4,500-year old ramp may provide insight into the construction of the Great Pyramid

Credit: Yannis Gourdon/Ifao

There are a few conjectures when it comes to the enigmatic construction process of the Great Pyramid of Giza. One of the oft-mentioned ones pertains to the ramp theory, which simply puts forth the scenario that the massive ancient structure was built by raising ramps (or mounds) all around it. Essentially, according to this hypothesis, once the foundation was laid, makeshift ramps were constructed around the core structure to haul and position the stone blocks on top of it. As the structure gradually rose in height, the ramps were raised higher to accommodate the building blocks.

Now while this sounds like a simple solution in theory, in practical circumstances, the inclined plane of these ramps would roughly require a mile of construction for the 480-ft pyramid. However, this time around, beyond engineering hypotheses, researchers have found actual evidence for a ramp at the site of Hatnub, an ancient quarry in the Eastern Desert of Egypt, near Luxor. In an excavation project carried out by jointly by the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology based in Cairo and the University of Liverpool, the archaeologists identified the remnants of an entire system that was used for hauling heavy alabaster stones at a relatively steep angle.

According to  Yannis Gourdon, co-director of the joint mission at Hatnub (as told to Live Science) –

This system is composed of a central ramp flanked by two staircases with numerous post holes. 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.

Essentially, the ropes were used as ‘force multipliers’, which in turn made the action of pulling up the stones more efficient in terms of physics. Gourdon also added –

This kind of system has never been discovered anywhere else. The study of the tool marks and the presence of two [of] Khufu’s inscriptions led us to the conclusion that this system dates back at least to Khufu’s reign, the builder of the Great Pyramid in Giza. As this system dates back at least to Khufu’s reign, that means that during the time of Khufu, ancient Egyptians knew how to move huge blocks of stone using very steep slopes. Therefore, they could have used it for the construction [of] his pyramid.

Photograph by Cordon Press. Source: National Geographic

As for the mind-boggling figures associated with the Great Pyramid itself, the monumental giant has a base area of around 570,000 sq ft (equivalent to almost 10 American football fields) and a gargantuan volume of 88 million cubic ft (or 2.5 million cubic m) that accounts for an extraordinary 5.9 million tons of mass. This massive scope was achieved by the use of a whopping 2.3 million stone blocks (ranging from 2 to 30 tons) – that comes to an average of 800 tons of stones being installed each day, with 12 stones being precisely placed every hour! Few of these stones (especially, the ones used in the inner chambers) weigh more than 50 tons, and yet they were transported to the site from Aswan, which over 500 miles away.

Via: Live Science

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