Built more than 4,500 years ago, during Egypt’s 4th Dynasty of pharaohs, the pyramids at Giza are some of the most celebrated man made monuments in history. Yet no one really knows how these magnificent ancient structures were built, on such a massive scale, in a relatively short period of time. The recently launched Operation Scan the Pyramids project aims to probe this enduring mystery by using high-tech but non-invasive methods to examine the pyramids. Using one of these methods—infrared thermography—an international team of scientists and architects recently detected a mysterious thermal anomaly, or hot spot, on the eastern wall of the Great Pyramid of Giza, which may hint at some kind of passageway or chamber inside.
Most books and encyclopedia state that there are 2.3 million blocks of stone in the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), with no mention of method used to figure this. Socrates determined the size and weight of the blocks (a standard block), and ran a Pascal Computer Program (a mathematical model of all the blocks of stone needed; written by the author to optimize the sizes and weights of the stones) to come up with the real number of blocks used. Since the volume of passageways and internal chambers are very small compared to the high volume of the pyramid, they are ignored at this time, just as though the pyramid was built of solid stone blocks with mortared joints.
Many movies, books and other works of historical fiction centering around life in ancient Egypt — particularly the of reimagined biblical story of Moses — depict the pyramid builders as slaves. Although it has been documented that ancient Egyptians employed slaves or servants, modern archaeological research shows that Egyptian workers actually constructed the pyramids.Villages and remains of pyramid workers have shed light not only on the ethnicity and sex of the workers, but also on the amenities available to workers. Workers’ villages included not only craftsmen relating to the pyramid’s construction but also cooks, bakers, priests and medicine men.
The world has been baffled for thousands of years about just how slave workers transported the massive blocks across the Valley of the Kings in around 2,000BC.Now physicists have come up with a two word answer after years of calculations – ‘wet sand’. Dutch researchers have figured out the Egyptians placed heavy objects on a sledge, pulled by hundreds of workers, and simply poured water on the sand in front of it.Quite simply, dry sand would have piled up in front of the sledge, making it impossible to move.But it would glide over wet sand which, with the correct amount of water becomes as stiff as dry sand and the sledge glides more easily over it.The team, which constructed a laboratory version of the sledge on sand, said: “The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick.“A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.”But the research of how they ancients managed to do it, could also have a modern-day use to optimize the transport and processing of granular material which, at present accounts, for about ten percent of the worldwide energy consumption.
In recent months, experts have been searching for hidden chambers located within the Egyptian pyramids, as well as for additional insight into how these amazing structures could have been built. Organized by the Faculty of Engineering of Cairo and the Paris-based Heritage Innovation Preservation Institute, the Operation Scan the Pyramids project aims to conduct in-depth examinations of the pyramids using non-invasive methods such as thermal imaging and moon radiography, a Japanese technique that has been used to peek inside active volcanoes as well as the nuclear reactors of Fukushima.
Not long ago, an initial infrared temperature scan of the famous tomb belonging to the pharaoh Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut, turned up promising results: a temperature difference in the tomb’s northern wall, which may indicate a hidden cavity behind the wall’s surface. Their work follows up on claims made earlier this year by Egyptologist Nicholas Reeve of the University of Arizona, who proposed that ultra high-resolution images of Tut’s tomb showed hidden doorways leading to previously unexplored burial chambers, possibly including the final resting place of the legendary Queen Nefertiti, who was married to Tut’s father.
Now, Egypt’s Antiquities Ministry has announced that a thermal scan of the three ancient pyramids built on the Giza plateau, some 20 km from Cairo, during the 4th dynasty (between 2613-2494 B.C.), has identified some intriguing anomalies. In particular, a scan of the largest of the three pyramids—known locally as Khufu and internationally as Cheops, but often referred to simply as the Great Pyramid—revealed higher temperatures in three of the stones at the bottom of the eastern wall. Though the authorities cannot say definitively what this anomaly means, they speculate that such differences in temperature could indicate empty areas inside the structure, internal air currents or the use of different building materials.
According to Redford, “The Egyptians began using the pyramid form shortly after 2700 B.C., and the great heyday of constructing them for royalty extended for about a thousand years, until about 1700 B.C.” The first pyramid was built by King Djoser during Egypt’s Third Dynasty. His architect, Imohtep, created a step pyramid by stacking six mastabas, rectangular buildings of the sort in which earlier kings had been buried. The largest and most well-known pyramids in Egypt are the Pyramids at Giza, including the Great Pyramid of Giza designed for Pharaoh Khufu.
For centuries, people have theorized how the great pyramids were built. Some have suggested that they must have been constructed by extraterrestrials, while others believe the Egyptians possessed a technology that has been lost through the ages.
But the process of building pyramids, while complicated, was not as colossal an undertaking as many of us believe, Redford says. Estimates suggest that between 20,000 and 30,000 laborers were needed to build the Great Pyramid at Giza in less than 23 years. By comparison, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris took almost two hundred years to complete.