The Pyramids of Egypt

ecent show on DSC about Imhotep (one of my favorites guys - wish I could know more about him), reminded me of some follies associated with the big pyramids.

How did they make them?

Just like the "experts" say. They made ramps of earth and hauled 'em up one at a time. This is eminently sensible to me. This is a big, long term project ... a lifetime work (something I personally understand ;o).

To accomplish this you need to "get into" the long haul mode. There is no short path to this end. Forget any semblance of one. It isn't necessary. You just keep it simple and put your nose to the grindstone. Keep your mind from trying to finish the whole thing at once ... this will make you very tired ... concentrate on the problem of the moment.

These are mostly primitive people (the workers). They need simple, immediate goals set before them. Yes, they undoubtedly knew the general big picture but not the engineering details which would have discouraged them.

Building a ramp out of earth was the easiest part of pyramid building ... just add a foot or two of elevation every few months (or at the beginning ... years). Put the capstone on and add the facing on the way down as the ramp is removed. What could be simpler? Or easier?

Why a four sided pyramid?

This is actually a silly question. What the hell else would they make ... a round one?

You have essentially three options.
1) Three sided (equilateral)
2) Four sided (square)
3) Everything else up to round

Take your pick. Which is the easiest for workmen to understand? Right. Right (angles). They're easiest to produce. Ask a workmen (uneducated) to chop off a cubic block x feet on each side and you won't have much trouble. Now ask him to cut a "tetrahedron" ... sure.

Now ... it has to be real fat at the bottom and skinny at the top else it will crumble of its own weight (as was found out in the Bent Pyramid. Rock has a lot of strength under compression ... but it's not infinite.

So the shape of the pyramids is dictated by simplicity and the physical characteristics of that type of rock. Nothing else is needed.

An interesting point here. Because of the shape of the pyramid, the layers will go up faster as you get near the end of the job (the top). This would have been a boost for moral which would sag terribly if the reverse were true.

How did they get them up the ramps?

They dragged them up on sledges? No. I strongly disagree here. They may have hauled them like this overland for a short distance (from the dock), but not up the ramp. The difficulty is to overcome the startup friction. If you intend to stop every few feet, you need to do this extra work. But to haul continuously up a steep incline is just too much to expect of willing workers. In a short time they would have rebelled at the excessive work.

They couldn't put them on wheels and roll 'em up because sooner or later (probably sooner) one would break loose and crush 20 workers and put the "curse of the mummy" on the whole enterprise. What is needed is absolute dependability. Absolutely ... the least amount of injuries and deaths to keep the workers in good spirits ... and thus ... willing to work on and on and on ... for nothing ... or next to nothing (same as now).

How do you do this?

Leave the blocks on the sledges and lever them up the ramp. People do this all the time. It's easy. It's just ... slow ... and ... steady. Couple inches at a time. One guy could get a block to the top all by himself if it was necessary (certainly it wasn't though).

Note: There must be some holes in the ramp in which to put the levers

There was a guy in Florida who built a fantastic mansion out of coral rocks ... some of which weighed many tons ... by himself. He didn't allow anyone to see him work so ... he must have "done it by magic" ... sure. He was just savvy about mechanical advantage and understood how to do things slow and steady.

He did Archimedes proud.

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