How in the world, did primitive people built the Great Pyramid of Giza over 4,500 years ago?
How did they build something that was 481 feet tall and remained the tallest building in the world for 3,871 years until the London Cathedral was built in 1311?
How did they quarry 2 millions blocks of limestones and granite that weighed 10-30 tons each and transport them 500 miles to the construction site?
How did they amass a structure that weighed 6 million tons and can be seen all the way from the mountains in Israel?
How did they align the structure a fraction of a degree to true north and finely tune the 8 sides of the Pyramid to display shadows on a solar equinox? (Yes there are 8 sides to the Pyramid)
How did they create 3 massive chambers within this structure with millions of blocks above weighing down upon them?
And how did they do this all with only primitive tools of copper, stone, and wood in only 20 years?
In order to do this they would have had to place 12 blocks a hour, day and night. It was an operation that may have taken over 100,00 workers and countless resources for the ancient power.
There are no shortage of theories on the topic, from as strange as aliens and dinosaurs to as common as the giant pulley systems and cranes proposed by the 480 BC greek philosopher, Herodotus. The most accepted theory is that they quarried stone using rudimentary copper chisels and pickaxes and other tools made simply from harder stone than limestone. Once the stone was made into blocks, they transported them by water most of the way along the Nile and the rest of the way by wooden sleds pulled by men and livestock (the wheel was not yet invented in Egypt). Up to this point, there is little contention of the process. However, how they were then able to transport the blocks up the face of the pyramid is hotly debated. But in the Egyptology community, the consensus is that they used a large straight ramp that extended out from the pyramid site and allowed the workers to pull the sleds up a 7% incline. This ramp would have had to be at least a mile long and taken almost as many resources as the pyramid itself. The problem is time, the reign of Khufu was only about 20 years so the pyramid needed to be planned and executed during that time frame. 12 blocks a hour is already a steep order, adding on the construction of a mile long ramp as tall as the pyramid itself is only adding to the time crunch.
In order to fix this problem, a French architect, Jean-Pierre Houdin has quietly spent his adult life fine tuning a theory that more and more people are starting to believe is the answer.
Instead of a exterior ramp, the architect proposed a interior ramp that would require no additional materials and could just be built over after completion. If true, this ramp still hides below the thousands of limestones at the pyramid waiting to be discovered.
The interior ramp would spiral up the pyramid taking right angle turns at corner notches open to the air. It would be at these notches that you would have the pulley systems, referred to by Herodotus, in order to turn the stones as they ascend the ramp. Any theory using non-straight ramps has received criticism because it would not allow for the workers to pull the stones with proper leverage as they round the turn. But with the addition of these pulley systems, workers could pull the stones in straight lines and the pulley would do the turning for them.
3D models of the pyramid’s inner workings have shown that the ramp would have been possible and not intersected with any of the other known chambers.
Although, if this internal ramp does exist, where is the physical evidence? Is there any way we could uncover these ramps?
Unfortunately, the Egyptian government is extremely strict and allowing excavators to start taking blocks away from their most iconic cultural landmark is not high on their list of priorities. However, there is already a notch visible on one of the corners of the pyramid where we would expect a turn in the ramp. After some inspection, a small L shaped room was discovered attached to the roughly 30 foot corner platform. No additional scanning of the area was permitted, but the team is hoping for further permissions to be granted.
Previously to this discovery, a french surveying team used thermal imaging to discover any sort of hidden chambers. The results were very puzzling at the time, but after this theory was proposed, its diagrams of the internal structure became much more revealing. The data showed a decreased density pattern that was almost completely in line with the internal ramp theory, possibly validating Jean-Pierre Houdin’s life’s work.
The egyptology community at large is unconvinced of this theory as of yet. Theories abound on the construction of the pyramids, but the truth is that in order for any theory to be respected it needs the endorsement of the academic community and more specifically, one man.
Zahi Hawass is that man. He was the Chief of Antiquities in Egypt until the 2011 revolution took power away from former president Hosni Mumbarak, but he still stands as the thought leader. His views, along with mainstream egyptology are considered to be almost unquestionable. He is a dogmatic man, truly convinced of his beliefs.
The problem is that all theories should be questioned and scholars like Hawass are not tolerant of opposing views. He is a man so set in his ways that when he heard Graham Hancock propose that the sphinx might be thousands of years older than we think, he shouted rudely and stormed out of the debate.
This sort of close mindedness is hard to stomach; something that revolutionaries know too well. But beyond its annoyances, it does real harm to silence theories that may have some merit and gain steam if not for the fear individuals in the community of being ostracized. Objects like the sphinx and the pyramids are still very much a mystery. The Great Pyramid of Giza is at the end of a long tradition of pyramids. A total of 138 have been identified in the land. However the Egyptians did it, they had plenty of practice. In fact, it would be completely reasonable to assume that they had fine tuned a very complicated process by the time the Great Pyramid was built.
We are talking about the construction of something built thousands of years ago with very little description from its contemporaries. In fact, until recently, there have been no records discovered that described the building method of the Great Pyramid or even any inscriptions inside the pyramid at all. In 2013, a small piece of papyrus was discovered in a mountain cave along the Red Sea near Sinai. It described a water channel system that was used to transport the limestone from the quarries to the Giza plateau. The author was one of the boat captains that was involved in transporting limestone and he even mentions the pharaoh Khufu himself.
This description does a lot to solidify the transportation method and name Khufu as the definitive ruler at the time. However, it does not give us any more information on how the stones were placed once they got there. Houdin’s theory is still very much alive.
Such a strange thing that a pharaoh so boasting to call himself a god would not put his name on the pyramid itself. Furthermore, how could such a intensive process for building the pyramid not have been described on hieroglyphics anywhere in his kingdom. Perhaps Khufu was afraid of graverobbers taking his body from its final resting place, or perhaps he didn’t want another pyramid to take his methods and outshine his own. As of now, no mummies have ever been found in the Great Pyramid; just an empty sarcophagus cracked on one corner and missing a lid.
Whatever the case may be, the lack of description lends to debate and it should. This internal ramp theory seems to have as much, if not more, data to support its claims and should be looked at seriously by egyptologists. If the Egyptian government does not allow for more scans of the pyramid to be done then perhaps we will just have to wait for father time to erode he pyramid enough to reveal one of these internal ramps. It might be a long wait; 4,500 years later and the Great Pyramid of Khufu still stands.