Teacher's Guide for DIG TM Pyramids

September 2006 Issue

This guide was prepared by Lisa Greenberg


Set aside a table or corner of the room with materials about ancient Egypt, including, if possible, multimedia information on religion, daily life, pyramids, and royal family. Encourage students to explore these resources in small groups.


Anatomy of a Pyramid/Khufu's Grand Gallery

ORGANIZATION SKILLS: Steven Snape invites readers to work with him to understand what the construction of Khufu's pyramid tells about its purpose. Explore the information in the article with the students by making two lists (see example below):


(Example) Burial chamber Pyramid built as tomb

COOPERATIVE LEARNING: have students work in small groups of on a project of their choice:

Who was Khufu?

RESEARCH; Inform students that Khufu is also known as Cheops. If students have Internet access at school or at home, challenge them to discover five facts about Khufu for homework. Then have groups of four to five list their unique (not repeated) facts to share with the class.

THINKING SKILLS: Discuss: Why did Khufu have a bad reputation? Who gave it to him? Which facts indicate that he should not have had such a bad reputation in history? 

The Tale of Prince Hardjedef

DRAMA: Have a small group enact this story for the class.

Why Giza?


    1. Why was Khufu's pyramid sited on the Western side of the Nile? (according to Egyptian religious tradition, the sun died in the west and was reborn in the east; since the Egyptians believed in an afterlife, they were buried on the west bank so that they could travel with the sun through the night and be reborn in the morning)
    2. Why did Khufu want a large space? (he needed enough land for an entire burial complex for his wife, mother, other members of his family, and court members)
    3. Why was the desert a good place to build tombs? (climate - high and dry; availability of building materials, such as stones; prioritizing land use - the desert couldn't be used for growing food)
    4. Why did Khufu choose a site close to Memphis? (Memphis was the center of government and a transportation center; its chief god Ptah was also the god of craftsmen who would be involved in decorating the pyramid.)
    5. Why did Khufu want a site close to Heliopolis? (Heliopolis was sacred to the sun god Re, the most important god in Egypt at the time; the writer suggests that perhaps Khufu wanted his pyramid to have a view of Heliopolis.)
    6. How did the choice of building materials influence Khufu""'s decision to build in Giza? (The Giza plateau was close to the rock material needed and close to the Nile, which was used to transport materials for the pyramid.)
    7. What did Khufu build on the Giza plateau in addition to his own pyramid? (Smaller pyramids for the women in his family; cities of the dead or cemeteries for family and courtiers.)
    1. What is a mastaba? (It is a rectangular room, in shape similar to a bench, built of limestone; its interior holds images of the dead person and food for offerings as well as the coffin of the deceased.)

What Were the Egyptians Thinking When They Dug the Boat Pit?

CLASS DISCUSSION: Encourage students to expand on their answers and to respond to each other.

  1. What role did luck or serendipity play in the discovery of the boat pit? What role does it play in archeology in general?
  2. What has the boat taught archeologists and historians? 
  3. Why do you think the boat was taken apart into its 1,224 pieces? Explain your reasoning.
  4. What skills do you think the boat restorer needed to do his job? Explain your answer.
  5. How did the ancient Egyptians make their boats watertight? How have other cultures have made their boats waterworthy?
  6. Why do some people think the boat was made at Giza and others think it was made elsewhere?
  7. What significance does the boat have in the Egyptian understanding of the after life?

ART AND TECHNOLOGY: Encourage students interested in model-making and drawing to replicate a small boat for display in the classroom.

Khufu's Neighbors

EXPOSITORY WRITING: Explain the basic structure of a compare and contrast essay and teach the techniques needed for writing a compare and contrast essay . Have students write a first draft of an essay which compares and contrasts the three Giza pyramids. You may wish to encourage the use graphic organizers, such as lists of similarities and differences or Venn diagrams.

If time is available, you may wish to distribute a checklist or rubric for compare and contrast essays and develop peer editing skills among your students.

Life in Khufu's Time

ART INTERPRETATION/THINKING SKILLS/CREATIVE WRITING: Before reading the article, review two photographs of the servant statues. What do they tell students about life in ancient Egypt?

Have students brainstorms jobs in ancient Egypt and list their suggestions on the chalkboard or chart paper.

Have students read the article and then either write a journal entry about their day in ancient Egypt that clearly tells what their work is and what it involves OR prepare and present a short skit about working in ancient Egypt using the material in the article.

The End of an Era


Have students read the article in class or for homework and write three questions they have about the article information. Use the best questions for a class discussion of the article. 

Mysterious Doors 


Why did the archeologists become interested in the airshafts? (more ventilation was needed to reduce humidity)

Why was a robot needed? (The airshaft was too narrow for a person)

What stopped the robot? (a fitted limestone door)

How will archeologists solve the problem of the limestone doors? (through a mix of archeology and technology; by using a more advanced robot; by taking pictures of what lies beyond the door)

CREATIVE WRITING: Have students imagine themselves into the future, when the next robot goes through the "mysterious doors". What will be discovered? Encourage students to set the scene, create at least three characters with different personalities, build a climax in the story, and surprise the reader!

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