Archaeology

The Building of the Egyptian Pyramids



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The Great Pyramid covered an area equivalent to seven city blocks. At 482 feet tall, it was the highest structure until the 19th century. It consists of over 2 million blocks, each weighing about 3 tons. The entire site was completed within the 23-year reign of King Khufu. How did these builders master such a major endeavor that was unparalleled for almost three thousand years? How was this accomplished without modern machinery? There have been many guesses at to how this was executed.

The most traditional idea accredits most of the difficult work to slave labor. Some archaeologists have brought up the possibility that the stones were transferred from the quarry by rolling them up ramps. This theory makes sense because rolling an object reduces friction. However, Historians conclude that the Ancient Egyptians did not use wheels, therefore dismissing this concept.

According to historical records of the weather conditions, wind was a present force. Unlike the present climate in Egypt, which is dry and arid, the weather pattern during these times was wet and almost tropical. That is why some scholars have brought up the possibility that kites were utilized. Maureen Clemmons, a California software consultant, was the first one to bring up this supposition.

While looking through a book, she noticed something special about a specific hieroglyph. It showed a row of men holding what seem to be ropes that are attached to some type of bird in the sky. These ropes are lifting large building blocks. From the postures of the men, Clemmons could see that the birds may actually be kites.

She decided to put this idea into real-life operation. With a few ordinary kites, she attempted to move a 2.5-meter-long redwood log and a 180-kilogram cement obelisk (A tall, four-sided shaft of stone that rises to a pointed pyramidal top). Along with some friends, they managed to succeed in moving the log. This result gained attention from the Cal Tech aeronautics department.
One professor in particular, Morteza Gharib, became very involved in the project. He agreed that the wings on the "birds" in the hieroglyph were too short to represent an animal. They decided to try to lift a heavier object using the kite method.

Their first endeavor was to lift a 4.5-meter stone obelisk. According to the results obtained from unrelated wind tunnel experiments, they were certain that they would not need a strong wind to move this large stone. The "trick" is to use a pulley system to increase the power of the labor force. In turn, it reduces the amount of effort typically needed to move such heavy weight

The outcome of these trials backed up Clemmons' original proposal. The group concluded that it was feasible to assemble the large stones with multiple kites and a team of builders. Could the wind be the major brawn behind the building of the pyramids?

Ancient Egyptians were already using wind to navigate the Nile. They produced giant lateen sails to control and power their boats. By incorporating this historical fact with scientifically tested experiments, it is practical to assume something as far fetching as the kite theory.

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