The Great Pyramid of Giza

giza-plateau-pyramids

The Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu (a pharaoh is the second ruler of the 4th dynasty and the son of Snefru), It was the era of the Old Kingdom in Egypt (2575-2134 B.C. ), built about 4500 years ago, although the first pyramid known as Mastabas, built by the pharaoh Djoser, belongs to the 2nd dynasty. According to Smith, mastabas are flat or slightly raised.

Arabian proverb says, “Everything in the world is afraid of time, and time is afraid of the pyramids”.

Zahi Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist, says that it was the pyramid that built Egypt rather than the other way around.

It is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids built in 2550 B.C., and the smallest among the three is the Pyramid of Menkaure, built in 2490 B.C., and some 600 feet to the north of the Pyramid of Menkaure is the Pyramid of Khafre, which was established in 2520 B.C.

There is a theory that claims that there is a correlation between the position of the three pyramids and the alignment of the three stars, known as the Orion belt.

Robert Bauval, the “New Egyptologist,” said, “It substantiated my theory that the three pyramids of Giza were the symbols of Orion’s Belt.”

“The correlation was stunning. Not only did the layout of the pyramids match the stars with uncanny precision, but the intensity of the stars, shown by their apparent size, corresponded with the Giza group.

It was once thought that the pyramid was built using forced labor, but it was later proven that 20,000 skilled labourers and craftsmen were employed to build it, which took approximately 20 years to complete.

The pyramid contains an estimated 2.3 million blocks, some of which are upwards of 50 tons. It is constructed of inner, rough-hewn, locally quarried core stones and originally overlaid with 1,20,000 limestone blocks known as casing stones, laid in even horizontal courses with spaces filled with gypsum plaster.

The main entrance to the pyramid is located vertically above ground level and east of the centre of the pyramid. From the entrance, there is a descending passage that finally leads to the bedrock beneath. There is a square hole in the roof of the descending passage, which is the beginning of the ascending passage. There was a grand gallery, the King’s Chamber, the Queen’s Chamber, and an antechamber. The grand gallery is present at the lower end of the ascending passage that is 28 feet high and 153.1 feet long. The gallery led to the King’s Chamber, which has a flat roof that is over 19 feet tall and contains the King’s Sarcophagus, also carved from red granite. Above the King’s Chamber are five stress-relieving chambers made to reduce the weight of the roof.

There is the horizontal passage at the start of the gallery which actually leading to the Queen’s chamber and which has got the pointed roof of about 20 feet high. The recent discovery of the secret passage in the king’s chamber called the ante chamber” contains Khufu’s furniture.

It is one of the astonishing architecture that has become the centre of debate that How the Pyramid was actually built? Various engineers, architects, and archaeologists had researched construction methods, which resulted in a plethora of theories.There are many relevant and irrelevant theories.

The development of various technologies has made the discoveries much easier. Example: A microsnake camera, which helps in visualising the sides of the chamber. SONAR, muon detectors, etc.

The most difficult task was to transport the heavy blocks and even lift them. It is the most challenging to discover how the Egyptians carried away the blocks without the machines. As even the construction of such a large structure is not possible even today. This created lots of controversies and debates.

There were several theories and explanations given regarding the construction of such a massive structure.

The earliest theory was provided by Herodotus (the father of history), who visited Egypt around 450 b.c. He claims that machines were used to lift the blocks, referring to cranes, and that pyramids were built from top to bottom.

‘Space Alien’ theory

There were explanations that the pyramids were not built by human hands because such a feat would be impossible without the use of advanced machinery.Khufu’s pyramid is more precise than the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, facing almost exactly true north with minor variations of 3/60th degree.Again, carrying and hauling the stones is impossible, as is even perfectly laying them. Some Egyptologists and historians believe that it was constructed by aliens. Many scholars dismissed the idea that there is a science behind it and that there are logics that will solve the mystery.

In order to build the pyramid, they had to quarry the blocks and lift them up. According to Joseph Davidovits (a polymer chemist), the blocks were not quarried; rather, the builders made the blocks by pouring the segregated limestone and geo polymeric binder into wooden molds.The mixture resembles natural limestone. So, this allows the workers to carry the blocks easily. But it was rejected by the geologist James Harrel, who said that it was the natural limestone, and hence the blocks were quarried.

The most accepted theory was that the ancient Egyptians used sledges to drag the stones over causeways. The remains of causeways have been found all over the Giza Plateau. A team led by archaeologist Mark Lehner used a sledge to construct the small pyramid, which is 18 feet tall. Engineer John D. Bush proposed a method by which they converted the blocks into the pseudo-cylinder by attaching the circle segment to each edge of the blocks. That would make rolling the block easier, and he did roll a 5000-pound block up a ramp with the help of six men, but carrying such a process for such a large purpose doesn’t seem possible.The other problem is that the dimensions are not uniform, and also, the problem of weight distribution would not be even around the central axis. Some of the slabs are rough cut, which means there are differences in heights in their mid-sections. It means the pseudo-cylinder method doesn’t seem possible and, for the purpose of rolling ramps, causeways must be used, and the slabs would roll perpendicular to the ramp. But this method seems to be problematic for various reasons.

A physicist named Joseph West also explained that the cylindrical structures allow the rolling, as by tying three wooden posts to each side of the block, this will turn the four sides into 12 sides, and even a single person can roll it. But again, it fails on a large scale.

The Wet Sand

By wetting the sand to just the right degree, you will reduce the friction that makes carrying or transporting stones much easier. A team of physicists led by Daniel Bonn experimented with this process and concluded that the right quantity of water with respect to the sand can reduce the friction.

But the question is, would a wetting provide enough stability to elevate the stones upward?

Egyptologist Peter Der Manuelian said, “Scholars mostly agree on a system of ramps for hauling up the blocks: the directions, angles, and materials are still problematic, and there are always new (and often crazy) theories.”

This method is only applicable for transportation but fails as far as lifting is concerned.

A technique called muography is used to detect the unknown cavity of the pyramid. According to Egyptologist Kate Spence, the position and inclination suggest that the ramp could be used for the construction.

Water Shaft Theory

In this theory, the canals and water allowed the stone to move easily. A long water causeway underground from the nearby water source (as like the river Nile in this case) within a few distance from the quarry and then using water shafts to float the stone upwards. But there is no proof to support this theory.

Ramp theory

Straight external ramp

The ramp extending from the base to the top has  the drawback that it would require too much stone and labour in order to reach the massive height, and even the ramp has to be bigger than the pyramid. The archaeologist Bob Brier disregarded this theory.

Zigzag Ramp

This kind of ramp requires fewer materials but it needs constant adjustment, and it is impossible to adjust the ramp in a zigzag manner for such a large structure.

Spiral Ramp 

It was believed that the spiral ramp would be constructed simultaneously as the pyramid rose higher, and this theory was supported by the archaeologist Mark Lehner. The main issue with this ramp is maneuvering the stones around the corners because carrying and turning the heavy rocks is not possible, and hence this theory was also discarded.

Jean –Pierre Houdin’s internal ramp theory

Jean Pierre theory
Jean Pierre theory. Source: SILO of research                           documents

A French architect, Jean-Pierre Houdin, says that the pyramid was constructed by using two ramps, an external and an internal ramp. He uses 3-D software to conclusively prove this. 30% of the pyramid was completed by using a straight, external ramp, and the blocks were hauled. After that, the same ramp was used as the internal ramp and served the purpose of completing the pyramid. But there are some issues regarding the turning of the stones by the men as the narrow ramp cannot turn the 90-degree corner. So he suggested that the ramp have the openings, from where the simple crane could be used to turn the blocks.

This theory is apparently valid, as there is evidence found related to the presence of the internal ramp.

“It adds an unnecessary degree of complexity, and I think of the ancient Egyptians as practical builders who reduced things to simple, practical approaches,” says Smith. “Also, there is no evidence the internal ramps were used in any pyramid built before the Great Pyramid, or after.”

Richard Breitner- 3D simulation engineer

He said “Technically speaking, it works, it is coherent and feasible”.

Conclusion

But even after all those theories but still the concrete one is not found. The Great pyramid of Giza is still the mystery and one of the largest structure. The most difficult task is determining the exact method or architecture by which the grand structure is built without the use of modern machinery.The question is: how were the primitive men so capable of building it that even modern men fail to do so?

“There are so many theories—nice ones and crazy ones,” says Mehdi Tayoubi.

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