argument top image

How were the Pyramids at Giza built? Show more Show less
Back to question

The Pyramids at Giza are an engineering marvel from Egypt’s Old Kingdom period. The largest, the Great Pyramid, is 455 feet high and was constructed from approximately 2.3 million blocks weighing 2.5 tons each. There are many theories as to how the pyramids were built using primitive technology.

The Incline Theory Show more Show less

Builders may have used the steep gradient of the pyramid itself to haul blocks up the sides. In this model, the workers worked on the flat top of the pyramid and used a system of ropes to bring blocks to the top. This theory is popular with engineers.
< (3 of 4) Next position >

The Incline Theory is the quickest method to build a pyramid

Most pyramid building theories are extremely complicated. Any system of ramps would be difficult to build safely and slow to use. By using the sides of the pyramids as a slope to move the blocks, Egyptian workers could have moved the stone slabs into place quickly and easily.

The Argument

There are many problems with all the old pyramid building theories which involve a system of ramps, including the negotiation of tight corners, and a lack of stability. Using the structure of the pyramid itself would have avoided most of these problems. Although the angle of the pyramid is steep at 52-degrees, recent experiments in block hauling at Karnak have shown that it would take less men than previously assumed to move a lubricated 2-ton block on a sled. The engineer James Frederick Edwards calculated that only 50 people would be needed to exert the force of 2 ½ tons needed to pull one of the blocks up the steep pyramid face. [1] Several engineers have noted this elegantly simple solution would have been quicker than most of the extremely complex ramp-based models. The hauling of blocks up the incline of the pyramid would have taken as little as 3 minutes. Many other models would have taken hours per block. According to this model, the Great Pyramid could have been completed during Cheops’ reign. Another variation on this same model posits that some of the workers hauling the blocks could have stood on the opposite face, using the incline to create additional force and move blocks even faster.[2] The incline model is the simplest and fastest explanation as to how the pyramids could have been built.

Counter arguments

The incline theory is popular amongst engineers but not archaeologists because it does not account for the historic evidence. The two written sources we have, by Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus, suggest ramps and primitive machines were used to build the pyramids. The archaeological evidence at Giza and elsewhere supports the theory that ramps were used and that earth and/or rubble ramps were commonly used in the construction of monuments.[3] The biggest technical problem with this theory is that as the pyramid got narrower there would be less room for fifty men to stand at the top. [4] The incline argument does not account for the written or archaeological evidence that we have about pyramid construction. It accounts for how the bottom of the Pyramid was built but not the top.

Proponents

Premises

[P1] 50 strong men can easily haul a block up the pyramid’s face without the need for ramps [P2] This is the quickest method of construction, and the Great pyramid could have been completed during Cheops’ reign [C] The Egyptians probably used the pyramid’s face to haul the blocks

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/25148110
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/27858387
  3. https://www.ancient-origins.net/artifacts-ancient-technology/pyramid-ramp-0013516
  4. https://www.cheops-pyramide.ch/khufu-pyramid/ramp-models.html
This page was last edited on Monday, 30 Nov 2020 at 17:25 UTC