Physicists have finally figured out how the pyramids were built

3 mins
08 Aug 2022
How were the Egyptian pyramids built according to scientists

And it wasn’t aliens after all…

image Mohammed Hassan via Unsplash

words Eve Walker

There has been endless speculation about how the Ancient Egyptians made the pyramids without the use of modern technology, including conspiracy theories backed by the likes of Elon Musk who believe that they were crafted by aliens. As the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the world still standing relatively intact, it’s hardly surprising that there are so many conflicting theories.

But, as reported by LadBible on 4 August, physicists from the University of Amsterdam have a different and slightly more plausible explanation in mind: water was used to move the heavy pyramid stones and statues, as shown in a wall painting on the tomb of ancient Egyptian ruler Djehutihotep. The painting in question dates back to approximately 1900 B.C, depicting 172 men moving a sculpture with ropes attached to a sledge with water being poured onto the sand in front of it.

In the past, it was thought that the water in the painting was part of a ceremonial ritual. However, University of Amsterdam physicists decided to examine this clue further and study how water affects the movement of objects in the sand. The research started out with a small-scale experiment, which led the scientists to discover that the sand would clump together as it dried, piling up and making moving objects difficult. With the perfect amount of water, however, an optimal stiffness was created, allowing them to cart slabs of stone with greater ease.

According to the subsequent study published in Physical Review Letters, “sliding friction on sand is greatly reduced by the addition of some - but not that much - water”. These results, it turns out, were major. Daniel Bonn, one of the physicists involved in the study, told The Washington Post in an interview; “I was very surprised by the amount the pulling force could be reduced – by as much as 50 percent – meaning that the Egyptians needed only half the men to pull over wet sand as compared to dry.”

Bonn concludes that the study both solved “the Egyptian mystery, but also shows, interestingly, that the stiffness of sand is directly related to the friction force.”

While the study was carried out in 2014, interest in how the pyramids were built has piqued once more since archeologists announced Mission EGP (Explore the Great Pyramid) earlier this year and unveiled plans to scan the Great Pyramid of Giza with cosmic rays to map its internal structure. Due to a multitude of hidden passages within the pyramid that were designed to keep out graverobbers, there is an endless amount of discovery waiting to be unearthed by this new initiative.

Here’s to uncovering more of the Ancient Egyptians’ secrets…

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