Pyramid Mystery Solved? Physicists Explain Who Built The Great Pyramid, And How

Kevin Bostic

Egypt's majestic pyramids have inspired wonder and mystery for thousands of years, as well as no small amount of controversy over who built them and how they did so. A team of physicists, though, now say they have a workable theory as to how the pyramids could have been built, and it turns out it's easier than you might think.

The pyramids are undeniable architectural wonders, a fact evidenced by just how much awe they still inspire in the current day. The notion that people we might consider "primitive" could create such enduring, wondrous structures boggles the mind, and makes some believe that mere humans didn't do so.

There is no shortage of alternative explanations for the pyramids, with some saying that the ancient Egyptians used advanced technology, while others say that aliens assisted in their construction. Less fantastic, though, are the explanations that humans were just quite ingenious when they built these massive wonders.

Some of the newest proposals have the Egyptians sliding the colossal stones that make up the pyramids across wet sand. Wetting the sand would reduce its friction, and that would make it easier to move the huge limestone blocks -- some of which weigh up to several tons.

That explanation, though, still begs the question: How did the pyramid builders move all of the water they would have needed?

Now, a team of physicists has published a paper asserting that the pyramid builders used a clever method to construct the monuments. Drs. West, Gallagher, and Waters from Indiana State University and Michigan Technological University say that it is possible to move blocks the size of those in the pyramids simply by tying 12 identical rods to the faces of the blocks.

The thinking goes thusly: Tying the rods to the blocks functionally turns them from squares into dodecagons, almost round shapes that can then be rolled as though the blocks were almost circular.

That would mean the pyramid builders would be able to roll the blocks from the quarries where they were excavated to the pyramid building site. What's more, they could do so without needing nearly as much force as one would need to drag a square block.

The physicists tested the idea on a scale model concrete block that weighed about 30 kg. They found that, with the wooden rods attached to each side, they could pull along the model pyramid block with a force that was only about a seventh of the weight of the entire stone. Even for the largest stones used in the Great Pyramid, a team of strong builders would easily be able to roll it from the quarry to the building site.

The physicists are convinced that this method or a similar one would have been the best way to go about constructing a giant monument like the Great Pyramid using the tools available at the time. Indeed, the title of their paper--– "How they (should have) built the pyramids" -- is a testament to their confidence in the method.

Still, the team doesn't make any concrete statements that this is how the pyramids were built. So the debate may rage on, because other teams have other theories, and let's not forget that there are those who are totally saying it was aliens.

[h/t: Science Alert. Lead image via Tourists 360.]