Tombs - Jesus' Burial, Egyptian Pyramids and Taj Mahal

Tombs - Jesus' Burial, Egyptian Pyramids and Taj Mahal

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A tomb is a house, chamber or vault for the dead. The original purpose of a tomb was to protect the dead and provide the deceased with a dwelling equipped with necessities for the afterlife. Tombs probably arose from the prehistoric practice of burying the deceased in their own homes. Eventually, tombs were replaced with graves and funerary urns, and the practice of building tombs died out during the Renaissance. Some of the most famous tombs in the world include the pyramids of Egypt, the Taj Mahal, the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina.

History of Tombs

The earliest tombs were actually houses. In many prehistoric cultures people buried their dead in their own homes with their daily effects, to provide a dwelling and necessities for the deceased in the afterlife. Later people began to bury their dead outside of their homes, but the tombs they constructed were still built to resemble houses. In the Stone Age tombs were typically shaped like houses, with two large vertical stones and another stone slab laid horizontally across them as the “roof.” They too were filled with tools, food and personal possessions necessary for the next life. In Ancient Greece and Rome tombs continued to be furnished with daily effects, but their purpose expanded beyond providing shelter and personal effects for the dead to providing an impressive visual memorial for the living. Ancient Egypt boasted the most remarkable of these memorial tombs: the Great Pyramids. Tombs continued to be constructed throughout the Middle Ages up into the 16th century, when churches themselves often served as tombs. By the Renaissance the practice of building tombs mostly died out in the West and was replaced by the practice of constructing monuments or memorials, often along with funerary urns.

The Egyptian Pyramids

The monumental pyramids of Ancient Egypt are perhaps the most famous tombs in the world. The origins of the pyramids were mastabas, Arabic for “benches,” which were mud or brick rectangular structures built over graves during Ancient Egypt’s First Dynasty (c. 2925–c. 2775 B.C.). The Step Pyramid of Djoser, a pyramid built by this pharaoh in the Third Dynasty (c. 2650-2575 B.C.), was the first mastaba to be made of stone and to take on the distinctive pyramid shape.

The most famous of the Egyptian pyramids are the three massive tombs of the Fourth Dynasty (c. 2575–2465 B.C.). These monumental pyramids built for the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure housed the royal mummies and their worldly effects thought to protect and be used by the kings in their afterlife. The Great Pyramid of Giza, built for Khufu, is the largest, soaring to a height of around 480 feet, and is the last standing of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is estimated that it took about 20,000 workers to construct the Great Pyramid over a period of about 20 years. The king and queen’s burial chambers are situated deep within the massive pyramid. Also part of the Giza complex are two mortuary temples honoring Khufu. Although the three pyramids have been looted over the centuries, extensive hieroglyphs and some surviving artifacts, such as jewelry and furniture discovered in the Giza pyramid complex, have helped archaeologists to learn about the Ancient Egyptian’s burial and religious practices, as well as their daily life.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In the case of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, which is thought to be the burial place of Jesus Christ, a church was built over a pre-existing tomb. A “sepulchre” is a type of burial chamber that is carved into a hillside. The church is also said to be the location where Jesus was crucified and where Christians believe he rose from the dead.

After Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome, came to power in 306 he ordered that the pagan temple built on top of Jesus’ tomb be demolished. Constantine’s engineers unearthed Jesus’ tomb, which had been carved out of rock and enclosed it in an edicule, or “little house,” and then constructed the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around the tomb. The church was dedicated in 336. Over the years, the church was damaged and refurbished several times. The Persians burned it down in 614, and then it was restored by Emperor Heraclius in 630. The Egyptians destroyed it in about 1009, and once again it was restored. Today, because of successive restorations and the influence of various Christian communities, the Holy Sepulchre’s architecture is a mix of aesthetic styles. According to an arrangement made in 1852 by the Ottoman Turks, who ruled Jerusalem at the time, six different Christian communities control the church, each with their own designated chapels within the space. This tradition continues today. The three main Christian communities are: the Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and Armenian Orthodox.

The Prophet’s Mosque in Medina

The practice of locating the tombs of holy figures within places of worship was not only a Christian tradition. Located in Medina, Saudi Arabia, the Prophet’s Mosque (Masjid al-Nabi in Arabic) houses the Islamic prophet Muhammad’s tomb and is considered the second holiest site in Islam (the first is the mosque in Mecca that houses the Kaaba, the direction toward which Muslims worldwide pray). Muhammad himself built the original mosque on the site, which he located next to his home. He constructed a pulpit there, from which he led the faithful in prayer. When Muhammad died in 632, he was buried in a tomb on the site. In around 706, Caliph al-Walid destroyed the original structure and built a larger, more ornate mosque on the site surrounding Muhammad’s tomb. Subsequent rulers expanded and renovated the mosque, and the Ottoman sultan Mahmud II built a dome over the prophet’s tomb in 1818 and painted it green, a color that has come to symbolize Islam.

The Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty

At roughly the same time that the practice of building tombs was mostly dying out in Europe, an exquisite series of tombs was being built in China during the Ming Dynasty. At the start of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), the capital was Nanjing, but the second emperor moved the capital to Beijing and chose a site 30 miles north of the city to build his own tomb. Thirteen of the 17 emperors of the Ming Dyansty were buried in this valley, along with their empresses and second wives. The Thirteen Tombs (Shih-san Ling in Chinese) were built over a period of more than 200 years, from 1409 until 1644. It took 18 years to build the first tomb alone.

The Thirteen Tombs are situated on a large complex, the entrance to which is a long path, a shen dao (spirit way), which is lined with oversized statues of guards and animals, real and mythological. The Ding Ling tomb is the most famous of the tombs and has been the most thoroughly excavated. It has three underground chambers, including the burial chamber, and thousands of artifacts, such as silks, jewels and utensils, have been unearthed here.

The Ming Dynasty is widely regarded as one of the most important eras in Chinese history, a time of great prosperity and progress in government. The Ming emperors established an impressive administrative system and army and oversaw major architectural projects, including the construction of the Forbidden City, the grandiose Ming palace in the center of Beijing. As a monument to the achievements of the Ming emperors, the Thirteen Tombs today continue to draw many tourists, who come to enter the tombs themselves and to view their artifacts in an adjacent museum built in the Ming Dynasty architectural style.

The Taj Mahal

The most famous structure in India is also a tomb. The Taj Mahal was built in 1638 in the Mughal style, an amalgamation of Persian and Indian architectural forms. Located in the northern Indian city of Agra, which was then the capital of the Mughal Empire, the Taj Mahal complex consists of a mausoleum, a main gateway, a garden, a mosque and a jawab, a building that mirrors the mosque. Notable for its Islamic domes and minarets, its symmetry and its refined decorative detail, the all-marble mausoleum and the exquisite gardens are celebrated as much for their elegant design as for the love story behind them.

The Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (“Emperor of the World”) built the Taj Mahal as the magnificent eternal burial place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. A description of the relationship between the ruler and Mahal, written by the royal historian, was extraordinary for its time. Recounting the deep and passionate love and friendship between the shah and his wife, the historian called Mahal the shah’s closest confidante and companion and described their extraordinary physical and spiritual compatibility. After she died in childbirth during the birth of their 14th child, Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in tribute to his inseparable companion. The shah survived his wife by 35 years and continued to rule the Mughal Empire until 1658, when his own son deposed him and imprisoned him in a fortress across the river from the Taj Mahal. The story of the emperor’s deep love for his wife and the exquisite mausoleum that is a testament to that love has lured visitors to the Taj Mahal from around the world for hundreds of years.

Funerary art

Funerary art is any work of art forming, or placed in, a repository for the remains of the dead. The term encompasses a wide variety of forms, including cenotaphs ("empty tombs"), tomb-like monuments which do not contain human remains, and communal memorials to the dead, such as war memorials, which may or may not contain remains, and a range of prehistoric megalithic constructs. Funerary art may serve many cultural functions. It can play a role in burial rites, serve as an article for use by the dead in the afterlife, and celebrate the life and accomplishments of the dead, whether as part of kinship-centred practices of ancestor veneration or as a publicly directed dynastic display. It can also function as a reminder of the mortality of humankind, as an expression of cultural values and roles, and help to propitiate the spirits of the dead, maintaining their benevolence and preventing their unwelcome intrusion into the lives of the living.

The deposit of objects with an apparent aesthetic intention is found in almost all cultures—Hindu culture, which has little, is a notable exception. Many of the best-known artistic creations of past cultures—from the Egyptian pyramids and the Tutankhamun treasure, to the Terracotta Army surrounding the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Sutton Hoo ship burial and the Taj Mahal—are tombs or objects found in and around them. In most instances, specialized funeral art was produced for the powerful and wealthy, although the burials of ordinary people might include simple monuments and grave goods, usually from their possessions.

An important factor in the development of traditions of funerary art is the division between what was intended to be visible to visitors or the public after completion of the funeral ceremonies. [1] The treasure of the 18th dynasty Pharaoh Tutankhamun, for example, though exceptionally lavish, was never intended to be seen again after it was deposited, while the exterior of the pyramids was a permanent and highly effective demonstration of the power of their creators. A similar division can be seen in grand East Asian tombs. In other cultures, nearly all the art connected with the burial, except for limited grave goods, was intended for later viewing by the public or at least those admitted by the custodians. In these cultures, traditions such as the sculpted sarcophagus and tomb monument of the Greek and Roman empires, and later the Christian world, have flourished. The mausoleum intended for visiting was the grandest type of tomb in the classical world, and later common in Islamic culture.

Tombs - Jesus' Burial, Egyptian Pyramids and Taj Mahal - HISTORY

A tomb is an enclosed space for the repository of the remains of the dead. Traditionally tombs have been located in caves, underground, or in structures designed specifically for the purpose of containing the remains of deceased human beings and, often, their possessions, loved ones, or, as at the tomb known as `The Great Death Pit' at the city of Ur, one's servants. The Natufian Grave in Israel, which dates from c. 12,000 BCE, contained the remains of a man buried with his dog. Tombs have always been considered the homes of the dead and every tomb ever constructed was built with this concept in mind. The tomb is the final resting place of a dead person whose soul, however, would live on in another realm. Personal artifacts or pets were often interred with the deceased because it was thought they would be needed in the afterlife. The construction of a tomb would also reflect the status of the person buried there and the beliefs of a certain culture concerning the afterlife. Ancient cultures from Mesopotamia to Rome maintained that the dead lived on after life and ancient stories concerning ghosts (such as the one famously told by the Roman writer Pliny the Younger in c. 100 CE) have to do with the improper burial of the dead. Ancient inscriptions from cultures as diverse as Mesopotamia, China, Greece, and the Maya all cite the importance of a respectful burial and remembrance of the dead and the dire consequences of failing to do so.

Tombs in Ancient Egypt

The most elaborate tombs in ancient times were those built by the Egyptians for their kings, the pharaohs. Early on, the Egyptians built mastabas, tombs made of dried bricks which were then used to shore up shafts and chambers dug into the earth. In every mastaba there was a large room for ceremonies honoring the spirit of the deceased and an adjoining smaller room, the serdab, where a statue of the dead person would be placed so that the spirit could witness and enjoy the ceremonies. The mastaba continued as a tomb for the common people but for royalty it was replaced by the structure known as the pyramid. Commencing with the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, the royal pyramids would reach their height in splendor in the construction of the Great Pyramid of Khufu at Giza (built 2551-2528 BCE). The royal pyramids were adorned with paintings depicting the life and accomplishments of the deceased king and filled with all those necessities the spirit would need in the afterlife in the Field of Reeds. Pharoahs were interred in the area known as The Valley of the Kings and their tombs were elaborate eternal homes which reflected their status as divine rulers.


Mesopotamian Tombs

In ancient Mesopotamia tombs resembled the mastaba generally but, as in Egypt, the tombs of royalty were more ornate. Archaeological excavations carried out in the 1920s CE by C. Leonard Wooley uncovered the Royal Tombs of Ur in which were found many exquisite works composed of gold, lapis lazuli and carnelian (most notably the diadem of Queen Puabi). In the one tomb, dubbed 'The Great Death Pit' by Wooley, the bodies of six guards and 68 ladies-of-the-court were found. It is thought these were the favored of the king and were chosen to accompany him to the afterlife. The Mesopotamians, whether south in the region of Sumer or north in Akkad, were so concerned with the proper burial of the dead that they often built tombs inside, or next to, their homes so they could continue to care for the deceased and prevent the problems which arose from hauntings (this same practice was observed by the Mayan culture which also maintained a deep-seated fear of ghosts). Personal possessions were always included in these tombs as well as gifts, even modest ones, which were to be offered by the deceased to the gods of the underworld upon arrival there. Kings, of course, were laid to rest with more elaborate presents for the gods as the grave goods excavated throughout Mesopotamia attest.

Tombs of the Maya & King Pakal

The tombs of the Mayan rulers were constructed in much the same way as those of the kings of other cultures in that they were opulent in both style and structure and filled with all the necessities one might require in the afterlife. The walls of the tomb of King K'inich Janaab Pakal of Palenque (603-683 CE) were adorned with images of Pakal's transition from the earthly life to the realm of the gods and he was buried in an elaborately carved sarcophagus reflecting the same theme. Though some have claimed the carvings depict Pakal riding a rocket and are, therefore, proof of ancient alien interaction with the Maya, this theory is not considered tenable by the scholarly community. The carving on the sarcophagus which appears to some to be a rocket is recognized by scholars as the Tree of Life which Pakal is ascending to paradise. King Pakal, like other rulers, was given a tomb worthy of his stature and accomplishments and is thought to have been constructed by his subjects who considered him worthy of that honor. The tomb of the first emperor of China, however, was begun before his death and was built by the conscripted labor of workers from every province in the country.


Chinese Tombs & the Mausoleum of Shi Huangti

The tomb of Shi Huangti in China contained over 8,000 terra cotta warriors, their weapons, chariots, and horses so that the emperor would have a standing army at his command in the afterlife. This tomb, which rises to a height of 141 feet (43 metres) was first discovered in 1974 CE in the city of Xi'an and has yet to be excavated because of the fear of the various traps Shi Huangti is said to have devised to protect the vast treasure he was buried with. Over 700,000 workers were conscripted to build the tomb which was supposed to symbolize the world over which Shi Huangti reigned and would continue to rule in the afterlife. Other tombs in China, not nearly so grand in size or scope, also reflect the belief that the deceased would continue to exist in some form in another realm and could continue to exert influence on the living, for good or ill, depending on how their remains had been respected and how their memory continued to be honored.

Tombs in Greece

In Greece, the tombs of the wealthy were closely linked, architecturally, to the modern mausoleum in that they were often ornately decorated stone buildings housing the reclining dead. As the Greeks believed that remembrance of the dead was necessary for the continued existence of the spirit in the afterlife, Greek tombs frequently pictured the deceased in ordinary settings from life (such as sitting down to dinner, enjoying the company of friends or family) in order to remind the living of who that person was in life. Greeks commemorated the anniversary of a loved one's death by visiting their tomb and conversing with them, always making sure to speak their name to show the dead they were remembered. In Athens, below the Acropolis, the graves of common citizens depict the same sort of scenes as those of the more affluent and always toward the end of remembrance. Soldiers who were killed in action were commonly buried on the field in mass graves and one single marker (usually a monument naming the battle and the date) served to honor the fallen. It was up to the living, however, to keep the deceased's memory alive and frequently a marker would be erected by an individual's family toward that end and would serve in place of an actual tomb at the anniversary ceremony of one's death. Tombs from the Mycenaen Period (1900-1100 BCE) are known as tholos, or beehive, tombs which are thought to have been derived from early Minoan architectural advances on Crete. One of the most famous of these tholos tombs is the Treasury of Atreus (also known as the Tomb of Agamemnon, pictured above) which was built c. 1250 BCE.

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Neolithic Tombs of Scotland & Ireland

The tombs in Scotland, such as the grave passage tomb of Maeshowe in Orkney, show a remarkable similarity to those of ancient Greece, particularly the tholos tomb. The Tomb of the Eagles (also on Orkney) dates to 3000 BCE and was found to contain the bones of over 300 people buried there over time. Among the skeletal remains of human beings were those of over 700 white-tailed eagles which have given the tomb its name. No personal possessions were discovered in either of these tombs but that absence has been ascribed to ancient looting of graves. The Neolithic tombs throughout Scotland were all very purposefully designed, as in other cultures, as homes of the dead in the land of the dead. At Maeshowe, for example, to enter the tomb one would need to move aside a great stone and then descend down into the chamber which represented the nether world. This same construction and ideology can be seen in the famous passage tomb of Newgrange in Ireland which is one of the oldest tombs in the world (pre-dating the Pyramids of Giza and the Mycenaean Civilization in Greece) built between 3300-2900 BCE. Newgrange, like Maeshowe, was carefully constructed to admit a single ray of light into the darkness of the inner chamber at the winter solstice and this, it is thought, was to symbolize the eternal life of the deceased. The oldest passage tombs in Ireland are in Sligo County with the largest megalithic cemetery at Carrowmore. Other tombs throughout Ireland (known as dolmens) are constructed much along the same lines as the Carrowmore tombs. The Brownshill Dolmen in County Carlow follows the custom of a burial chamber in the earth but is distinguished by a capstone perched on upright megaliths weighing 100 metric tons (thought to be the heaviest stone in Europe) and the tomb known as The Mound of the Hostages, in Meath, is similar to Newgrange in that it was constructed (c. 3000 BCE) so that the rising sun, on certain days, lights up the interior burial chamber to symbolize re-birth and the light of life.

Tombs of Ancient India

This concept is equally present in the tombs of India where, originally, tombs were caves or carved into rock cliffs but, eventually, evolved into mausoleums which celebrated the life of the deceased and ensured their immortality through remembrance by the living. Cremation was the most common method of dealing with the remains of the dead in India and, for this reason, tombs were not employed to the same degree as they were in other cultures. Hindu religious beliefs encouraged cremation and the spreading of one's ashes but, with the introduction of Islam to the country, the importance of the physical remains of the deceased was emphasized and tombs became more widespread as a means of honoring and remembering the dead. The most famous example of this, though not an ancient one, is the Taj Majal built in 1631 CE by Shah Jahan for his wife.


Roman Tombs & Catacombs

Tombs in ancient Rome followed the same course of development as in Egypt and elsewhere, beginning with burial underground or in caves and evolving into more elaborate structures to house the dead. Roman tombs also celebrated the life of the individual but, unlike those of Greece or India, often featured inscriptions rather than sculpture or relief whereby the deeds of the deceased could be read and recited. Romans were buried in cemeteries which were located outside of the city in order to mark the divide between the land of the living and that of the dead. As in Mesopotamia, the Romans feared the return of the dead and ghosts, unless summoned through divination for a specific purpose, were considered a potent evil. Wealthy Romans were interred with great flourish in elaborate tombs while those of more modest means were laid to rest in caves outside the city or were cremated. Cremation of the dead was the most popular means of disposing of corpses and, afterwards, the ashes were held in an urn which was kept in a place of honor in the household. The rise of Christianity, however, and the new belief in the bodily resurrection of the dead, led to a decrease in cremations and, simply lacking room for the deceased in cemeteries, catacombs dug in the earth, with shelves for corpses in the walls, became the most common form of the tomb in ancient Rome.

The Decline of Humayun’s Tomb

In 1556 the capital moved to Agra and the monument gradually declined as the expensive upkeep of the garden proved impossible. By the early 18th century, the once lush gardens were planted with vegetables by the people who had settled within the walled area. The capture of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 led to worse days ahead as the British took over and replanted the garden in a more English style, with circular beds. In 1882, an official curator published a report which mentioned that the main garden was let out to various people, including royal descendants, who had planted cabbage and tobacco.

Isa Khan Tomb in the Humayun's complex in Delhi, India ( AlexAnton / Adobe Stock)

By the early 20th century the original gardens were restored, but unfortunately, in vain. In 1947, during the Partition of India, the Purana Qila, the oldest fort in Delhi, and Humayun's Tomb, became a refugee camps for Muslims migrating to the newly founded Pakistan. These overcrowded camps stayed open for about five years and caused considerable damage to the gardens, water channels, and the principal structures.

In the coming years, the Archaeological Survey of India took on responsibility for the tomb, and gradually restored the building and gardens. In 1993 the monument was declared a World Heritage Site and restoration has been a continued ever since.

A small fee is charged to view this tomb complex and as the site is popular, it is best to book tickets online in advance.

Top image: Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi Source: jura-taranik / Adobe Stock

Egyptian and Mesoamerican Pyramid Differences

From time immemorial mankind has been obsessed with building huge structures for various reasons, especially religious ones, and also to show how clever they were and how advanced was the technology of their culture. Today, history repeats itself as modern sky scraper towers compete in height that dwarf the ancient stone pyramids of Egypt and Mesoamerica.

The Egyptians began it all some 4650 years ago, with the beginning of the Pyramid Age, lasting some 800 years, covering 2650 BC to 1850 BC of Egyptian history. This was a time of strong Pharaoh controlled central government of a combined Lower (deltaic) and Upper Nile region (south to first cataract), a distance of about 500 miles. The Pharaohs and citizens believed in life after death. It was important that each King was buried in a tomb enclosed within an impressive pyramid monument, with all the trappings needed for his soul to journey comfortably into the next world.

Today about 138 Egyptian pyramids are known with some being merely heaps of rubble and remnants of past glory. They are all found on the Western side of the narrow fertile valley of the Nile, and situated isolated on the adjacent hot arid desert plateau. Most famous and visited by tourists is the cluster of well preserved three large pyramids and three smaller stepped ones, as well as the Sphinx, at Giza, close to Cairo, the capital of Egypt.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the largest, measuring originally 146 metres high and 230 metres across the square base. Adjacent, is the pyramid of Khafre, noticeably showing an apex remnant facing of polished reflective white limestone. The third large pyramid in this cluster is that of Menkaure, half as tall. This site is considered to be a “Necropolis” with the pyramids being burial monuments, or being designed as a sort of “resurrection machine” for the Pharaohs to meet up with the Gods of the Heavens.

How do these wonderful Egyptian pyramids compare with those found in Mesoamerica and what are their differences?

Equally famous tourist wise are the Pyramids of the Sun and Moon located in the ancient Aztec city of Teotihuacan on the outskirts of Mexico City. The Pyramid of the Sun measures 222 meters across the square base and now is 71 meters tall, being built about 100 AD. Originally this stepped pyramid was painted a bright red on a lime plaster giving it a spectacular appearance. An imposing staircase of 248 steps allows tourists access to the summit platform where once existed a temple or alter, used by high priests to perform human sacrifices and other religious ceremonies.

The Pyramid of the Moon is a tad smaller but of similar height, being linked to the Pyramid of the Sun by the Calzada de los Muertos (Avenue of the Dead) some 650 meters away. The pyramids, plazas, temples and palaces make up the central feature of the ancient city of Teotihuacan, lying at an elevation of 2300 meters in Central Valley of Mexico. The Pyramid of the Moon was completed about AD 300. The ancient city of Teotihuacan spread over 20 sq km with a population estimated at 100,000 at its prime (ca 500 AD) making it then the largest city in the Americas. The city encountered economic and social problems leading to its decline and eventual collapse in the 7th century AD.

Given this synopsis of the Egyptian and Mesoamerican pyramids it is possible to point out their differences.

Importantly, they were built for different purposes, are of different design and are located in sites different with regard to the local populace.

The Egyptian pyramids were monuments containing the tombs of Pharaohs, or Kings and Queens with the idea of assisting their souls in moving on to an after life. The pyramids were often built as clusters (a Necropolis) quite away from civilization out on the desert plateau.

The Aztec and Mayan pyramids are different in the sense they were built as central features of a town or city, like later Europeans built cathedrals. Usually the large pyramids did not contain tombs of Kings, exceptions being the temple pyramid at Palenque in Chiapas State, and at Tikal, Guatemala.

There is a continuous architectural design of Mayan temples from flat sprawling one or two floor ones to those having a stepped pyramid shape to larger pyramids having stepped faces but always with the top truncated allowing space for a little temple or alter. Access to the top was by means of an imposing stairway on one or more sides of the pyramid. The purpose of this design was a religious one but different from the Egyptians. Religious ceremonies often involving human sacrifices were performed on top to appease their Gods, particularly the Sun God and the Rain God, to break a drought or ensue a forth coming plentiful harvest. Secondly, massive human sacrifices were sometimes performed on captured enemies. In a sense the large Aztec pyramids were a “fear machine” used for keeping the populace under control by the rulers.

The Great Egyptian pyramid was built by the stacking of limestone blocks averaging 2.5 tons in weight. This allowed for easy construction of internal passages and burial chambers which were lined with granite and basalt blocks. The Aztec and Mayan pyramids, or temple pyramids, were built from piles of rubble with an outer layer of limestone blocks or volcanic rock, hence they are mostly solid rock with few internal features.

The Pyramid of the Sun contains 3 million tons of rock material and was built without the aid of metal tools, pack animals or the wheel! Excavation of some temple pyramids has revealed a multistage construction whereby the steps of the original pyramid have been filled with rubble to expand its size and height, often done three or four times. The angle of slope is 32 degrees to the horizon compared to 52 degrees for the pointy Egyptian Great pyramid, which means that the Pyramid of the Sun is only half as high, but has the same base area. This is a necessary result of the different structural design.

Mayan and Toltec temple pyramids abound in the waterless limestone lowlands of the Yucatán Peninsula, where at Chichén Itzá is the wonderful example of “El Castillo” pyramid of multiple construction and 25 meters tall, built about 800 AD. It represents the Mayan calendar in stone. Further south in the tropical forests of Guatemala is the ancient city of Tikal having four temple pyramids of very steep design that poke up above the jungle canopy, the highest being Templo IV at 64 meters. Finally is the famous Mayan site at Copán Ruinas in Honduras where the temple pyramids and stairways are adorned with carvings and hieroglyphics recording the history of the region during the Classic Period (AD 250 to 900).

In summary, Egyptian pyramids are the steep pointy ones built as monuments to hold the tombs of Kings and Queens. The Mesoamerican pyramids were multipurpose, stepped temple-pyramids, usually more gently sloped and having an outer stairway to the top.

The Tomb of Humayun: The Garden Tomb that Inspired the Taj Mahal

The first garden-tomb that was constructed in India was the spectacular Tomb of Humayun devoted to the second Mughal Emperor. So magnificent was the monument, that it came to inspire major architectural innovations throughout the Mughal Empire, including the world-renowned Taj Mahal in Agra, built about a century after Humayun’s Tomb. The construction of this monument symbolizes the peak of Mughal garden-tomb construction.

A monument built in 1572 by Bega Begam in memory of her husband, Humayun. Photo by: Shailabh Suman, 2014. ( Wikimedia Commons ).

The emperor Humayun lived during the 16 th century. Upon his death in 1556, Humayun was first buried in Purana Quila, a fort in Delhi. When the fort was captured by the Hindu emperor Hemu, Humayun’s body was exhumed by the fleeing Mughals, and transported to Kalanaur in Punjab. In 1569/70, 14 years after Humayun’s death, his first wife, Bega Begum, commissioned a tomb in Delhi for her late husband. The man responsible for designing the tomb was Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, a Persian architect chosen by Bega Begum. It is perhaps thanks to Ghiyas that the tomb was heavily influenced by Persian architecture.

Portrait of Bega Begum (Hamida Banu Begum), whom had the tomb built for her late husband, Humayun. Circa 19 th Century. (

The garden, which the tomb is set in, symbolizes the Garden of Paradise, and has its origins in Persian char bagh (meaning ‘four gardens’). During the reign of Humayun, this garden layout, also known as the Mughal garden was such a novelty in India, that its design became replicated throughout the Mughal Empire.

The Persian-inspired gardens surrounding Humayun’s final resting place are divided into four parts by causeways. At the centre of each causeway is a shallow water channel, which is connected to pools. The entrances to the enclosure are situated on its south and the west sides, and exist in the form of double-storeyed gateways. Additionally, there is a baradari (pavilion) and a hamman (bath chamber) that occupy the centre of the eastern and northern walls respectively. In the middle of the garden is a 7 m high square terraced platform raised over a series of cells. These cells are accessible through small arches along the sides. It is on this platform that the actual tomb of Humayun is located.

The actual tomb site where Humayun lies buried. Photos by: Jyotsnav, 2013. ( Wikimedia Commons )

The tomb itself is a double-storey structure built of red sandstone. Although the monument’s plan is a square, its chamfered sides give it the appearance of an irregular octagon with four long and four short sides. The building is topped by a Persian double dome (the first Indian monument to use such an architectural technique), which is 42.5 m in height. This dome is flanked by chhatris (decorative pillared kiosks), which are a distinct Indian architectural feature. Yet, these architectural elements from two distinct cultures complement each other harmoniously, and is an example of the synthesis between Persian and Indian architectural styles.

The interior of the structure is a large octagon. At the centre of this octagon is the grave of Humayun, which is accessible via a passage on the south. Above the octagon are vaulted roof compartments interconnected by galleries and corridors. In addition to Humayun, the graves of other members of the royal family can be found in the structure. These are located in the corner-chambers at the diagonal sides of the central chamber. It has been claimed that there are about 150 graves in total, hence its description as a ‘necropolis of the Mughal dynasty’.

Humayun’s family members are also buried here. Photo by Dennis Jarvis, 2007. ( Wikimedia Commons )

By the latter half of the 20 th century, the Tomb of Humayun was in a state of disrepair, as the masonry and stonework were broken and cracked, and the gardens were run down. It was in 1997 that restoration of the garden surrounding the tomb was undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, and was completed in 2004. In 2007, however, a project for a six-lane link from the National Highway-24 was proposed. This threatened the Tomb of Humayun, as it increased pollution, and brought traffic much closer to the monument. As a result of opposition, the project was abandoned. In the same year, further conservation work was carried out on the Tomb of Humayun, bringing the grand monument back to its former glory.

In June, 2018, there was great excitement among archaeologists and conservationists, who discovered hidden Mughal treasure near Humayun's tomb – paintaings in blue, yellow, red, white, and gold, which had been hidden beneath layers on the domed ceiling of Sabz Burj, a 16 th century Mughal monument near Humayun's tomb. It was the first time early 16 th century wall paintings were found on a monument in Delhi.

The Tomb is Empty - Matt. 28:1-10

Tombs, graves, cemeteries, burial places

Every town in Australia – from major cities to your average one horse – 4 pub outback town

They call them the dead center of town

In my family, we have a running joke that when we drive past a cemetery, someone asks, ‘How many people are dead in that one?’

But it’s true isn’t it – tombs are for people who have died,

And wherever you travel around the world – you’ll find more.

Every nation under the sun has devised means of ‘entombing’ the remains of our dearly departed.

Some of these tombs have become major tourist sites because of the importance of the person buried there.

And some are totally majestic pieces of architecture – places like the…

Pyramids and Tombs of Egypt

Lenin’s Tomb - Red Square in Moscow

Tombs of the Ming Dynasty in China

South America – Tombs of the Incas and the Aztecs.

All of these tombs – as well as the graves of our own loved ones – are sacred because of who or what they contain.

But I want to say to you that the Most sacred – the most important tomb and the one that has had the greatest impact in our world by far – is a simple unmarked cave somewhere near Jerusalem.

Why is this tomb so great – so important?

Not because of the remains of the person who was buried there – not because it is an important piece of architecture.

This tomb is important simply because it is empty.

The person who occupied it – Jesus, a humble carpenter of Nazareth, is no longer there In fact he only had a really short lease on the place.

This humble carpenter was executed for making extravagant claims. He claimed to be the Son of God

From the day of His crucifixion (Good Friday) - To that first Easter morning – the day we now know as Easter Sunday,

only three days had elapsed – Three days for the humble carpenter of Nazareth to rise form the dead and check out of His tomb.

And now His tomb stands empty:

An empty tomb – which has become the foundation upon which our faith is built.

An empty tomb – a sign for us that God’s plan of salvation is complete.

An empty tomb – which stands as an unshakable testimony that Jesus of Nazareth is who He said He was – the Son of God and the Savior of all who believe.

And because of that empty tomb - the world has never been the same.

But for many people on that first Easter morning, the world was no different than it had always been.

Except for a handful of women and the remaining 11 disciples, no one really cared about the humble carpenter of Nazareth.

But gradually, over the past 2000 years, His followers have grown in number until over half of the world’s population claim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives.

As Max Lucado writes in his book – ‘He chose the nails’, ‘Jesus was a backwater peasant. He never wrote a book, never held an office. He never journeyed more than two hundred miles from His hometown. Friends left Him. One betrayed Him. Those He helped forgot Him. Prior to His death they abandoned Him. But after His death they couldn’t resist Him. What made the difference?’

The answer: ‘The Tomb was Empty’

When He died so did our sin – When He rose so did our hope.

No other religious leader, no other person in the history of the world can make that claim.

Because Jesus rose from the dead – so will we.

We can look our ancient enemy death, straight in the eye and say, I’m not scared of you.

Christians don’t stay in their tombs when they die.

Neither are they meant to live in tombs while they are alive.

But I hear you say to me – Back up the hearse there a minute, I don’t live in a tomb!

The truth is that from time to time we all live in tombs – some we create ourselves – some are created for us by others.

The book of Genesis contains the story of a young boy named Joseph – a boy with big dreams.

His brothers didn’t care much for him or his dreams and so they thought up a way to get rid of him.

Firstly, they threw him into a pit (a kind of tomb) and told their father that he was dead.

But God had plans for young Joseph and he didn’t die in the pit – instead he was sold as a slave to an Egyptian family.

6. One of the New ‘Seven Wonders of the World’

What do you do when “The Great Pyramid of Giza’, the largest and oldest of the three pyramids at the Giza Necropolis in Egypt remains the only surviving of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? You have to form a new list with the existing great world monuments.

New7Wonders of the World was a campaign started in 2000 to choose Wonders of the World from a selection of 200 existing world monuments. It was done on popular poll led by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber and organized by the New7Wonders Foundation based in Zurich, Switzerland, with winners announced on 7 July 2007 in Lisbon. Taj Mahal received more than 100 million votes to its credit.

Some Egyptologists believe that immediately before Tutankhamun’s reign in the fourteenth century bc, Nefertiti, whose daughter was married to Tutankhamun, briefly ruled as pharaoh. Her tomb in the Valley of the Kings has never been found.

The only reason Tutankhamun’s tomb remained relatively intact (it was actually broken into twice in antiquity and robbed) was that it was accidentally buried by the ancient workers who built the tomb of Ramesses VI (1145-1137 BCE) nearby.

The Empty Tomb

World talks about famous tombs. They remember the greatest monuments whether it’s the pyramids, some shrine or one of the Wonders of the World – our very own Taj Mahal, which are the burial places of some famous people. People remember the builder and the monument. Now, Jesus is one of the most remarkable person in history (and in His remembrance the history is divided in A.D. and B.C.). Then where is His tomb? Why is it not famous? Why is it that history don’t talk much about it?

Yes, it would have mattered to us (those who believe and follow Christ) to ask the question if we would have let our hopes buried with Jesus. But see what the scripture says to the women who was searching Jesus in the tomb where His body was laid- In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here he has risen!” Luke 24:5-6.

He is risen, he is no more dead. He is alive and because of Him, death is defeated and all those who believe in Him will taste no death (spiritually) as He has promised.

Why should I believe in Christ?
He is the only person who is victorious over death. When He tells us from experience that we can trust Him and take His word to be true, we must listen to Him. History records very categorically that He is alive and after resurrection, for forty days, He met His disciples at different places. And that is the living hope all who believe in Christ Jesus that He is alive and as He promised because He lives, we also will live.(John 14:9b) The disciples gave their lives to preach Jesus crucified- that He is risen and He is the Lord of the world. The world mocked them, killed them, persecuted them, stoned them and crucified them but the truth never dies. The world remembers them and we know the promise. And those who believe in Christ know very well that He is alive and He cares for us.

Our hope is forever alive because our savior lives and reigns forever more. We invite you to meet the Man- Jesus Christ, who defeated the death and who needs no tomb as symbol of remembrance. Because He lives you can have a relationship with Him.

Modern Funerals for the Rich and Famous

Modern funerals are considerably less expensive than what happend in day of old, but compared to your average person’s funeral, they can still be fairly over the top.

John F. Kennedy

When President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, it took the nation by surprise and caused a four-day countrywide mourning stretching from the Friday of his assassination until his burial the following Monday. Television stations ran footage and news of Kennedy’s assassination and funeral non-stop for the entire weekend. It is estimated the cost of the funeral was $4 million but the overall cost, including the amount of money that the television stations lost in ad revenue, was over $40 million.

Princess Diana

Very few funerals receive the amount of spectators as Princess Diana’s televised ceremony in 1997. Watched by 2.5 billion people, the beloved former member of British royalty’s funeral began with a four-mile-long procession stretching from Westminster Abbey to Kensington Palace. It’s estimated that at the time, the funeral cost $8 million.

Michael Jackson

Although still impressive for the average person, Michael Jackson’s funeral in 2009 surprisingly cost just $1 million. The majority of the price ($590,000) went towards his final resting place in a marble crypt but $25,000 was also spend on a bronze and gold plated casket. The typically extravagant singer’s funeral was held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, broadcast on television and featured an array of celebrities.

Most funerals are significantly less expensive that the ones listed above. Funerals Your Way by offering honest and transparent pricing we are able to effectively manage costs for our families. We encourage you to take a look at our online easy pricing.


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