Co.Design

A New Theory On How Ancient Egyptians Built The Pyramids

Workers probably used moistened sand to transport massive stones, according to new research.

How ancient Egyptians constructed the pyramids is still somewhat of an archeological mystery. Everything from cranes and ramps to oil-slicked slipways to aliens (naturally) have been put forward as possible mechanisms. A group of Dutch physicists has a new hypothesis on how ancient Egyptians managed to drag the colossal stones necessary to build pyramids across the desert. The answer: wet sand.

The setup in the labPhysical Review Letters

In a study in the journal Physical Review Letters, researchers from the University of Amsterdam and FOM (the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter) recreated a laboratory version of the sledge on which workers hauled heavy stone, and tested how it fared in sand. They found that pulling the sledge across damp sand requires only half the force of hauling it in dry sand. Because the water droplets bind the grains of sand together, wet sand is twice as stiff as dry sand, and doesn't pile up in front of the sledge as it moves along. (A good tip for sandcastle construction, too.)

Wall painting from the tomb of DjehutihotepPhysical Review Letters

The researchers bolstered their theory with a wall painting from around 1880 B.C. found in the tomb of a 12th-dynasty administrator named Djehutihotep, which shows what looks to be a worker pouring water in front of a sledge carrying a large statue.

[H/T: Phys.org]

[Image: The pyramids at Giza near Cairo, Egypt via Dan Breckwoldt / Shutterstock]

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182 Comments

  • andy

    That image is really cool. Although I can't read any of the glyphs, it seems to show the number of people required to pull as well the number of different support staff: water carriers, a few soldiers (to protect them or maybe as taskmasters) and some other staff with a job other than pulling - maybe they are the "second shift" so that some pull and some rest so the pull can be continuous.

  • andy

    That image is really cool. Although I can't read any of the glyphs, it seems to show the number of people required to pull as well the number of different support staff: water carriers, a few soldiers (to protect them or maybe as taskmasters) and some other staff with a job other than pulling - maybe they are the "second shift" so that some pull and some rest so the pull can be continuous.

  • Yumasunbum Atlarge

    Something as simple as wet sand has fooled scientists for thousands of years.

  • Phoenician Sparks

    Yet you cannot explain the complete accuracy of placement of each stone, the precision cutting so tight a razor can't fit through, or hor they hauled them upwards, placed them or placed the capstone. Good way to waste our money science

  • Kenneth Whitman

    The ancient Aryans were more intelligent than us watered downed here and now versions

  • Davy Crockett

    Any scientific mind knows that this theory is absurd. The answer to the question as to how the pyramids were constructd is simple. They were buil from the top -down.

  • Davy Crockett

    Any scientific mind knows this idea is obsurd. The answer to the question as to how the pyramids were built is simple; They were built from the top down.

  • Andy VonWinge

    Absurd! lmao. Its ok to admit that humans before us could have most likely been more advanced than we. get off the high horse.

  • Roderick Anderson

    so, if the Egyptians used wooden sleds, as is usually hypothesized, to haul blocks of stone, how long before they would be 'sanded' down to nothing? in short, the Egyptians could not have built the Khufu pyramid, for starters they only had copper chisels to cut the stone with, the rest of the logistics is even harder to believe. the Khufu is estimated to have between 2 million and 4 million blocks of stone. then there are the two pyramids next door.

  • Rex Miller-Bey

    Somehow I don't think your sled sanding is an educat guess. You really think it would sand to nothing. Sure there has to be some damage to the sled, however to nothing...lol... I seem to think the would replace the damn thing b4 it gets that damaged. Than there is your 2 million to 4 million stones. I'm sure the ppl studying this technique are a bit more exact than oo 2 - 4million that's a 2 million difference I'm thinking they were a bit more exact . Somehow I can not even take you seriously your facts are like a child's research project.

  • Roderick Anderson

    nothing like a wet sand paper job to smooth wooden sleds down to nothing

  • hpbp393

    Aliens, with lazier cutting technology from flying saucers, also the flying saucers lifted them into place., This is what happen...!!!

  • hpbp393

    Aliens, with lazier cutting technology from flying saucers, also the flying saucers lifted them into place., This is what happen...!!!

  • chebba9

    doesn't explain how the stones were lifted or how this was done in areas of the world with similiar huge stones that do not have sand, an engineer will tell these people who make these theories that they are not getting a full understanding of the numbers when reading the weights involved with stones-- 100 tons or 200 tons or like at Baalbek at a mind boggling 1000 tons

  • Rex Miller-Bey

    Baalbek has no 1000 ton rocks they're 250 tons. You ppl don't even check facts b4 commenting