigned two sacred areas to the mastaba, in accordance with their concepts or beliefs. This leads to the understanding that those underground features had additional purposes beyond just safeguarding the body.

The honor of building a mastaba granted its owner the privilege to be able to go through the magical embalming procedure, an effect that allowed eternal life to the mummified body. Eternal life was not meant for everybody, reachable only by good deeds and rich privileges. After the customary embalming to preserve the body for eternity, rituals of significant scale were performed to ensure the soul's wellbeing and an afterlife equal or better to what the individual enjoyed in this word.

Hence, is possible that by considering those means, Ancient Egyptians were able to separate the spirit from the body of the dead, in order that both components might live eternally. Thus, the spirit or soul of that individual was able to live on the upper level, representing the sky or air element. The mummy represented the soul's material counterpart and was buried in the ground below, on the earth or mother element, both soul and body together in paradise.


Through holes in this wall known as niches, or false doors, it is possible to look into the Serdab chamber, where the statue of the mastaba owner is placed.

The interior or inner plan, distribution of space and inner enhancements undoubtedly vary across all mastabas, as they are different in size, number of rooms and decorative motifs. Those features depended exclusively on their individual functions, and the personal achievements, financial capabilities or social status that the owners maintained during their lifetime.

Besides paintings and other ornaments, niches likely played the most important role in the mastabas decoration. False doors and windows, known as niches, were added to the building in order to carry out ceremonies for the spirit of the person who rested there. Niches were thought to be the symbolic entrance to the afterlife, or the world beyond. These niches were created in the belief that, with the help of appropriate services conducted on the premises, the individual's soul would be able to maintain contact with the living world. This connection was made by sharing or taking advantage of the offerings that were brought on each visit.

&The wall niche or false door pictured above has two drilled holes that go through the wall, which permits visitors to see into the exclusive space of the Serdab chamber. An adjoining chamber, where the statue of the mastaba owner carved in stone was placed, provides concealed access to visitors. This particular mastaba is located in Sakkara, a renowned, immense burial ground in Lower Egypt in the Memphis area. However, this mastaba is not a particularly ancient example relative to Egypt's history, as it was built during the dynasty that followed the Great Pyramids time period. Despite its relative youth, the mastaba shown above is very explanatory and illustrative concerning the use and practices of matters associated with the subject.

Initially, mastabas were thought to be nothing but an eternal resting place for family relatives. Mastabas were built with the primary purpose of housing the dead, similar to today's mausoleums. As time passed, however, gradually the practice of bringing food, oils, presents and other necessary offerings for the daily needs and enjoyment of the spirit of the departed person in the afterworld were added. Mastabas were then considered sanctuaries, a means to pay tribute to the person honored there. Thus, it was believed that the individual's spirit was able to interact with family, friends and others through the use of niches in the mastaba wall, conferring them the ability to sharing food, perfumes, and all manner of gifts and precious moments together.

For this reason, people contributed depending on their monetary capabilities, putting an all-out possible effort in order to thoughtfully ensure the necessary effort for matters of the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians believed that the afterlife was the continuation of this earthly lifestyle with enhanced living standards; their idea was that food and other pleasures were plentiful and of quality than in this other world. They believed that the righteous would live on in a perfect world after death, and could even interact with the people in this world.

They hoped that their actions would transfer any potential advantages that they could provide to their promised future afterlife, according to their beliefs. The offerings and tribute brought to the mastaba permitted the spirit of the deceased to enjoy a well-sustained life in the imagined supernatural world. It was believed that by exercising the correct rituals, the departed person was considered able to come back from the afterlife and engage with living persons.

The mastaba wall pictured above has been chiseled and painted with a niche, simulating a passageway by the door. However, this niche is only an imaginary doorway, representing an invisible entrance that is not possible to go through. It leads to a revered place, which is not permitted or possible to enter by ordinary means. This space is the Serdab, off-limits for normal, living human beings. However, the architects drilled two holes at eyesight level, which permits people to see through into a particular room endowed with imaginary sacred characteristics.

"Serdab" means, cellar, cave and even water in modern language, and in ancient times was a way to describe this afterlife enclosure. Since then, it became a place that was taken as "holy", imbued with afterlife individualities at the time when this mastaba was built (Fifth Egyptian Dynasty). However, the Serdab is an ancient symbol that originated far back in pre-dynastic times and lasted from there on, beyond the sunset of this marvelous civilization.

The Serdab most likely represented a spirit's dwelling place in the afterlife, somewhere in the sky or heaven, where the spirit of the departed mastaba owner was taking pleasure in his new existence. The mastaba owner is depicted sitting on a throne, and other similar personages are customarily represented. It is an allusion, suggesting that the owner holds a significant position of power in death comparable to and likely even greater than that which he once enjoyed in this Earthly life, as a reward for his meritorious deeds.

On each side of the niche is a shape that resembles an arch, where an image of the same personage is repeated twice on each side of the entranceway: once as an old man and the other young. Traditionally, both are facing each other or looking forward. These figures are painted on in the jambs, which are slabs like columns that sustain the lintel of the false door. In the above example both figures face each other, denoting opposite directions or polarity. This feature allows us to associate or compare this manifestation with Egyptian symbolic appearances in temples and other sites of similar importance.

The ancient architects were very likely demarking the east and west sides of the horizon, the imaginary start and finishing points of life. In addition, the double image of this personage is depicted at the center of the complete piece; the painted human figures are at the central level, in place of their hypothetical celestial bodies thought to have been acquired during the embalming procedure and other performed related rituals for the event. This feature clearly demonstrates their ideas about the concept of an afterlife.

The afterlife is theorized to have been composed of three different world divisions or states. The first, a dark world representing the underworld, the ground below, and the element of earth. The second, a kind of heaven where the spirits stand, representing the element of air. Finally, the third world, which likely represents the eternal waters where Ancient Egyptians believed that the stars to exist. This represents a place higher in the hierarchy, as it is shown in the illustration depicted on the lintel. However, since Ancient Egyptians had diverse imaginary worlds, this idea cannot be taken as definitive.

Conclusion: Mastabas and other architectonical elements of Ancient Egypt also were ornamented with niches, so that the living people who rested on this earth could have an offering place. Tasks such as bringing food, drinks and perfumes were all deemed necessary to treat their departed loved ones in the afterlife. Qualified people were assigned to perform the services and sacrifices for the well-being of the individual that occupied the mastaba. This was similar to going to a mausoleum today in order to pray and offer flowers to someone we cared for in this life.


Outstanding decorative paintings in a Sakkara mastaba wall.

This painting is an excellent decorative element. However, it's hard to determine whether it represents real-life event or ritual or a just a wishful desire for the afterlife. It's hard to grasp the exact meaning without knowing all the related beliefs and practices in the time period where these paintings were created.

This particular wall motif is estimated to have been created more than 4,000 years ago. We should take into account that situations and concepts change with time, even though they may look similar or even identical to familiar ceremonies. Thus, we must be cautious in our evaluations, as it is probable that the real meaning is quite different from today's practices and beliefs.

The mastaba acted as the utmost sacred family reunion center, where Egyptians called for spiritual guidance and advice from their ancestors. In addition, mastabas played an extremely influential role in relation to their owner's social set. Since not everyone was allowed to make a mastaba, only the elite were able to possess such a prominent acquisition. The standard interior setup inside of a mastaba marked the owner's social status and lifetime achievement.

The interior of the mastaba was decorated with paintings, statues and other decorative items in order to act as sufficient evidence for the social, political and financial position its owner achieved during his entire life. What's more, luxurious items were accumulated with the intention that the honored owner of the mastaba would enjoy them in the afterlife.

As a consequence, this often forced the owner of the mastaba to commit to deep financial expenses in order to display an elevated social and economic status. This was crucial, as the mastaba reflected their living conditions both in life and how they expected it to be in the afterlife they so anxiously waited for. This is similar to how many people today put all their hopes in an enchanting retirement.

The decorative motifs were intended to point to the most remarkable events the owner had experienced in his earthly life. The ritual representations in the above mastaba wall show the owners high-level social and sacerdotal status. This was done in order to allow the owner to communicate and share his most famed and glorious moments in life with social relations and family from now until forever after.

Vessels were of primary importance in relation to funerary decoration motifs, as boats played a vital significance in the Ancient Egyptian afterlife. Navigation was taken as a symbol of life continuing on forever and ever, and ships were thought to be a mandatory requirement in order to navigate in the eternal waters of the sky. Boats were used to continue on the sun's path at the other side of life, allowing the dead to carry on their march in the spiritual world. In the interior of this mastaba, were found several paintings of the daily and ritualistic lives of priests in ancient Egypt.

These art motifs show scenes of high-level ceremonial rituals, endowed with mythological allegories, depicted with remarkable detail in this particular premises. However, whether the painted vessels on the walls, represented a sailing experience in the owner's life, had a funeral ritual significance or a wishful desire for the world after, it's hard to determine.

These images were painted precisely, intended to be kept so their information could be transmitted in later times to future owners of the mastaba in generations to come. These motifs underwent minor stylistic changes, but overall experienced no profound thematic transformations throughout the time they were used during the Egyptian Pharaonic historical period.

In addition, besides participating in the events of the burial rituals, were other preselected commemorative dates. The members of the owner's family, clan or group, would continue to occasionally visit the mastaba, to honor the departed. And for such, the primary reason was to bring offerings to the mastaba owner for his well-being in the afterlife. Visitors came to this site for other matters such as family affairs or making significant decisions in relation to multiple projects or needs concerning their financial issues. Given that they believed their honored relative was always spiritually present in the mastaba, this was a way to substantiate their actions. This Act added more power and seriousness to the subject in terms of argument, deals or steps to take, in order to reach a satisfactory development of the matter at hand.


Vizier Ptahshepses' luxurious mastaba at the Abusir (Osiris House) royal complex north of Sakkara.

The mastaba pictured above is one of the most outstanding mastaba ever built in ancient Egypt. Its tall, voluminous and well-crafted papyrus-form columns at the entrance, and its interior, equally, present a great architectonical display. This mastaba is divided into multiple spacious chambers, ornamented to be a superb ceremonial enclosure. Ptahshepses' mastaba was one of the most significant mastaba built in Ancient Egypt during his time as vizier, serving under the Fifth Dynasty Pharaoh Niuserre (2445-2421 BC).

How Ptahshepses did come to power? Ptahshepses began his career as a priest, and when he reached an appropriately high distinction, was able to meet the Ancient Egyptians' living God, the Pharaoh. His rank gave him the license to touch a god, and thus, he became the monarch's hairdresser and manicurist. This position was, at that time, an immense privilege, as even being able to kiss the feet of the Pharaoh was an exceptional opportunity for a nobleman. In addition, his closeness to the royal family permitted Ptahshepses to marry one of the Pharaoh's daughters. This action raised him to one of the most exalted positions, as he became the vizier of Egypt and part of the royal family.


How Popular Were they? Giza's Mastaba Complex.

The Giza Valley necropolis complex is one of the most suitable places in Egypt for architectural sightseeing, as it hosts the largest number of well-conserved mastabas in Egypt. These mastabas represent a diverse collection of styles, techniques, and innovations all used during the same time period, which demonstrates the high popularity reached by mastabas at that time. This high level of effervescence occurred only at a sufficiently high social order level, during the peak of the "Old Egyptian Empire" period, also known as the "Golden Times".

Aerial view of Pharaoh Khufu or Cheops' "Great Pyramid" and its surrounding mastaba complex.

The necropolis surrounding the Great Pyramid is one of the major burial sites in the entire Egyptian territory, due to the numerous mastabas placed at the eastern and western sides. Pharaoh Khufu or Cheops' Great Pyramid burial complex represents perhaps the most significant period of this affluence.

This immense funeral compound or consecrated field was built only for one purpose: to be committed to the worship of a single living monarch or ruling emperor, rather than a supernatural stellar being, deity or God. However, Giza differs from that of Sakkara or Abydos, which also are enormous traditional burial fields from Ancient Egypt, where numerous older and later mastabas were built in early dynastic times. But were dedicated to a deity or God as temples are understood today.

In Sakkara and Abydos, these commemorative edifications are more dispersed since they were built at different time periods and were devoted to the worship of gods like Path and Osiris. Who can be considered stellar deities; however, should also be take in mind that initially Osiris was an Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh from the times of the earliest Egyptian dynasties.

The worshiping of Osiris came about only after his death and judgment in the sky or heaven, where he was endowed with the almighty heavenly powers. These gave him the power to resurrect the dead, and the possibility to return to this living world.
As time passed by, having presented this Osiris concept, people converted him into a legend. After his supposed resurrection, Osiris was turned into a deity or god, transforming him from Pharaoh into a river god. This, in time, made it possible for him to replace or fuse with Hapi, the Nile River god. After that he was associated him Anubis, the jackal-headed god of mummification, burial grounds and judge of the dead.

It was believed that this honor was awarded by the grace and magnanimity of the supernatural gods that live in the sky, who passed the corresponding judgment after his death. Osiris was unjustly murdered by his brother Set, and thus this earthly sovereign was transformed into a god, judge of the dead and ruler of the afterlife.

This ancient line of reasoning and the Giza mastabas arrangement leads scholars to believe that people at the time gave divine attributes to their monarch. Pharaoh Khufu (2589-2566 BC), better known by his Greek name Cheops, was the second king of the Fourth Egyptian Dynasty, ruling Egypt during the "Old Empire" period. At this time, a pharaoh that was thought to be a divine entity: the Sun God itself. This belief arises from accounts that, during this Pharaonic governing period, Egypt passed through an extraordinary period of abundant agricultural productivity.

This, combined with corresponding administrative effectiveness, made it possible for Ancient Egyptians to experience a time of great prosperity and satisfaction. Those circumstances, as a result, led the country to an outstanding period of economic growth, with the boom in business and trade lasting for years. This was accompanied by unparalleled richness, joy, and pleasures that were felt profound throughout the entire Egyptian kingdom. As production and distribution could not have occurred without excellent leadership, it is reasonable to infer that these feelings were reflected in the image of the Pharaoh, whose acts were taken as miracles at all times.

Consequently, the beneficiaries of such prosperity wanted to continue living in the afterlife, receiving heavenly benevolence from their Pharaoh for eternity. Hence, the people eagerly looked forward to being as close to the Pharaoh as possible in the afterlife, which was believed to be just a door apart from this world. As a result, they built their mastabas close to the Pharaoh's pyramid.

However, the existence of strict customs by the hierarchy line and family ties meant that only the most prominent nobles in the entire kingdom were granted the privilege of being able to build their magnificent mastabas. Whose location corresponded to the east or west side of Pharaoh Cheops or Khufu's pyramid.


Mastaba doors and niches were believed to be the entry to the world of the afterlife, the imaginary gateway to another dimension.

The privileged members of society were able to build their "House for Eternity" around the imposing central pyramidal structure. The honored deceased were also believed to receive the Pharaoh's immortal assistance and benefices. The Pharaoh was thought to be a sort of spiritual lighthouse, the central sanctuary and the sovereign of an eternal paradise. The people imagined a place shared by all the Pharaoh's loyal supporters, where they would continue to give and receive benefits from the Pharaoh just as they did on earth. For this reason, their ideas of life in the afterlife did not much differ from their present existence. They believed that death was just a continuity or prolongation of their earthly lives.

Ancient Egyptians believed that their ruler had the power to grant them an eternal life full of pleasures in the eternal world to come. As a result, it was thought that, when a Pharaoh died, he would become the god Osiris itself. They had no doubts that their master was a real God, the possessor of God Heru or the spirit of Horus while living, and the god Osiris in the afterlife. Thus, mastabas were an immensely powerful reward for all the good deeds that the people had done in favor of their ruler, during his reign in the living world.

For such, Ancient Egyptians were absolutely sure that their Pharaoh would meritoriously reward them in the afterlife. This made life after death better than it had been on earth since they expected to go to a heavenly world where all was perfect and splendorous. These beliefs were sufficient motivation to make the people spend most of their lifetimes trying to commit acts that would please the Pharaoh. These actions were performed to fulfill the hypothetical afterlife requirements; this was in contrast to their current living situation, which was far away from their luxurious imagination.

Therefore, many possessions that people acquired, even clothes and general items, were never used for any living occasion but saved for the afterlife. The best of their belongings were cherished, guarded with the idea of enjoying them with their many advantages in the eternal wellbeing after death. The people expected the afterlife to be far more valuable than their daily life. And as such they portrayed themselves in the tombs with the perfect age, the greatest health, and in high concurrence, wearing expensive clothing, perfumes and jewelry and delighting in excellent food and wine every day.

Giza Valley's colossal mastaba configuration, built with massive and well-polished stone blocks, reflects the level of accomplishment that these buildings reached at the time of their peak popularity.

While the practice of using stone blocks rather than adobe bricks began at Sakkara, this method came in vogue across the entire nation in a relatively short time after that. The spread of this practice indicates that after the discovery and use of stone blocks in the construction of building structures, there came about numerous experimentations with types of stone, size, forms, and techniques. This is evident in the burial grounds of Giza Valley, where a significant number of mastabas and a great diversity of styles can be found.

The implementation of a new construction material created considerable interest in this subject, which spread throughout the entire kingdom. A significant number of nobles and other personalities came from considerably long distances to build their own mastabas in the Giza Valley. They wished to be honored and benefit from being buried close to Pharaoh Cheops or Khufu's pyramid.

The construction boom and the popularity of building mastabas in Giza Valley attracted numerous local stand-out personages from different places in Egypt, who wished to showcase the acceptance and enthusiasm that motivated this new with stone brick technique. The vast variety of form, size and styles of the stone blocks reveals that these people brought the necessary materials from their own places of residence to use in the construction of their mastabas. This allowed for the development of various distinct building designs, which presented abundant modifications based on the individual's afterlife concepts and the type of stones and materials available in their area. The most impressive constructions were located at the front and back sides of the Pharaoh's pyramid. Each mastaba varied considerably in size, decoration, and style, with details that depended on the opulence and position commanded by the owner during his life.

Therefore, each province or city developed its own particular style, most likely to showcase individual regional concepts and to differentiate their local identities. This provides a compelling reason why there are so many building design differences and multiple construction characteristics at the Khufu or Cheops compound. Even so, however, all mastabas in one way or the other were built with the same idea: to participate in the afterlife.

However, as these mastabas were built during a similar time period, it is noticeable that some mastabas are finished with sharp corners while others are round. Pharaoh Cheops or Khufu had firm sun-worshiping ideas, represented by the building whose walls end in sharp angles; however, some present mastabas reveal rounded edges, which show a lunar or sky tendency. This shift occurred even when the Pharaoh had changed the access to temples from north-south to east-west alignment, denoting his firm Solar (Sun) worshiping tendency.

Nonetheless, there are no entirely circular mastabas, which would demonstrate a complete preference for sky beliefs. This fact reveals that in spite of allowing round corners, completely circular mastabas represented an antagonistic concept design. How could they be permitted to be built in such a compound? This is a part of history told by the mastabas, which reveal that this Pharaoh controlled his kingdom with an iron fist, imposing his will even over sky concepts. At the same time, he was tolerant and accepted others, living alongside other believers. On one side, war promotes bitterness and hate and killing carry suffering, desolation, and destruction; on the other hand, fairness, unity and organization bring construction, comfort, and stability.

Unquestionably, the foundations of self-satisfaction and real happiness came from realizing that this Pharaoh's burial complex was not built by magic, but through calculated human effort. Taking into account the primitive hand-percussion tools that were used to accomplish such spectacular work confirms that, with chains and slavery, nothing of this scale could be achieved. However, through sharing constructive ideas, incentives and tolerance, the whole world is at hand; this building stands as documented evidence of what was made in the Giza Valley. This is likely one of the many reasons why Pharaoh Khufu or Cheops is known as one of the most prominent Pharaohs that Ancient Egypt ever had. He also is known, as one of the most hated kings ever. Despite the controversy that Khufu or Cheops was intensely loved and continued to be worshiped as a god by many others for generations, likely throughout the entire Pharaonic times.

Another significant factor is that these mastabas showed differences in construction techniques and placement about the Great Pyramid. This provides valuable clues in matters of social differentiation as indicated by the mastaba's corresponding position in regards to the horizon and cardinal points, thus implying the widespread knowledge of astronomy science.

It is also possible to argue that these mastabas were made by different stoneworker's guilds, who were the only ones to master these arts and techniques during Pharaonic times. Incredible knowledge and know-how were required to learn to use this type of material and master the ways to cut, shape and polish the stones. Indeed, this kind of work required extensive details and time for learning, as well as developing experience and patience while using the instruments available at the time. These techniques were shared from mouth to mouth, transmission of knowledge that has passed through generations.

This talent category was restricted to select organizations, which kept their knowledge well concealed and mastered by only a few. Astronomy and stonework were, at that cultural time period, on the same level of understanding and secrecy as is today's space and atomic sciences. For this reason, mastering the know-how to direct the construction of a mastaba was an enormous privilege, awarded only and exclusively to members of a particular brotherhood or guild.

As stated earlier, accounts show that mastabas helped keep the essence of the people's belief in the afterlife as practiced at that time. Hence, a good reason why mastabas were built in the same area during the same time period. However, the varied elements also permit us to see that Ancient Egyptians did not share the same unified or homogenized conceptual beliefs concerning the construction of such buildings.

All of this makes it easy to deduce that, during the Fourth Dynasty in Egypt, there was an amalgam of conceptual ideas. That, although different, were widely tolerated and likely accepted, possibly thanks to the dominant image of the Pharaoh watching over his people. Most of these mastabas were built around his pyramid, which, without a doubt, acted as a symbol or axis of attraction and unification. Pharaoh's pyramid provided the most influential and fundamental goal that united the entire kingdom. Thus, permitted to create and perform works of great magnitude without equal, which impressed and caused admiration throughout in the whole world for thousands of years.

These groups were most likely located at diverse places throughout the kingdom, and each had their own methods and know-how for carving and polishing these hard materials. It is also possible that they did most of the work at home in their own region, and later transported the finished elements from various places to assemble and complete the building on the site.

Since the interior of some Mastabas present a double facade, thus, a feature that indicates a parallel double afterlife dwelling place concept.

Each mastaba had its own unique traits and characteristics, and to achieve this individualized image, architects added patios, columns, and many other adornments. This puts forth the idea that the owners were not much interested showing their economic affluence on the outside, as most of the exterior façade of these mastabas were constructed with a similar standard trapezoidal shape.

However, their interiors differ widely from the outside image, revealing no scrimping on cost. Instead, they present a much improved unique personal atmosphere. Indeed, mastabas can be seen to show two considerably different living environments, giving the impression of two living worlds apart.

For the reason that the interior and exterior designs were part of the same funerary edifice, in accord with that design concept. For such, points toward the idea that Ancient Egyptians believed in a sky or heaven, with two different dwelling environments. They are represented in this particular mastaba, which is likely replicating some imaginary place somewhere in the sky, displaying that the afterlife involves levels at different heights in heaven. This can be viewed about the concentric moon and sun's orbits as seen from Earth.

On the other hand, perhaps the owners were trying to hide their real economic achievements from the general public, most likely to avoid dangerous envy from others. They would thus avoid revealing their true wealth in the exterior facade, all to hide what they kept inside the mastaba to enjoy in the afterlife. This is also a reasonable explanation as to why mastabas generally present a simple outer wall that consistently maintains a particular trapezoidal shape, in contrast to the extravagant interiors. Inside, mastabas had different proportions, the number of rooms, more elaborate internal arrangements, and better furnishings. It follows that the owners might want to keep their wealth secret in respect for others less fortunate on earth, with whom they would share their true wealth in the afterlife.

The greater number of decorative and utilitarian objects and numerous value utensils in a mastaba were the reflection of the owner's economic state during his everyday life. Ancient Egyptians believed that by saving all their day to day artifacts required for this world and keeping them guarded in the mastaba, they would also play the same role as they had on earth in the afterlife. For this reason, many people did hold on their belongings and guarded them there, with the idea to enjoy their use during their eternal life. A privilege and compensation that were granted for all their efforts and services during all they effort and work done throughout, their everyday lives in this world. This includes the favor that they were expecting to gain from the Pharaoh.

The Giza Mastaba burial complex layout looks like today's modern cities; this is because it was conceived as a Necropolis (City of the Dead) circumambulating Pharaoh Cheops or Khufu's Great Pyramid. The complex involved a magnificent, well-planned urban design, with straight-line streets that ran from east to west and from north to south. Because of this, the Giza complex actually looks and feels like an orderly and clearly demarked modern city. However, the difference is that it was not intended for mortal beings; it was meant for the afterlife of spirits living in the world.

For this reason, Ancient Egyptians had no cities with the same level of pacification, structural consistency, comfort and luxury that can be seen in this mastabas compound. Even so, there were artists and artisan's villas built by those who created the ancient sacred Egyptian architecture like pyramids, temples, and mastabas builders, and so on. They were entitled to establish their own living and burial conglomerates; which often bore a resemblance to the referred necropolis.

Most of the people at that time, lived in tents or in houses made of reeds and Adobes. Which were more adaptable to the environment and provided a more comfortable living situation, due to the weather and other factors at that time. However, they were not particularly well-constructed. Evidence shows that the mastaba edifications were conceived with the sole intention or purpose of being the residence of spirits or souls in eternal paradise life.

It should also be taken into consideration that mastabas are laid out in alignment about the sky or the four cardinal points, and thus the entire city follows a checkered pattern. It is entirely possible that the whole town and each mastaba were built with a meaningful relation to the Sky mechanics. Therefore, was believed that such distribution and design planning offered option to convert it into a holy city, somewhere in the Sky or Heaven. It's likely that its significance goes beyond the mere idea that this compound was designed only as a resting place, as it had sky incumbency.

As a result, no living people would have been allowed to walk through it freely. The only possible ways to visit the site depended entirely on the visitor's individual qualifications, or if they had positive relations with a person buried in the compound. In order not to interfere with the well-being of the pseudo residents; obtaining permission, to enter into that holy place was absolutely crucial. Henceforth, was required the approval of the corresponding priesthood in charge of any of the necropolis complexes in the territory. This permission was likely granted after performing related rituals and providing considerable expenditures, to be able to achieve such honorable and strict indulgences.

Proximity to the pyramid, location, size and ornamentation were all subjects of significant difference in each personage's outstanding role in the Kingdom matters.

The many observable variations between mastabas' stone polishing and addition decorations show that there were significant differences in social status, wealth and family links or positions between the personages buried at Giza. All of the above factors would have played a role of prominent importance at the time.

Another factor is the mastaba's location about the cardinal points and distance placement assigned with respect to the central pyramid. In other words, both how close to the Great Pyramid the mastaba was going to be built, and the relative Street location, on the east or west side of the compound. The bearings about the cardinal points played a significant role in matters of honor and social status, and locations were assigned based on accounts of merits and relationship to the ruling Pharaoh or his family.

The high number of mastabas around the Great Pyramid was a practice that did not proliferate in the same way to other surrounding pyramids. It is hard to find a definitive motivation that clears that point; there is not enough data to explain whether this phenomenon was due to economic or religious reasons. Nevertheless, this was a noticeable trend that drastically transformed the area as Pharaohs were succeeded.

However, it is well-known that the preferred grounds for burial in ancient Egypt lay in the city of Abydos, the first capital city of Dynastic Pharaonic Egypt. As well, was the principal city consecrated to their God Osiris and his resurrection rituals. This was the place, where ancient families flocked with their deceased relatives, either bury them there if they had the resources or just to fulfill a wishful ritual. Which could be accomplished by bringing the lost family member to Abydos, for a short visit to the sacred city. These rituals were performed to endow the dead with an afterlife endowment, as accounted in the Osiris myths, before taking the body back to its hometown and completing the final burial ceremony at their own grounds.

The differences between Giza and Abydos might signal a distinctive fashion change, from human leaders, to stellar deities worshiping. A particular phenomenon that occurred during Pharaoh Cheops or Khufu's reign. Who, was a prominent leader, but this type of influence did lose its strength, as new situations and concepts changed by his descendants as he was succeeded.

Most mastabas in Egypt are still buried in the sands, along the winding course of the vast Nile River's western side.

It is commonly known that in Ancient Egypt, mastabas were kept with more significant care than people's own homes. However, as years passed by, all the people who were related to the mastabas burial practices eventually died. Once the families had been gone a long time, with no one left to take care of them the mastaba were abandoned to the multiple environmental hardships and the inexorable time that transforms everything.

Today, as the calendar continues to flip its pages, still remain countless hidden mastabas to be found or be lost forever and ever. These exclusive signs of power and pride were buried by the wind and sands of the desert that blow hand by hand together with the forgetfulness of time. These meaningful family symbols, which at one time had distinguished the owners from others with much honor and reverence, are definitively well hidden or have already integrated to the terrain, and entirely disappeared from view.

Mastabas' supposed inhabitants are now entirely forgotten, as many tons of sand and thousands of years have passed over erasing these supposedly endless dreams and all the reasons behind for remembrance and celebration. Now forgotten, completely ignored, since, Mastabas and owners rest in the land of oblivion. Because, even if found, they can not be entirely deciphered or interpreted exactly, as they were meant to be. Most of all, there are a countless number of mastabas still to be found if ever.

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