Egyptian Pyramids - who built the pyramids? Why were the pyramids built? Where are the pyramids? How many pyramids are there in Egypt? What were the pyramids used for? The Bent pyramid. The Step Pyramid. The Red Pyramid. The Great Pyramid. The Pyramids at Giza. This site aims to answer those questions and many more, giving an insight into the truely magnificent structures know as the pyramids of Egypt!

How were the Pyramids were built?

Moving around three million cubes of stone, weighing around two tons apiece is no easy task, even by todays methods. So how did the Ancient Egyptians do this, in an age when iron was unknown and the wheel and pully had not yet been invented?

Unfortunately, there are no existing plans on how the pyramids of Egypt were built. However many Egyptologists and scientists have made educated guesses and calculations regarding their construction. We can make an assumption of how they were constructed, but only the ancient Egyptians will ever know for certain how they achieved such wonderful monuments.

Preparing the Site

The first step to building a pyramid would have been to chose a suitable site, which must be on the west side of the Nile. The west was were the sun set and the ancient Egyptians believed that was were the dead entered the Underworld. Each year the Nile would perform its annual flood so the site also had to be on slightly higher ground to prevent the flood waters from reaching the pyramid. But the site still had to be near enough to the Nile so that it could be used to transport the mighty stone blocks which would be used in the pyramid's construction.

The site also had to have a firm rock base in order to support the tremendous weight of the pyramid, without the risk of subsidence and thus cracking the pyramid, or indeed causing it to collapse altogether.

Finally, the site had to be near enough to the capital city in order for the Pharaoh to inspect the building work whenever he wished.

Each side of the pyramid had to face one of the cardinal points (north, south, east and west). In order to ensure this the workers calculated true north, probably by using a certain star and observing the rising and setting of the star. The rising and setting positions would have been marked on an artificial horizon and, by bisecting the angle made, would obtain a north-south line. Once they had achieved a north-south line they would quite easily have found east and west, using right angle instruments we know existed.

The base of the pyramid also had to be perfectly square, with the four sides exactly the same length and the corners perfect right angles. Again, using basic mathematics this would have been relatively straight forward for the pyramid builders.

Once a suitable site was chosen, the workers would have prepared a firm foundation by removing loose sand and stones from the rock. The rock base had to be perfectly flat. In order to achieve this it is thought that the workers would have used a method whereby they built a small mud wall around the the base, cutting channels in a grid pattern over the base surface. Then they would have filled the channels with water and marked the area the water reached. After the water was drained away they would cut any protruding rock to the level indicated by the water, and any depressions would have been filled with stones, thereby creating a perfectly flat surface.

Raising the Pyramid

The exact method of raising the pyramid is not known. Several theories exist but, as there are no known records or texts regarding the construction process, all they remain is theories.

Pulleys

We can safely rule out the use of pulleys. We know that pulleys were not invented until Roman times, well after the pyramids were built.

Ramps

One theory is that a ramp was built as the pyramid grew, allowing the workers to transport the huge building blocks up to the latest level of the pyramid. The only problem with this theory is that as the pyramid grew, the ramp would have to become longer and longer, otherwise the angle of the ramp would be too step for practical use. By the time the pyramid was taking on shape, the ramp would have to stretch far out into the desert. There is no evidence to support this theory, no pieces of ramps have ever been found at pyramid sites.

Another theory is that the ramp would wind around the pyramid as it grew, rather than stretch out into the desert, somewhat similar to modern day scaffolding. This would require less building and most experts agree that this is the likely method of pyramid construction, although, as mentioned previously, there is no surviving evidence to support this theory.

However the pyramids were constructed, one thing we do know. They are impressive structures which have stood the test of time. The engineers of the day were far more advanced in mathematics, geometry, architecture and construction than we really can imagine for a civilization so old. The pyramids are an enigma, but that is also true of their builders.