Built thousands of years ago, the historic pyramids required a lot of effort from workers and many tricks to construct them.
There are many ancient giant monuments around the world that not only fascinate people with their magnitude but create questions about the way they were built.
The megaliths of Stonehenge, the heads of Easter Island, and the complex of Chichén Itzá are some examples of ancient structures that feed the popular imagination — and it is almost unimaginable to consider how they might have been built.
However, the most fascinating and well-known of these works are the pyramids of Egypt.
Built nearly 5,000 years ago, around 113 to 138 of these ancient structures have been identified in Egypt. They were used as tombs for important pharaohs and their consorts and were made mostly during the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The pyramids are evidence of a distant past, culturally rich and with unique characteristics.
Beyond their grandeur and function, the way in which the pyramids were constructed arouses the curiosity of enthusiasts. Due to this, they have been the subject of intense research by archaeologists, Egyptologists, and mechanical engineers. A 2014 analysis managed to resolve this historic confusion.
In May 2014, a team from the University of Amsterdam published an article showing that, in fact, the stones weighed around 2.5 tons and required a specific method to be transported to the construction site.
While some believe the pyramids were built by extra-terrestrials and others by slaves, the most accepted theory is that paid workers were instead assigned in sets.
However, the work was not easy. A tomb of some ancient Egyptians who actively participated in the construction presented skeletons with evidence of various diseases, such as arthritis and defective columns. At this point, the wheel had not yet been invented so transporting the stones was no light task.
However, the 2014 study managed to explain the group system used to transport these materials from one place to another. Workers used a kind of sled—a flat surface with edges on the side—upon which they placed the blocks and dragged them across the desert.
The researchers stated that eight people were needed for each medium (2.5-ton) block. The sled had a tendency to sink into the sand due to the weight of the rock, so they needed to come up with a trick to bypass this.
To create a more solid path, the ancient Egyptians would wet the sand ahead, which made it firmer and therefore more resistant to the massive block. This also halved the force needed to push the sled.
“The physicists placed a laboratory version of the ancient Egyptian sled on a sand tray. They determined both the pulling force required and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the amount of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness, they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.”
On the functionality of water, the scholars explain: “Experiments have revealed that the pulling force required decreases proportionately with the stiffness of the sand which accumulates in front of the sled, as it does in the case of dry sand.”
Counting the large number of pyramids that exist in the country (the most famous being those of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure), experts believe that the transport system was efficient and reproduced each time a new structure was created. However, this method could not be used for the grouping of stones at a height of more than 140 meters; bear in mind that many of these structures took almost thirty years to build.