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According to Millard (2005), the pyramids of Giza were the largest and only surviving among the seven wonders of the ancient world. These massive stone structures are located on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt. Researchers, scholars, historians, and early explorers believed these structures served as tombs for ancient pharaohs. However, over the years, there have been many theories surrounding the construction of these structures. An estimate puts the construction of these structures at approximately 2600BC. For almost four millennia, the great pyramid of Giza was the world's tallest man made structure at over 145 meters in height (Levy, 2006). The construction of the pyramids has puzzled people for thousands of years. Construction involved transporting massive stone blocks from quarries south of the complex and transporting them by barge on the Nile. The exterior of the pyramids received a limestone coating mined across the Nile although most of the exterior covering has been lost over time.
The mystery surrounding the construction of the pyramids has gone on for thousands of years. Historians and researchers alike do not understand how ancient workers without the benefit of modern machinery and equipment were able to manage such complex constructions. According to historical records, construction of the pyramids needed 100000 laborers some from as far as Palestine working for 30 years to complete a single pyramid. The location and positioning of the pyramids also contributes to the mystery surrounding the pyramids. In addition, the pyramid's position aligns them to astronomical positions (Millard, 2005). This has led to theories about the structures having been constructed by aliens. Many theories about the pyramids abound. Ben Carson a renowned neurosurgeon is quoted as saying that the pyramids are in fact silos built by Joseph during his time in Egypt according to the biblical story. However, the most accepted theory is that thousands of laborers built these massive structures over decades as tombs for their kings.
Despite the accepted fact that these structures were actually tombs for royalty, there is still no consensus on their construction. The pyramids are square based and levels of massive stone blocks were placed on top of each other until a perfect pyramid was formed. Some of the massive stone blocks used are estimated to weigh more than four tones (Levy, 2006). The big question is how the workers were able to raise these massive stone blocks without the help of modern equipment to great heights. Some modern architects have suggested that even with modern equipment, computers and knowledge, it would be difficult to build the same pyramids to the same level of accuracy in terms of angles and positioning. Theories have been suggested on how the massive stone blocks were raised. Most of these involve the use of a ramp of some sort while others have suggested the use of levers to raise the blocks from one level to another.
Most Egyptologists agree that ramps were the most tenable way to move the massive stone blocks during the construction of the pyramids. However, this theory is affected by the lack of physical evidence of ramps on the ground. It is possible that the massive ramps needed to move the stones were demolished once the construction was complete. Some Egyptologists argue that material used in the construction of the ramps was recycled to build the upper levels of the pyramids. Among the people who have come up with theories about the construction is Jean Pierre Houdin. Houdin's theory suggests that instead of an external ramp, internal ramps were used in the construction of the pyramids. This would explain the lack of physical evidence of external ramps. Using computer aided design software; Houdin was able to prove that it was a viable technique that could have been used in the construction of the pyramids. His report in the book, Khufu: the Secrets behind the Building of the Great Pyramid was further corroborated by the findings of a 1986 French Survey team which identified spiral structures within the pyramids. Although these were not published in the results of the study, they can be clearly seen in some of the survey's reports during the survey.
Material scientist Joseph Davidovits brought another theory on the construction of the pyramids. In his theory, Joseph claims that the stone blocks used to construct the pyramid were not actually carved stone but blocks made from limestone. The area across the Nile is rich in limestone with high kaolin content. He argues that workers mined and dissolved limestone in pools fed by the waters of the Nile. The high desert temperatures then evaporated the water and left behind thick slurry of limestone. He argues that the laborers up the pyramids carried this slurry and reusable wooden moulds found use in forming the shape of the stone bocks. Again, the high desert temperatures dried the limestone to form the stone blocks (Davidovits & Morris, 2001). The workers then removed the wooden moulds used them later in the construction. Material scientists who have found air bubbles and chemicals in the stone blocks that would not occur in naturally occurring limestone blocks have supported this theory. However, this theory has not been widely accepted since it does not explain the occurrence of granite blocks weighing up to ten tones. However, this theory would explain how the ancient builders were able to place massive stone blocks on the upper levels of the pyramid without the use of modern equipment and physical evidence of ramps (Davidovits & Morris, 2001).
Of all the theories brought forward, the most plausible construction method is the use of internal ramps. These were constructed along the edge of the pyramid on the inside. The ramps would go round the pyramid creating a gentle slope that would allow the construction workers to roll the massive stone bocks using rollers. The reason why this is the most plausible construction method is that the 1986 French survey team using micro-gravimetric analysis was able to identify spiral structures along the inside edges of the pyramid although this team did not mention them. Houdin was able to identify that these internal ramps began and ended in open spaces. At these open spaces, the blocks could then be raised using ancient cranes to the next level. In his work, Houdin was able to access one of the supposed open spaces, which he believed to be the beginning of an internal ramp. This theory would help to explain the absence of physical evidence of external ramps, which is another widely accepted construction theory. Even after thousands of years of exposure to the environment, there would still be signs of external ramps used. Despite all these, Houdin has accepted that there is a possibility that his theory will be disproven. However, it remains one of the most plausible theories on how the great pyramids were constructed.
Davidovits, J., & Morris, M. (2001). The pyramids: An enigma solved. New York: Dorset.Houdin, J.-P. (2006). Khufu: The secrets behind the building of the great pyramid. Cairo?: Farid Atiya Press.
Levy, J. (2006). The Great Pyramid of Giza: Measuring length, area, volume, and angles. New York: Rosen Pub. Group.Millard, A. (2005). The great pyramid of Giza. Milwaukee, WI: World Almanac Library.
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