Digging up the past

Chapter 1 Land of the pyramids

Building the Pyramids

How did the Pharaohs build these giant edifices and manoeuvre these huge stones into position? Ideas about ingenious mechanical devices, UFO's, helicopters, or so-called pyramid power, are sheer speculation. There are no inscriptions, no wall paintings, to tell us how the pyramids were built. We have only one real clue, and that is from the first pylon of the temple of Karnak. The stones for this structure were dragged into position up a ramp made of sun-dried bricks. We know this because many of the bricks are still in position.

How long did it take to build a pyramid? Herodotus states, "The work went on in three-monthly shifts, 100,000 men in a shift. It took ten years of this oppressive slave labour to build the track along which the blocks were hauled ... To build the pyramid itself took twenty years."

Construction ramp remnants at Karnak temple pylon

Karnak pylon above the ramp remnants

The old mudbrick ramp closeup

We know, however, that the Bent Pyramid was built in about two years. Inscriptions at the foot of the pyramid and half way up, judged by the dates of the king which are given, are only one year apart, so Khyfy's pyramid may have been built in three or four years. Herodotus' figure may be exaggerated but Dr. Mark Lehner recently excavated a huge bakery near the pyramids. He found a hearth, dough vats and bread pots. He estimates that the bakery was capable of producing enough bread to feed 30,000 workmen each day.

There are the remains of about eighty pyramids in Egypt. None match the magnitude of the Gizeh group. Subsequent pyramids were made of smaller, roughly shaped stones, or even rubble, and faced with smooth limestone blocks. Nevertheless, thieves broke into all the pyramids and stole their treasures and the bodies of their kings.

Pyramid construction model with a single ramp

Pyramid construction model with multiple ramps

The Bent Pyramid showing its damage