The mystery of how the pyramids were built at Giza, Egypt, has fascinated generation after generation of visitors. A new study purports to reveal the simple truth of it, reports the Washington Post:
Few have traveled to the pyramids of Egypt and not wondered how an ancient civilization without modern technology could have constructed structures so large they can be viewed from space. Some have theorized they were built inside out.
On the flakier side, some say aliens did it.
Perhaps the most confounding mystery of all involves how incredibly large stones made their way to the middle of the desert without massive mechanical assistance. No camel, even the Egyptian kind, is that strong.
The truth, researchers at the University of Amsterdam announced this week in a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters, may actually be quite simple. It has long been believed that Egyptians used wooden sleds to haul the stone, but until now it hasn’t been entirely understood how they had overcome the problem of friction. It amounts to nothing more, scientists say, than a “clever trick.”
They likely wet the sand. ”For the construction of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptians had to transport heavy blocks of stone and large statues across the desert,” the university said. “The Egyptians therefore placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand. Research … revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.”
It has to do with physics. The sort of sledges the Egyptians used to transport the two-ton loads of stone were pretty rudimentary. They were wooden planks with upturned edges. Dragging something that heavy through hot sand would — unsurprisingly — dig into the grains, creating a sand berm that would make progress nearly impossible. It “was perhaps observed by the Egyptians that in [a] dry case, a heap of sand forms in front of the sled before it can really start to move,” says the study, authored by a team of eight researchers led by Professor Daniel Bonn…
[continues at the Washington Post]
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