How were the pyramids at Giza Constructed - Essay Example

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They tower above the deserts of Egypt as a testament to the spiritual vision and civil engineering talents of the Egyptians in the age of the Pharaohs. Archaeologists have worked out the purpose…
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How were the pyramids at Giza Constructed
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How the pyramids at Giza were constructed. Introduction The ancient pyramids at Giza are admired by all as one of the wonders of the world. They tower above the deserts of Egypt as a testament to the spiritual vision and civil engineering talents of the Egyptians in the age of the Pharaohs. Archaeologists have worked out the purpose of the structures, linking them to beliefs about the afterlife, and with the burial and commemoration practices of the people at that time. There are still many unresolved questions, however, relating to the methods that the builders used to create these huge and imposing monuments. The great pyramids consist of huge stone blocks, carefully measured out and carved, and then slotted in to fit a perfect geometric shape on a truly colossal scale. Scientists today are still trying to figure out how a nation without modern lifting equipment and mechanized transportation could possibly have had the technical skill and physical power to construct these tall edifices in the sandy ground. The fact that the Egyptians possessed such a capability is undeniable, since the pyramids are still standing there as evidence. How these people managed this great feat is, however, a deep mystery.
Theories to explain the construction of the pyramids.
It has long been recognized that the ancient Egyptians used ramps and wooden sleds to transport huge blocks of stone from the quarries to the building site, and that there is no evidence that they knew about the wheel, the pulley or the derrick (Dunham, 1956, p. 161). It seems that they just built ramps and used many thousands of workers, and this simple explanation is widely accepted. Another, much more radical theory has been advanced by Danish scholar Erich von Däniken who argues that it would have taken human beings some 600 years to build the great pyramid of Cheops, the largest of the pyramids at Giza, shifting more two and a half million blocks of stone (Von Däniken, 1970, p.96) and using tens of thousands of workers at any one time. He theorized that there was insufficient food and shelter for such a number of workmen in the largely desert land around the area, and that therefore the ancient Egyptians must have had help from some supreme god-like beings from outer space. Assembling arguments gathered from other massive structures across the planet, and from legends about Egyptian gods such as Ra, who “travelled through the heavens on a bark” (Von Däniken, 1970, p. 94), the theory of ancient aliens helping to build the pyramids emerged.
Conclusion: evaluating theories about the construction of the great pyramids.
The two theories outlined above argue on very different principles. Von Däniken’s argument is based on vivid speculation about UFOs, and a number of sensationalist assumptions that are based on the interpretation of images and stories, rather than hard facts. Dows Dunham, on the other hand, was a curator of Egyptian art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He had a vast experience of the Egyptian objects and the sites from which they were taken. He points out the existence of partial ramps at some sites, and the one in eight slope limit that is compatible with human forces being used to pull stones up to the required height using greased wooden runners. The theory of labor intensive ramp building and a simple system of rollers and sleds seems a sensible theory which fits known facts about the pyramid sites. The Egyptians may have had to buy in food and labor, but they were a wealthy civilization with many trade contacts, and this was surely possible. Dunham presents the more credible theory of the two, because it remains closest to known facts and sticks to what is reasonable rather than wild fantasies that may sell books, but cannot explain ancient civil engineering processes.
Dunham, D. (1956) Building an Egyptian Pyramid. Archaeology 9 (3)(1956), pp. 159-165.
Von Däniken, E. (1970) Chariots of the Gods. Berkeley: G.P. Putnam. Read More
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