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How were the Pyramids at Giza built? Show more Show less
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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 External Ramp Theory Show more Show less

Evidence found at Giza supports the claim that at least some ramps were used. Ramps are commonly found in Egypt supporting other smaller pyramids and monumental structures. There are many variations on this theory. It is the most popular among archaeologists.
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The Spiral Ramp Theory

A spiraling or winding ramp may have been used to prevent the problems associated with a single long ramp. This would have taken up less space and allowed workers to move up the face of the pyramid with ease. The remains of a small ram at Giza supports this theory.

The Argument

The writings of Diodorus Siculus claim that the pyramids were built using a system of ramps. Ramps of this kind have been found at various sites in Egypt, such as those at Hatnub quarry. [1] Some projections for a single ramp model calculate that a linear ramp would actually be bigger than the pyramid itself by volume. In order to use fewer materials, a system of ramps is likely to have spiraled around the pyramid itself. A winding ramp would have been easier to maintain a sensible gradient as the Pyramid got taller. [2] A long ramp could not have extended far to the West, East, or South of the Great Pyramid, because cemeteries and a quarry would have been in the way. A spiraling ramp on the other hand would have been compact, leaning against the structure of the pyramid itself. By using cranes and levers in conjunction with the spiral ramp, the Egyptians could have tackled the difficult problem of an increasingly narrow building. The ramps themselves would be supported by a system of earthworks, as seen at the temple of Karnak, and at an abandoned step pyramid in Abydos, where the ramps are still standing. The remains of a relatively short ramp appears to have been found at Giza, running up to the bottom edge of the pyramid comes up to about 20% of the pyramid’s height total height. To account for the shortness of the ramp, it makes most sense that the rest of the ramp spiraled around the building itself.[3] A spiraling ramp would have been compact and used fewer materials than a long ramp. The remains of a short ramp found at Giza is likely to have been the beginning of the spiraling ramp.

Counter arguments

A spiral ramp model, just like a long ramp model, would have created some huge logistical problems for its builders. Moving granite blocks around the corners of the pyramid would have been extremely difficult. Accurately measuring the pyramid as it was constructed would also have been hard, because most of the pyramid would have been surrounded by earthworks or some form of scaffolding. At their tallest extent, the ramps would either be extremely unstable, enormous, and impractical. It is unclear what the ramps would have rested on, or if it would have been possible to make them structurally stable at such a great height. The surface of the pyramid was cased in attractive limestone blocks, which would be difficult to install with a ramp running around the outside of the pyramid.[4] The corners of the pyramid in a spiral ramp model would have been difficult to complete. If they were finished at the end, chances are they would not line up and the structure and would not have made a perfect pyramid.[5] There are many problems with a spiral model of the pyramids, due to the difficulties it presents for measuring and the logistics of moving blocks.



[P1] A winding ramp best explains the archaeological evidence found at Giza [P2] A winding ramp would take up less room and materials than a straight ramp [C] A system of spiral ramps were used to build the pyramids.

Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Thursday, 19 Nov 2020 at 18:04 UTC

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