History August 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm

How were Egyptian pyramids built?

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor August 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm

August 23, 2021 at 12:00 pm | History

Pyramids of Giza. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Morhaf Kamal Aljanee

The Step Pyramid at Saqqara is among the various architectural wonders of Egypt that attract tourists. It is the first pyramid built in Egypt in 2700 B.C. under the guidance of the famous architect, Imhotep. The tallest structure of its time, the building consists of King Djoser’s burial chamber and was built entirely out of stone rather than mud bricks, making it the earliest important stone building in Egypt.

Mudbrick was the principal construction material for tombs and other important buildings until Imhotep discovered a “more versatile” building material – stone. “Stone gave him the confidence to put one tomb on top of another, creating the first pyramid in the form of a series of giant steps,” a PBS documentary noted.

Pharaohs in Egypt, with the belief that they would become gods in the afterlife, prepared for the next world by erecting temples to the gods and huge pyramid tombs for themselves. To date, there are more than 100 surviving pyramids although the most famous is the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Standing at over 450 feet, it was built under Pharaoh Khufu and remains one of the most extraordinary feats ever.

Ancient Egypt has often been the main reference point when interpreting the past and experience of Africa. And what still baffles many is how the ancient Egyptians were able to build huge structures such as the pyramids using simple technology.

In less than 30 years, it is documented that those who worked on the Giza pyramid project had to raise over two million blocks to a height of 40 stories at the rate of one block every three minutes. All in all, how these pyramids were built remains a question for many people.  

Recently, archaeologists said they think they may have found answers. This was after they had found a ramp which they believe was used to pull alabaster blocks of stone up the Pyramids using a two-way pulley system, BBC reported. The archaeologists, who were from the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo and the University of Liverpool, discovered the ramp system’s remains in an ancient alabaster quarry at Hatnub, a site in the Eastern Desert.

The ramp system dates at least as far back as the reign of Pharaoh Khufu and has stairways and holes, Live Science said in 2018.

“This system is composed of a central ramp flanked by two staircases with numerous post holes,” Yannis Gourdon, co-director of the joint mission at Hatnub, told Live Science. “Using a sled which carried a stone block and was attached with ropes to these wooden posts, ancient Egyptians were able to pull up the alabaster blocks out of the quarry on very steep slopes of 20 percent or more.”

Archaeologists have in the past agreed that workers at the pyramids used a ramp system to move stone blocks up the pyramid, but they were in the dark as to how the system worked until this finding.

Still, some researchers say there is no evidence that this method was used to make the pyramids. In other words, even though the ramp system found in the alabaster quarry gives many hints about the technological knowledge of Egyptians at the time, it doesn’t really answer the big question about how the pyramids were built.

“We actually don’t know [their] mechanism of cutting hard stones like red granite,” Kara Cooney, a professor of Egyptian art and architecture at the University of California, L.A., was quoted by history.com. “And we still don’t know how the ancient Egyptians lifted blocks weighing hundreds of tons up the sides of the pyramids.”

Even though scientists cannot be sure how the pyramids were built, they have learned much about the people who built them. It is believed that the pyramids were constructed using slave labor, but there are no archaeological remains to prove that. What is agreed by many scientists is that the pyramids were built by skilled Egyptian workers, who were well-fed, highly organized and managed to the highest level.

The National Geographic, writing about the Pyramids at Gaza, said: “It’s likely that communities across Egypt contributed workers, as well as food and other essentials, for what became in some ways a national project to display the wealth and control of the ancient pharaohs.”

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