Mysteries Of Egypt: How Were The Pyramids Of Egypt Built?

The Pyramids of Giza.
The Pyramids of Giza.

A pyramid is a monumental structure with either a square or triangular base whose sloping sides meet in a point at the top. The most famous are the Egyptian pyramids, most of which were built of stone and used as a royal tomb. Most of the Egyptian pyramids were constructed during the periods of the Old and Middle Kingdoms as a final resting place for the Pharaoh and their spouses.

Some Of The Most Well-Known Pyramids

One of the oldest Egyptian pyramids includes the Pyramid of Djoser, built during the third dynasty somewhere between 2630 BCE and 2611 BCE, located in Saqqara.The pyramid was designed by Imhotep who was considered by some people to be the first architect, physician, and engineer in history. The Pyramid of Djoser, together with its surrounding establishments is practically deemed to be the oldest monumental structures in the world built using dressed masonry. The pyramids found at Giza and Cairo are the most popular Egyptian pyramids, some of which are listed among the largest structures in the world ever built. A good example is the Pyramid of Khufu located in Giza which is the largest Egyptian pyramid and the only Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still existing.

How Were The Pyramids Of Egypt Built?

The construction techniques have been an arguable subject over the past several years in regards to the methods and the type of labour used during construction. One of the hypotheses suggests that humongous stones were carved from stone quarries using copper chisels then dragged to the desired location and lifted, placed on top of each other systematically to form a pyramid. However, this hypothesis raises questions about the kind of labour force used. Many years after pyramids were constructed the Greeks came to the conclusion that the construction must have been done using slave labour. Most archaeologists have reason to believe that some pyramids such as the Great Pyramid of Giza were constructed by skilled workers for a salary due to the cemetery for workers discovered by two archaeologists Mark Lehner and Zahi Hawass in 1990.

Tools And Techniques Used To Build The Wonders Of The World

During the third through the fifth dynasties, pyramids were built entirely of stone. Limestone quarried locally was the desired material used for constructing the pyramid's main body while a higher grade of limestone quarried at Tura was used to build the outer casing of the structure. Other architectural elements such as walls and roofs of burial chambers and the portcullis were constructed using granite quarried near Aswan. Once in a while granite was also used to construct the outer casing of the pyramids such as the Pyramid of Menkaure. The earliest pyramids had layers of stone which formed the pyramid's body sloping inwards which was discovered to be unstable compared to stacking the stone layers on top of each other in a horizontal manner. Dahshur's Bent Pyramid marked the transition between the two building techniques. As of the Middle Kingdom and onwards the construction techniques of pyramids underwent a few changes. During these times pyramids were built using mountains of mud brick whose surface was sheathed by polished limestone. Later on, several pyramids were constructed atop natural hills to lessen the volume of material required for construction.

There are many theories explaining the types of methods used in the construction of pyramids, below are some of them.

Quarried Stone Blocks Hypothesis

The need to move the huge stone in bulk was one of the biggest problems the first pyramid constructors faced. The tomb of Djehutihotep, built during the 12th dynasty, is engraved with artwork showing 172 men pulling an alabaster statue of him on a sledge. The blocks are believed to have been moved by rolling them using a crafle-like device which had been excavated in some temples. It is believed that four of such devices would be fitted around a block to roll smoothly and efficiently. Despite this hypothesis being tested and proven as workable there is no evidence that the Egyptians used this method to build their pyramids. There is ample information indicating the locations where the construction materials were quarried from, transportation of the stone from the quarries to the location of the monument, and some of the tools used in the quarries. The blocks were transported by sledges which were likely lubricated using water.

Limestone Concrete Hypothesis

John Davidovits, a materials scientist, believes that the pyramids were not built using blocks of carved stone but most likely a form of limestone concrete. According to his hypothesis, the constructors used some limestone quarried on the river valley located in the southern region of the Giza Plateau. Once quarried, the limestone would then be dissolved in large pools that derived water from the Nile until they formed a thin, watery mixture of fine insoluble limestone. The mixture was also added compounds of lime found in cooking fire ashes and natron uses in mummification by the Egyptians. The pools were then left to dry leaving a moist mixture resembling clay which would be carried to the construction site and put in reusable moulds made of wood. The wet "concrete" would then be left for a few days to undergo a chemical reaction the same as curing concrete. The new block would then be placed atop old ones pressing against them. Despite Davidovits's method being workable, it is has not been accepted into academic mainstream since it raises some questions and does not fully explain how some materials were formed.

Other Theories Of Pyramid Building

Archaeologists and architects with other scientists have worked together since the discovery of pyramids up-to-date in trying to prove how pyramids were constructed. Despite there being some working hypotheses as to how Egyptian pyramids were built, there are still uncertainties since none of the hypothesis has concrete evidence proving how the Egyptians constructed their pyramids, what specific materials they used and some workers required for the job. Other hypotheses on the construction methods of pyramids include the writings of Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, the Jean-Pierre Houdin's "internal ramp" hypothesis and the use of different kinds of ramps among others.


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