Scientists discover how the Egyptians moved the huge pyramid stones


The question of just how an ancient civilization—without the help of modern technology—moved the 2.5 ton stones that made up their famed pyramids has long plagued Egyptologists and mechanical engineers alike. But now, a team from the University of Amsterdam believes they've figured it out, even though the solution was staring them in the face all along.

It all comes down to friction. See, the ancient Egyptians would transport their rocky cargo across the desert sands, from quarry to monument site with large sleds. Pretty basic sleds, basically just large slabs with upturned edges. Now, when you try to pull a large slab with upturned edges carrying a 2.5 ton load, it tends to dig into the sand ahead of it, building up a sand berm that must then be regularly cleared before it can become an even bigger obstacle.

Wet sand, however, doesn't do this. In sand with just the right amount of dampness, capillary bridges—essentially microdroplets of water that bind grains of sand to one another through capillary action—form across the grains, which doubles the material's relative stiffness. This prevents the sand from berming in front of the sled and cuts the force required to drag the sled in half. In half.

As a UvA press release explains,

The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.

Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand...A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.

These experiments served to confirm what the Egyptians clearly already knew, and what we probably already should have. Artwork within the tomb of Djehutihotep, which was discovered in the Victorian Era, depicts a scene of slaves hauling a colossal statue of the Middle Kingdom ruler and in it, a guy at the front of the sled is shown pouring liquid into the sand. You can see it in the image above, just to the right of the statue's foot.

Thanks to Sagiv Lapkin for the find!

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Recent Comments »

Caleb site profile image  

5/2/14 6:33 PM by Caleb

Vote up man. Thx for the link. Gonna check it out.

JIMMYNAKS site profile image  

5/2/14 3:04 PM by JIMMYNAKS

Often wondered the same thing

BernardHopkins site profile image  

5/2/14 2:22 PM by BernardHopkins

yup more b.s. coming from "scientists" once again IMO egyptians learned how to reverse gravity todays scientists think they know it all look up Ed Leedskalnin he had it figured out

Hunter Thompson's .45 site profile image  

5/2/14 2:08 PM by Hunter Thompson's .45

Excellent insight. Our society couldn't build them now with their technology and methods simply bc our people are different. The idea of work in general was entirely different.

fangclan site profile image  

5/2/14 2:06 PM by fangclan

Outkaster site profile image  

5/2/14 1:33 PM by Outkaster

What you have to realize is the farmers in the off season that helped build them were very united, organized and believed in the project of building them. The picture of the sled and statue the OP put up we studied in college and the professor said they used milk as a lubricant in the sand. I have read that it would be hard to replicate that by modern standards not so much because of technology but because the work force at that time really believed in what they were doing. They took a long time to put up these structures. I have gone to a lot of these exhibits in NYC, Toronto, and the culture is just amazing.

angryinch site profile image  

5/2/14 1:18 PM by angryinch

yeah, on sled rails.   Like Santa's sleigh.

fangclan site profile image  

5/2/14 1:05 PM by fangclan to the easter islanders the moai actually walked to the sites.

fangclan site profile image  

5/2/14 12:57 PM by fangclan

sometimes we forget that 'primitive' man was just as smart as we are. where there is a will, there is a way!!