pyramid


pyramid
pyramidlike, adj.
/pir"euh mid/, n.
1. Archit.
a. (in ancient Egypt) a quadrilateral masonry mass having smooth, steeply sloping sides meeting at an apex, used as a tomb.
b. (in ancient Egypt and pre-Columbian Central America) a quadrilateral masonry mass, stepped and sharply sloping, used as a tomb or a platform for a temple.
2. anything of such form.
3. a number of persons or things arranged or heaped up in this manner: a pyramid of acrobats; a pyramid of boxes.
4. a system or structure resembling a pyramid, as in hierarchical form.
5. Geom. a solid having a polygonal base, and triangular sides that meet in a point.
6. Crystall. any form the planes of which intersect all three of the axes.
7. Anat., Zool. any of various parts or structures of pyramidal form.
8. Also called pyramid scheme. a scheme that pyramids, as in speculating on the stock exchange or writing a chain letter.
9. a tree pruned or trained to grow in conical form.
10. pyramids, (used with a sing. v.) Brit. a form of pocket billiards for two or four players in which 15 colored balls, initially placed in the form of a triangle, are pocketed with one white cue ball.
v.i.
11. to take, or become disposed in, the form of a pyramid.
12. Stock Exchange. (in speculating on margin) to enlarge one's operations in a series of transactions, as on a continued rise or decline in price, by using profits in transactions not yet closed, and consequently not yet in hand, as margin for additional buying or selling in the next transaction.
13. to increase gradually, as with the completion of each phase: Our problems are beginning to pyramid.
v.t.
14. to arrange in the form of a pyramid.
15. to raise or increase (costs, wages, etc.) by adding amounts gradually.
16. to cause to increase at a steady and progressive rate: New overseas markets have pyramided the company's profits.
17. Stock Exchange. (in speculating on margin) to operate in, or employ in, pyramiding.
[1350-1400; < L pyramid- (s. of pyramis) < Gk pyramís; r. ME pyramis < L, as above]

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Ancient monumental structure constructed of or faced with stone or brick and having a rectangular base and four sloping triangular sides meeting at an apex.

Pyramids have been built at various times and places; the best-known are those of Egypt and of Central and South America. The pyramids of ancient Egypt were royal tombs. Each contained an inner sepulchral chamber that housed the deceased (usually mummified) ruler, members of his entourage, and artifacts. The rest of the pyramid complex consisted of a large enclosure, an adjacent mortuary temple, and a causeway leading down to a pavilion. About 80 royal pyramids survive in Egypt, the greatest being those at Giza. American pyramids include the pyramids of the Sun and Moon at Teotihuacán, the Castillo at Chichén Itzá, and various Inca and Chimú structures in Andean settlements. These pyramids were generally built of earth and faced with stone; they are typically stepped pyramids and are topped by a platform or temple structure used for rituals, including human sacrifice.

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      in architecture, a monumental structure constructed of or faced with stone or brick and having a rectangular base and four sloping triangular (or sometimes trapezoidal) sides meeting at an apex (or truncated to form a platform). Pyramids have been built at various times in Egypt, The Sudan, Ethiopia, western Asia, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, India, Thailand, Mexico, South America, and on some islands of the Pacific Ocean. Those of Egypt and of Central and South America are the best known.

      The pyramids of ancient Egypt were funerary edifices. They were built over a period of 2,700 years, ranging from the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the close of the Ptolemaic Period; but the time at which pyramid building reached its acme, the pyramid age par excellence, was that commencing with the 3rd dynasty and ending with the 6th (c. 2686–2345 BC). During those years the pyramid was the regular type of royal tomb. It was not, as such, an isolated structure, but was always part of an architectural complex. The essential components, during the Old Kingdom at any rate, were the pyramid itself, containing or surmounting the grave proper and standing within an enclosure on high desert ground; an adjacent mortuary temple; (mortuary temple) and a causeway leading down to a pavilion (usually called the valley temple), situated at the edge of the cultivation and probably connected with the Nile by a canal. About 80 royal pyramids have been found in Egypt, many of them, however, reduced to mere mounds of debris and long ago plundered of their treasures.

      The prototype of the pyramid was the mastaba, a form of tomb known in Egypt from the beginning of the dynastic era. It was characterized by a flat-topped rectangular superstructure of mud brick or stone with a shaft descending to the burial chamber far below it. Djoser, the second king of the 3rd dynasty, employing Imhotep (q.v.) as architect, undertook for the first time the construction of a mastaba entirely of stone; it was eight metres high and had a square ground plan with sides about 63 m each. Once completed it was extended on the ground on all four sides, and its height was increased by building rectangular additions of diminishing size superimposed upon its top. Thus Djoser's original mastaba became a terraced structure rising in six unequal stages to a height of 60 m, its base measuring 120 m by 108 m. This monument, which lies at Ṣaqqārah, is known as the Step Pyramid; it is probably the earliest stone building of importance erected in Egypt. The substructure has an intricate system of underground corridors and rooms, its main feature being a central shaft 25 m deep and 8 m wide, at the bottom of which is the sepulchral chamber built of granite from Aswan. The Step Pyramid rises within a vast walled court 544 m long and 277 m wide, in which are the remnants of several other stone edifices built to supply the wants of the king in the hereafter.

      A structure of peculiar shape called the Blunted, Bent, False, or Rhomboidal Pyramid, which stands at Dahshūr a short distance south of Ṣaqqārah, marks an advance in development toward the strictly pyramidal tomb. Built by Snefru, of the 4th dynasty, it is 188 m square at the base and approximately 98 m high. Peculiar in that it has a double slope, it changes inclination about halfway up, the lower portion being steeper than the upper. It comes nearer than Djoser's terraced tomb to being a true pyramid. A monumental structure at Maydūm, also ascribed to Snefru, was a true pyramid, though not originally planned as such. The initial structure was gradually enlarged until it became a gigantic eight-terraced mass of masonry; then the steps were filled in with a packing of stone to form a continuous slope. The entire structure was eventually covered with a smooth facing of limestone; a geometrically true pyramid was the final result. In its ruined condition, however, it has the appearance of a three-stepped pyramid rising to a height of about 70 m. The earliest tomb known to have been designed and executed throughout as a true pyramid is the North Stone Pyramid at Dahshūr, thought by some to have also been erected by Snefru. It is about 220 m wide at the base and 104 m high. The greatest of the Egyptian pyramids are those of the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkure at Giza (see Giza, Pyramids of).

      Among American (Americas) pyramids the best known include the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacán (q.v.) in central Mexico, the Castillo at Chichén Itzá (q.v.), and various Inca and Chimú structures in Andean settlements. American pyramids were generally built of earth and then faced with stone, and they are typically of stepped form and topped by a platform or temple structure. The Pyramid of the Sun, with base dimensions of 220 m by 230 m, rivals in size the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza, which measures 230 m square.

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Universalium. 2010.

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