Egyptologists and historians have been trying for decades to finally solve an age-old mystery about how the Great Pyramid of Giza was built, both in terms of construction and in transporting blocks from the quarry to the site. As one convincing theory is adopted it is subsequently replaced by a more persuasive argument, but scientific consensus is relatively rare.
Some of the more notable theories in the past have included suggestions that focused on the use of ramps, given the sheer weight of the stone blocks that constitute the pyramid. Specifics on the number or shape of the ramps differ, such as the one ramp theory, and a zig-zag or spiralling ramp theory that envisions ramps encircling the exterior of the pyramid. In conjunction with ramps, the acceptable method for moving the blocks on-site is a process of levering, yet archaeological sites only suggest small ramps that are considered inadequate for building the entire structure.
Another theory is that the blocks used to construct the pyramids were not pure limestone, but were rather a composite of limestone and concrete. This mixture would allow for soft limestone, which was located quite a distance from the site of the pyramid, to be dissolved and then transported to the construction site. Once there, they could be moulded into blocks suitable for construction. However, there still remains today structures like the unfinished granite obelisk in Egypt that demonstrates how building materials may have been carved out of the ground, and not reconstituted after transportation. Others also have argued that the Nile Valley was flooded during the time of the construction of the Great Pyramid, and so transport may have been accomplished using water-based methods of transportation.
It has also been suggested recently by researchers at the University of Amsterdam that the stones were moved by applying water to the sand that lay in front of wooden sleds as a way to decrease friction and facilitate transporting the stones. This method would only need half the manpower to pull the sleds. Other similar theories propose the use of desert clay as a lubricant to aid the transportation of blocks.
Hieroglyph depicting water being poured on the ground on the path that lay ahead of the sled carrying stones (photo: csmonitor)
It is worth mentioning a radical theory that discusses the possibility of ancient aliens having a hand in the construction of the pyramid. They argue that the precision of the construction, the size and weight of the stones and the technical abilities that went into constructing the pyramids were ahead of their time, and necessitated a technology that are beyond our capabilities – even today.
Proponents even suggest that proto-light bulbs were used, given that there is not enough oxygen in many of the internal chambers to allow a fire to burn. The theory that aliens visited some ancient civilisations may sound absurd, but it prompted a revival in trying to solve the mystery, even if they seem far-fetched.
A highly convincing theory that emerged in 2006 was not by an Egyptologist or an archaeologist, but by a French architect named Jean Pierre Houdin. He originated a theory known as the internal ramp theory, which was featured in a video meant to refute any ancient alien theories, Ancient Aliens Debunked.
His idea is that it would be more logical that the builders approached the construction from the inside of the pyramid, thereby allowing it to be built up around the workers, as opposed to erecting it from the exterior.
A still from Ancient Aliens Debunked of the opening of the internal ramp in the centre of the area, while workers place stones from the outside towards the centre
One piece of evidence for this theory is the mysterious placement and size of the Grand Gallery found in the Khufu Pyramid, which is thought by Houdin to be a segment of the internal ramp system. Workers would enter the internal ramp at the base of the pyramid, and then take it to a corner at a higher elevation from where the blocks would be raised by a pulley system to the top of the structure. The blocks that are on the surface of the pyramid would be positioned first to ensure geometric precision, and then the internal stones would be placed, working towards the centre. Previous research had found evidence for this spiralled internal ramp, but these findings were not understood at the time.
Aerial x-ray view of the Great Pyramid showing hollowed passageways inside the pyramid (photo: tombraiderforums)
Aside from the ingenuity of the internal theory itself, it is fascinating that thousands of years after the pyramids were built, there still exists undiscovered information and dots yet to be connected. Perhaps we will never fully understand how the pyramids were actually built, but the search for answers will continue, and may soon produce yet another captivating theory.