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New considerations on construction methods of the Ancient Egyptian pyramids

Müller-Römer, Frank

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Many authors have attempted to account for the construction methods of the Old Kingdom pyramids, offering a broad scope of hypotheses concerning construction processes, building phases, mechanical devices, and workforce. Still, none of these suggestions have proved quite conclusive. All previous explanations involving ramps start from the assumption that building blocks were conveyed upwards on sledges pulled by bulls or workmen. However, in this case, sufficiently long ramps with a lesser slope would have been necessary, as well as large towing crews or teams. Thus, hardly any of the existing solutions are satisfactory, especially with reference to crucial issues in the building process such as the setting of the pyramidion, smoothing of the casing, and calculations allowing for a realistic reconstruction of the building schedule. Frequently, the absence of sound archaeological evidence is a major problem. For various reasons, perpendicular ramps and spiral ramps can be excluded as a construction method. In the present contribution, the use of steep ramps parallel to the core steps combined with redirectional rollers for material transport is highlighted as a probable solution. It is developed from archaeological evidence from the Old Kingdom, and demonstrated on the example of the pyramid of Menkaure. Furthermore, an external working platform is shown to allow for a certain degree of safety during the application of the casing and the setting of the pyramidion, as well as the top-down smoothing of the casing. Building times calculated on this basis for the pyramid of Menkaure, the Red Pyramid and the Pyramid of Khufu are consistent with the accepted dating of the respective ruler’s reign. The present contribution is a summary of the author’s 2008 PhD dissertation which discusses pyramid construction with ramps and winches (Pyramidenbau mit Rampen und Seilwinden – ein Beitrag zur Bautechnik im Alten Reich) supplemented by additional considerations pertaining to the building of the pyramids. See also Müller-Römer, F. 2011. Der Bau der Pyramiden im Alten Ägypten. Munich.

Document type: Article
Date: 2011
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 01 Aug 2011 10:36
Faculties / Institutes: Research Project, Working Group > Individuals
DDC-classification: Ägypten (Altertum)
Subject (Propylaeum): Egyptology
Controlled Keywords: Ägypten <Altertum>, Pyramide, Architektur, Konstruktion
Subject (classification): Architecture
Countries/Regions: Egypt (Antiquity)