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Scientists Discover How Ancient Egyptians Transported Huge Pyramid Stones Across Desert Sand

by , 05/03/14
filed under: Architecture, News

Ancient Egyptians, ancient Egypt building technique, Egypt pyramids, Egypt Giza pyramids, ancient pyramids stones, ancient building techniques, FOM Foundation, University of Amsterdam

Researchers from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have figured out how the ancient Egyptians transported huge stones across desert sands to build the famed pyramids. Through experiments and simulated desert conditions, scientists determined that the secret of moving heavy stones across the porous surface of the desert lies in the dampness of sand.



Ancient Egyptians, ancient Egypt building technique, Egypt pyramids, Egypt Giza pyramids, ancient pyramids stones, ancient building techniques, FOM Foundation, University of Amsterdam

Egyptologists have been able to explain how the ancient Egyptians transported heavy cargo from the quarries to building sites using barges, but the question of moving the 2.5 ton stones across the desert has, until recently, plagued scientists and mechanical engineers alike. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam conducted several experiments and concluded that the ancient Egyptians must have dampened the sand for the sleds-large slabs with upturned edges–to slide over it without it digging into the sand ahead.

Related: Amazing Egyptian Cave Churches are Carved Out of Solid Rock in Cairo

The research revealed that sand with just the right amount of moisture can double its stiffness. Thanks to microdroplets of water that bind grains of sand together through capillary action, friction and the force required to drag the sled are cut in half. An ancient artwork found within the tomb of the Middle Kingdom nomarch Djehutihotep confirms the new scientific findings. The image includes a representation of a slave pouring liquid into the sand in front of the sled.

+ FOM Foundation

Via Gizmodo

Lead photo by Flickr user Clark & Kim Kays

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11 Comments

  1. Arthur Applegate May 10, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Clearly some of you did not live by the ocean. The wet sand down by the waterline is about as hard as concreat.

  2. John Rambo May 6, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Let’s remember that this hypothesis is just that, speculative. Avoiding phrasing which makes a theory sound absolute might be beneficial in the future.

  3. laura s. May 4, 2014 at 7:10 am

    It is truly impressive how ancient civilizations discovered building techniques which were far superior to what we know from our (even recent) history. Pyramids in Egypt are such a powerful memento of the rise and decline of great empires, something that is still important for the rulers of today. Furthermore, one of the reasons why Egyptian empire declined, was the climate change that turned big parts of their territory into a desert.

  4. Luís Nunes May 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    and how exactly did they manage to cross the nile river??? i hope they didn’t ‘sand’ the river….

  5. bdblondeau May 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    It was to strangthen the ropes, not the sand. Take a dry shirt and pull something, do the same with a wet shirt and you will be amazed at the strength differences

  6. pmanke May 2, 2014 at 11:22 am

    I wonder about the possibility of having used some type of bitumen or crude oil from seeps or shallow well pools that may have been present long before drilling oil wells came along, like the tar pits in CA.. I agree with previous comment that without some additive, the ability of sand to hold water at elevation is very limited. There’s also the possibility of having adding plant mater for lubrication, but the old illustration shows a black line comming from a jar at the front of the sledge; asphalt?..

  7. Robert Sultani May 2, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Interesting and that was the “theory before” but still doesn’t hold water …think about the fact that the blocks were so accurate put together that you cannot even put one piece of paper together between them.Then think about how many km long the ramp would have to be to sled the blocks to the top and the higher the ram the less firmness the sand will be. It is theoretically impossible to get 100% compaction on sand especially when 2.5 rock is pressing down on it.

  8. webartogo May 1, 2014 at 10:24 pm

    Well a fine idea on the surface, but where and how did they have enough water to go the distance?
    And they still had to lift up the blocks and statues when they got them to the building sites!

  9. abcd May 1, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    And it’s all already explained on the drawing? How could it take them until now to translate that drawing?

  10. RelayerM31 May 1, 2014 at 8:53 pm

    The old wet-sand-under-the-sled trick. I KNEW it.

  11. richpix May 1, 2014 at 10:34 am

    And then there\’s the 60 men pulling the sledge. That works out to about 83 pounds per person.

    They could also have used oil as a lubricant under the sledge

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