Why was limestone used to build pyramids

How do the stones get up?

They are gigantic, the Egyptian pyramids. For the Cheops pyramid alone, with a height of 146.6 meters and a side length of almost 230 meters, 6.5 million tons of limestone had to be processed and moved. How could the Egyptians put such a huge building project into practice?

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Scientists are still looking for the answer. Numerous theories about the construction of the pyramids have been developed, but none is without weak points. How is it that the building of the pyramids is still a mystery? So much is known about the culture of the ancient Egyptians, of all things the creation of the pyramids should be an exception? The fact is that no records or records have survived that document the construction of the pyramids. Possibly this is because it was a top secret project. No building secret should leak out. But even then, at least plans or records of measurements should have been made. According to one theory, these plans were kept in the Alexandria library, where they were then destroyed by fire.

Herodotus, a Greek historian, was also fascinated by the pyramids. His records are one of the few sources that historians can rely on today. With his vague suggestion of machines and “scaffolding made of short poles”, he fired the researchers' imagination. Did the ancient Egyptians already know complex lever machines, pulley blocks or cranes? However, apart from Herodotus, no sources or indications of the use of such machines have been found. In addition, Herodotus himself by no means followed the building with his own eyes. When he traveled to Egypt, the pyramids had been in place for 2,000 years.

So if the Egyptians didn't know about lever mechanisms, how could they move the giant blocks to the top of the pyramid? A common theory is that of ramp construction. In order to keep the angle flatter, huge ramps are said to have been piled up on the side wall of the pyramid, over which the stones could then be pulled. The catch: these ramps would have taken up a huge area - much more than the area of ​​the pyramid itself, which at 5.3 hectares is not exactly small in the case of the Cheops pyramid. Could such enormous embankments arise and be removed again without the slightest trace being detectable today? The time required also speaks against this hypothesis, as the ramp would always have to be increased as soon as the height of the pyramid increases.

As an alternative, a spiral ramp that runs around the outside of the pyramid is also being discussed. Erecting such an enveloping ramp would require less space and material, but it would also take a considerable amount of time to remove it. Some researchers are also considering the possibility of a ramp inside the pyramid. The steep incline that such a ramp would result in argues against this.

What if the stones had only been made on site? A completely different explanation is offered by a hypothesis according to which the stone blocks were formed and “burned” directly on the pyramid. Then neither ramps nor lifting machines would have been necessary. Sounds promising, but this method would have required a large supply of wood to heat the stones. And wood in particular was scarce in ancient Egypt. The differently shaped stones of the inner walls of the pyramids also indicate that natural and not artificially fired materials were used.

But the transport of the stones is not the only unsolved problem. The pyramids pose even more puzzles for the researchers ...


Status: January 12, 2004

January 12, 2004