KS2 History: Ancient Egypt. Pyramids

Exploring pyramids in Ancient Egypt - their construction, purpose and the ways they evolved before falling out of fashion.


This video gives pupils an understanding of the pyramids of Ancient Egypt and what we know about how they were built.

It helps to unearth some of the mysteries surrounding the pyramids and why they were important to the Ancient Egyptian people.

As the video progresses we see in more detail the process of mummification and what exactly went into a pyramid once it was built.

We also explore a key source which in this video is the set square and plumb line. This source is a tool that was used to ensure the pyramids were built level and accurately, giving them the strength that has kept many of them standing to this day!

We chart the how the design of pyramids evolved over time as building methods and the preferences of the pharaohs changed.

The video explains some of the mysteries surrounding the design and building of the pyramids, but reminds pupils that the Ancient Egyptians wanted some of the elements to remain a mystery.


Using the set-square and plumb line
Canopic jars

Teacher's Notes

This video gives a snapshot of Ancient Egypt and how important the pyramids were to the people of the time. It provides a platform to discuss faith and belief and how important the pharaohs were in Ancient Egyptian life and culture.

It can be used to help pupils understand how we find out about the past and the role of sources in this exploration. We find out how the pyramids were built and this provides a platform for investigation in Science in relation to forces and the properties of materials.

The video provides an opportunity for pupils to discuss where they think remains of pyramids would be found today and to complete map work based on this, justifying their choices and giving reasons for their points of view.

Points for discussion (History Linked)

  • What is a pyramid?
  • Why were the pyramids so important to the Ancient Egyptians?
  • How do we think the Ancient Egyptians built pyramids?
  • What is a set square and plumb line?
  • What went into a pyramid?
  • Over how many years were the pyramids built?
  • How do you think the Ancient Egyptians got the heavy blocks from the ground up to the top of the pyramids?

Suggested Activities (Cross Curricular opportunities)

Building a PyramidUsing a variety of resources from home or school (such as sugar cubes), can the pupils build their own pyramid? What factors do they have to consider when placing items on top of each other to make the shape stable? Explore how they could improve their design if they were to build it again.

Finding the area of a pyramidUsing a variety of shape nets, can the pupils work out the area of different pyramids? Using their understanding of length x width for area of a square or rectangle and half x base x height to find the area of a triangle, can pupils find total areas in mm squared and cm squared?

Make a set square and plumb lineUsing wooden sticks or dowels, string and stones can pupils build their own working set square and plumb line? And test how level things are around the classroom? Is will be important to get the angles right and find ways of fixing the wood securely. What worked well and what would they change to make the tool work better for them?

Creative WritingHow must it have felt to have been working on building the pyramids? Using photographs and the ideas from the video clip, can pupils write a diary entry or recount text to explore what life building a pyramid was like? How did working in the extreme heat affect them? Was there a sense of satisfaction when the pyramid was complete? How did those heavy blocks really get moved to the top of the pyramid?

Creating a mummyThe Ancient Egyptians found that the hot and dry condition of the sand in Egypt helped dry out and preserve the bodies of the pharaohs. Can the pupils test this finding? Using two pieces of bread or home-made play dough, place one in an airtight container or bag alone and other in the same container but with sand. Leave the one with sand close to a radiator and the other away from a heat source. Watch and observe over time and see which begins to change as it rots first. Were the Ancient Egyptians onto something with their mummification process?

Curriculum Notes

This film is relevant for teaching History at KS2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and 2nd Level in Scotland.

More from this series

Gods and goddesses
King Tutankhamun
Rames - The Engineer

See also...

KS2 Music: Ancient Egypt
Song: 'Build that pyramid'