The fundamental motive of the pyramid is the funeral mound. A small upheaval above the natural level of the ground results of itself from the earth displaced by the bulk of the buried body. Our present practice of interment clearly illustrates this. Increased dimensions elevate the mound to an independent monument.
Many nations, some of a high degree of civilization, have contented themselves with such imposing hills of earth over the grave,–tumuli, which, from the manner of their construction, assumed a conical form. Others placed the mound upon a low cylinder, thus better marking its distinction from accidental natural elevations.
The Egyptians and the Mesopotamians rejected the cone entirely, and formed, with plane surfaces upon a square plan, the highly mon- umental pyramid. Peculiar to the former people are the inclined sides which give to the pyramid its absolute geometrical form, as opposed to the terraced structures of Chaldaea.
The sand of the desert ebbed and flowed fifty centuries ago as constantly as in our time, when the sphinx, after being uncovered to its base, has been quickly hidden again to the neck. Rulers, unwilling that their gigantic tombs should be thus submerged, were obliged to secure to them great height, with inclined and unbroken sides, upon which the sand could not lodge.