Scientists discover 'one weird trick' used by ancient Egyptians to build the pyramids
Wednesday 07 May 2014
There are many mind blowing things about the pyramids, from the fact that Cleopatra lived closer to the Moon Landings than the construction of the Great Pyramid to the idea that they remained the tallest man-made structures on Earth for more than 3,800 years.
However, one of the most basic and staggering facts about these colossal constructions is that they were even built in the first place. Just how did the ancient Egyptians shift stones weighing as much as 2.5-tonnes with technology no more complex than a sledge?
Now, a group of physicists say that they’ve uncovered that ‘one weird trick’ that helped ancient engineers drag the huge stones across the desert. The magic ingredient? A little water.
Researchers from the University of Amsterdam and the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter found that by wetting the ground in front of their sledges, ancient Egyptians would have been able to pull large blocks of stones and statues across the desert without the sand piling up in front of the vehicle.
The wall painting from the tomb of Djehutihotep which scientists believe shows the water trick in action.
"Everyone who has been to the beach will know that dry sand doesn’t make good sandcastles - the grains slump into a puddle when the bucket is lifted,” reads the report, published last week in the journal Physical Review Letters. "Adding water can solve this problem: the grains stick and the castle holds its shape. This is great for sandcastle building, and also, it turns out, for sand transportation.
“In the presence of the correct quantity of water, wet desert sand is about twice as stiff as dry sand. A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.”
The physicists tested their theories by creating miniature recreations of the sledges and stones, measuring the amount of force needed to pull a weight and the stiffness of the sand in relation to the quantity of water.
Interestingly, the evidence for this discovery has been staring scientists in the face for millennia. A wall painting from the tomb of the ancient nomarch Djehutihotep shows the transportation of a massive statue with an individual seen pouring water in the path of the sledge – a detail that had had previously been dismissed as part of a purification ritual.
- 1 'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
- 2 West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
- 3 Mother fed her daughter tapeworms to make her skinny for pageant
- 4 Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
- 5 ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
'Alien thigh bone' on Mars: Excitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
West poised to join forces with President Assad in face of Islamic State
Pamela Anderson rejects ice bucket challenge because of ALS experiments on animals: 'Mice had holes drilled into their skulls'
James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – as hunt begins for killer
ALS ice bucket challenge co-founder Corey Griffin drowns, aged 27
Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome: 'Abort it and try again – it would be immoral to bring it into the world'
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
Disgusting, frustrating, but intriguing: how the country really feels about its politicians
Bin bag full of cats' heads discovered near Manchester's Curry Mile
£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...
£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...
£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...