How was the Great Pyramid built?

The Great Pyramid at Giza is one of the most spectacular monuments of the ancient world. It measures over 450 feet tall and over 750 feet on each side. Many mysteries surround the giant structure but one in particular stands above the rest. How in the world did the ancient Egyptians manage to build it?

“Great pyramid and sphinx, Egypt” (1912)
Source: The Library of Congress

How did Ancient Egyptians build the Great Pyramid?

The problem is not an easy one. As one scholar put it:

“The logistics of construction at the Giza site are staggering when you think that the ancient Egyptians had no pulleys, no wheels, and no iron tools. Yet, the dimensions of the pyramid are extremely accurate and the site was leveled within a fraction of an inch over the entire 13.1-acre base. This is comparable to the accuracy possible with modern construction methods and laser leveling. That’s astounding. With their ‘rudimentary tools,’ the pyramid builders of ancient Egypt were about as accurate as we are today with 20th century technology.” ~ Dr. Craig Smith

Ancient texts provide us with some clues. Herodotus wrote that wooden machines or levers were utilized to build the Great Pyramid while Diodorus Siculus theorized that ramps were used. In more modern times, scholars have added a number of theories to the debate. However, none of these seem to fit the facts.

  • Single Ramp: A single ramp would need to rise and lengthen as the Great Pyramid grew taller. In order to maintain a manageable slope for workers hauling the massive blocks, it would eventually be over a mile long. There is no room for such a ramp in the area nor evidence that one ever existed.
  • Spiral Ramp: A ramp that spiraled upwards around the Great Pyramid’s exterior would create an engineering problem. As the pyramid rose, the ramp would need to edge inwards, completely covering the lower half of the structure. This would make it impossible for surveyors to build the pyramid with much accuracy.
  • Herodotus’s Machines: An army of wooden crane-like machines required wood that the Egyptians didn’t possess. Also, cranes would be needed on all steps of the Great Pyramid yet many of the steps are too thin to support such machines.
  • Concrete Blocks: Even if the ancient Egyptians used limestone concrete for some of the blocks, they couldn’t have used it for all of them. For instance, the giant multi-ton stones above the King’s Chamber were definitely carved and hauled.

Where is the Ramp used to build the Great Pyramid?

In 2007, a French architect by the name of Jean-Pierre Houdin used 3-D software to propose a new type of ramp. If he’s right, this ramp should still exist…inside the Great Pyramid itself!

His theory is that a single external ramp was used to build the bottom third of the pyramid. At the same time, a second spiraling ramp was constructed inside the structure. After the external ramp had served its purpose, it was broken down into blocks and hauled up the internal ramp in order to build the top two-thirds of the pyramid. Within the Great Pyramid, the ramp’s turning points were left open temporarily so that a wooden crane could lift and rotate each block, allowing them to be hauled up to the next turning point.

Houdin’s theory is admittedly complicated. Yet, it’s backed by intriguing evidence. First, there is a notch in the pyramid that matches up with one of his predicted turning points. In 1986, a French archaeologist spotted a desert fox enter the Great Pyramid near this notch. While the fox could’ve climbed the massive structure, its also possible that it entered an undiscovered crevice at the bottom, climbed the internal ramp, and then exited near the notch. And second, that same French expedition used microgravity to search for hidden chambers. While they found nothing substantial, their work revealed something inside the pyramid that looked like a spiraling ramp.

Guerrilla Explorer’s Analysis

Houdin wishes to test his theory by using special infrared cameras to measure the pyramid’s reaction to heat. However, he first needs permission from Egyptian authorities, something that has eluded his grasp for several years. Along with the Great Pyramid’s secret shafts, its construction remains one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world. With any luck, both secrets will soon be solved.

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