Up to four-tonne solid blocks of stone make up the great Egyptian pyramids of Giza. There is still a lot of mystery surrounding the construction of the monumental tombs of the pharaohs of the ancient empire. One of them was the precise technology used to move the huge blocks on the site.


Surviving wall reliefs show the use of wooden sledges. However, practical demonstrations with much larger blocks on sand have shown that this is not at all easy, the huge frictional forces and the strength of the material make moving the blocks difficult. Moving the inserted logs over long distances is impractical.

Some enthusiastic mystery-solvers have therefore come up with bizarre solutions in the past, which have involved moving the huge stones through the air with the help of huge steerable apparently “papyrus” kites, or building the pyramid like a huge tank, with the stones essentially floating and using buoyancy to get higher and higher. Not to mention the mystery-losers who take the technological difficulty of construction as evidence of the extraterrestrial origin of the pyramid builders.

But researchers at the University of Amsterdam demonstrate that the solution to transporting the stone blocks across the desert was actually much simpler. The ancient Egyptians used to pour sand in front of the wooden sledges. After all, this increased the compactness of the bedrock, and the workers harnessed to the sledges were able to prevent the sand from piling up in front of the sledges – piling up.

That this actually worked is evidenced by a mural painting in the tomb of the nomarch Djehutyhotep, which dates from the Middle Kingdom period some four thousand years ago. It depicts the movement of a huge statue.

The Amsterdam researchers have tested the technology in practice. The moist sand reduces the force required to pull it by about half. They subsequently published the results of their findings in the latest issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. The key, they say, is the right amount of water. Water forms capillary bridges between the sand grains, binding them together. These tiny forces then allow huge loads to be swept across the desert.



Source: National Geographic

Author: Editor   |   Published: 09.08.2020