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How to Make a Paper Pyramid Out of Paper: Ancient Egyptian Activity

Updated on January 26, 2013

The pyramids of Egypt stand as monuments to the power of the pharaohs who had them built for their tombs. The Great Pyramid built for Khufu towers over the other pyramids at Giza -- in photos, the pyramid of Khafre appears larger because it's on higher ground. The ancient Egyptians built the pyramids at Giza during the fourth dynasty -- relatively early in Egyptian history. They were architectural wonders of their day, and remain so. The mathematical precision and practical difficulties of the pyramids' construction -- involving blocks weighing more than 2.3 tons -- continue to inspire theories and controversy. Pyramids represent a feat of geometry and building prowess.

Making a pyramid model involves using the same geometry that underlies the construction of these enduring architectural wonders. The pyramids at Giza have a square base. The four triangles that make up the sides of each pyramid are equal in size. The pyramids originally had a layer of white limestone over them. Only the cap on the second largest pyramid, the pyramid of Khafre, remains.

There are many ways to make a pyramid. Creating a model pyramid out of paper and basic craft supplies at home or school gives you an opportunity to learn about the ancient Egyptians and the pyramids.

Giza Pyramids Near Cairo

All Gizah Pyramids by Ricardo Liberato, via Trodel, CC
All Gizah Pyramids by Ricardo Liberato, via Trodel, CC | Source

How to Make a Pyramid

  1. Place a ruler on the paper and draw a square the desired size for the base of the pyramid. For example, 8 inches on each side for a small model pyramid.
  2. Draw an equilateral triangle joined to each side of the square, so that one line of the square forms the base of each triangle. An equilateral triangle is a triangle with three equal sides. Use the ruler and draw two sides for each triangle the same length as the sides of the square. This creates the same type of pyramid shape as the pyramids at Giza in Egypt.
  3. Fold the model pyramid along the base of each triangle. Squeeze a thin line of glue along the sides of two adjoining triangles. Press the edges together and hold them for a slow count of 40 to help the glue set.

Finish Making the Paper Pyramid

  1. Squeeze glue on the edges of the remaining triangle and press the edges against the edges of the triangles on each side of it. Hold it in place for a slow count of 40. Allow the pyramid to dry for at least an hour.
  2. Draw lines on the pyramid in brown or tan to show the building blocks of the pyramid, and fill in the blocks with light tan or yellow to finish your pyramid.

Pyramid Model Supplies

  • Thick paper. cardstock, poster board or recycled lightweight cardboard
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • White glue
  • Colored felt-tip pens
  • Sand (optional)

Pyramid Project Ideas

  • Make a poster listing measurements and giving information about the pyramid's angles and the weight of its blocks.
  • Use a shallow flat box, such as a shipping carton cut down to have 2-inch sides to create a pyramid desert scene. Group the pyramids on a bed of sand and add miniature figures such as people and camels in scale with the pyramids.
  • Create a pyramid with only three sides and show the pyramid's interior with a diagram of its passageways.
  • Make a larger pyramid out of cardboard.
  • Create a shoebox diorama of an ancient Egyptian tomb with a mummy case and display it next to a large paper pyramid to show how the pyramid was used as a pharaoh's tomb. Make miniature tomb paintings and hieroglyphic inscriptions on tan parchment and glue them inside the shoebox to create the tomb's painted walls. Practice making tomb paintings and hieroglyphs on scratch paper first, so you can make good ones for your diorama.
  • Research the tools the Egyptian used to build the tombs and make a poster with drawings and descriptions of the simple ancient hand tools the made the sphinx and pyramids of Giza.

Ancient Egypt and Pyramid Resources

British Museum: Pyramids

Background on Pyramids.

Public Broadcasting Service: Nova: Scaling the Pyramids

Details on making a pyramid to scale.

Cleave Books: Pyramid Calculator

A handy pyramid calculator.

Pyramid Craft Tips

Stiff paper such as construction paper or card stock works better for this than regular writing paper. You can also use recycled manila file folders or a lightweight cardboard box.

To make a larger pyramid, use large paper such as poster board, or cut the square and triangles out separately and tape the bases of the triangles to the square.

Apply craft glue to the surfaces of the pyramid and sprinkle the model with sand for a realistic color and texture.

Author's Note: Ancient Egypt Activity: Paper Pyramid Project

I've been fascinated with the ancient Egyptians since I was a kid. At San Francisco State University, I had the opportunity to work on an exhibit of the Sutro Egyptian collection while minoring in Classical Archeology.

If there's enough interest, I'll write more articles on Ancient Egypt. Please share this article if you enjoyed it.

Check back soon for my upcoming "Pyramids of Giza Facts: The Great Pyramid of Egypt."

Pyramid-Builders Poll

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    • profile image

      nigel 4 years ago


    • HikeGuy profile image

      Bryce 6 years ago from Northern California Coast

      Ben Zoltak -- The "secret" message idea is great. You must have been a fun teacher. I'm picturing you leading a pyramid project in white face... Good idea about the tags, thanks.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Well done Hike Guy, when I taught Junior high/gradeschool we did a similar project with cubes, it was one of my most popular (we wrote "secret" messages on the inside, with a window cut in one of the sides) I was surprised to not see any comments yet, ah well they will get here eventually. Maybe include something about "teacher activities" in the tag or children's activities maybe.

      Cheers man