Earthmovers, cranes, heavy machinery, building material and lots of labor are used to construct skyscrapers these days but in the absence of these things, it is impossible to erect something like the pyramid of Giza today. Then, how on earth did the ancients manage to envisage and construct a necropolis at Giza plateau, not just a pyramid? Moreover, it is astonishing that these ancients built more than 100 pyramids, some spectacular like the great pyramid of Giza and some loosely built to resemble the shape of pyramids. Because today it is impossible for the technology we have to lift and place limestone blocks as heavy as 15 tons to a height of 400ft or 40 stories as the ancients achieved to do doesn’t mean it is the work of aliens or any other such theory that thinks that ancient humans cannot achieve this feat. We will have to accept that necessity is the mother of innovation and these ancients were driven to create something that generations to come would remember them for and their achievements. Today, we do not want to invest in something so expansive that is why we are not motivated to know how such a monument was built.
Wadi al-Jarf, The Papyri & the Pyramid complex tell another story
Many Hollywood movies projected Pharos as tyrants who enslaved their pupils so as to construct pyramids and for a long time it was the case, but recent evidence found by Pierre Tallet, a University of Paris-Sorbonne Egyptologist started excavating an archaeological site since 2011 has made some of the most significant archaeological discoveries in the history of Egypt. It was there, at Wadi al-Jarf, an ancient harbor on the shores of the Red Sea, where ships from the Fourth Dynasty sailed to and transported various items, including copper and turquoise, from the south-western parts of the Sinai Peninsula and cedarwood from Lebanon among other valuable items.
The unearthing of ancient papyri has shed light on the previously unknown daily lives of the people and extend to which these pyramid builders went to plan and execute such a colossal feat.
Tallet and his associates have found 10 very well-preserved papyri among hundreds of fragments of papyrus. The records, which have proven rather difficult to congregate, are the oldest papyri ever to be found in Egypt. One fragment is a diary written by Merer, an official of the Old Kingdom involved in the building of the Great Pyramid. Although the actual details of the building of the pyramid are scarce. But The fragments of papyri describe a party of sailors and their voyage across the Nile and a different kind of text provide a lot of details about the daily lives of these pyramid builders.
A portion of the fragments found are called “Journal of Merer” and it illustrates operations led by the inspector Merer, relating to the transport of large blocks of limestone from the Tura quarries to the Pyramid on the plateau of Giza, then still under construction, some 4,500 years ago, on the opposite bank of the Nile River.
Although as to how the pyramids were built is not clear or absent from the text, Nevertheless, the logbooks provide important information such as evidence of direct contact from Tura to the Giza plateau, made possible by artificial waterways, which were massive projects that were undertaken to transport material to the building site, verified by archaeologist Mark Lehner in recent years.
Apparently, all of Egypt was unified in building the pyramids it seems. The construction of this massive monument was seen as worship of some kind. Every one contributed. The artificial waterways were like lifelines to the builders it seems. The materials needed like Granite came from Aswan far to the south of Giza, food was shipped from the delta along the Mediterranean, and Tura limestone about 12 miles south of Cairo on the Nile.
The laborers ate well and were supplied with meat, poultry, fish, and beer, according to the papyri found at Wadi al-Jarf. Slaves are not fed such portions of protein that is why the theory of Pharos enslaving pupils for construction is baseless. Moreover, in the recent excavations of the Pyramid complex of Giza has unearthed Heit el-Ghurab, a 4,500-year-old Egyptian town next to the pyramids of Giza—long thought to have been the home of the workers who built the pyramids is a residential complex that could house at least 20,000 people. The remains of humans and bone fragments of animals like cow, buffalo, pigs, etc. show that these people were indeed fed well.
If you consider this hypothesis you will see how everything fits well. The people of Egypt unified at a particular time to work on the great pyramid of Giza, probably during the flooding of the Nile. This made transportation of material easier as the Nile reached the Giza plateau during this time. The flooding of the Nile although left the people of Egypt without cultivable land, but was the ideal time for Pharos to urge them to participate in pyramid building. They would have got food and shelter in return they would have to work as construction workers under supervisors who took care of everything. Artificial canals, reed boats, jetties, and boat anchors were built for smooth movement of materials from distant places like Aswan, Tura, Sinai Peninsula, Lebanon and elsewhere.
Hand tools, clay, and perseverance was used to cut granite
Whenever one sees the pyramid of Giza, he is left speechless. The level of detail to which this ancient structure is built amazes even the greatest architects of our times. So, what is so ground-breaking about the pyramids. Little is known that the Pyramid complex on which it sits is a plateau and before starting the construction, the plateau was leveled first to eliminate any slope. This in itself is a great feat. Though we cannot claim to know how it was built, signs that it was a work of perseverance are everywhere.
In a series of experiments done by archaeologists Pierre Tallet and a stonemason near the Wadi el-Jarf prove that it was indeed possible to cut a limestone block similar to the one used in Pyramid construction. He used the same copper tools, harder stone, and water. They were also able to transport the 2.5-ton stone to the nearby camp 300 yards away. They used a sled and clay to move the block.
Another theory was put to test how the stonemasons were able to get a perfect right angle on a granite block. A group of contemporary stonemasons was able to use ancient tools like a copper saw, clay and wood to saw of a granite block at a perfect 90-degree angle. They also used much harder dolerite stone to level off any irregularity on the granite block. The signs of this technique can be found at an Unfinished obelisk in the Aswan quarry.
Discovery of Hatnub ramp
In a separate discovery a ramp, 4,500 years old, called the Hatnub ramp was used to drag alabaster stones up a steep slope, it happens to be an ancient quarry in Egypt’s Eastern Desert. There are two stairs with numerous holes next to the central ramp. There would have been an alabaster block mounted on a sled that was bound to the wooden poles by ropes. Then the workers must have pulled the stone using the ropes tied to the wood. They must have moistened the sand as a lubricant for the sled to move easily reducing friction and efforts. The ramp used had a slope of 20% or greater and the successful retrieval of the heavy alabaster stone debunks the theory that a 12% slope was built along a side of the pyramid to transport limestone block to the top of the pyramid.
All these pieces of evidence show that it was indeed the work of an organized society that believed in the glorification of themselves in the service of their beloved Pharaoh Khufu. The journal of Merer clearly logs that the pyramid was being built by Khufu. Romanticizing Egyptian history has been a way of commercializing this glorious culture. The pyramids defy time and it is because it was built with proper planning, the right technique and most importantly by dedicated people who believed in the afterlife and its importance. We certainly can put the puzzle together but cannot fathom the height of cautiousness that these ancients had.