How Ancient Egyptians Built the Great Pyramid of Giza

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Sorry Ancient Alien theorists, but thanks to some Egyptian writings discovered between 2011 and 2013, archaeologists are confident they know how the ancient Egyptians constructed the Great Pyramid of Giza. And no, they didn’t have help from aliens, but from boats.



The Great Pyramid of Giza

Long considered one of the engineering marvels of ancient times, the Great Pyramid of Giza was the largest manmade object on planet Earth from the time it was constructed in 2600 BC right up until the middle ages. Pharaoh Khufu began construction on the pyramid around 2550 B.C. His Great Pyramid is the towers some 481 feet above the Giza plateau. Its estimated 2.3 million stone blocks each weigh an average of 2.5 to 15 tons.

Researches have known for a long time the pyramid was constructed from limestone quarried in Tora and granite from Aswan. Tora is across the river from Giza while Aswan is over 500 miles south. For years the key question was, how did they transport all that stone? The wheel hadn’t yet been invented.

The Papyrus and Diary of Merer

Scientists have found an ancient papyrus that dates back to the construction time of the Great Pyramid that might provide a first-hand account of how the structure was built.

A Papyrus Tallet found at Wadi al-Jarf from 2600 BC, the worlds oldest, refers to the "horizon of Khufu," or the Great Pyramid at Giza | Image Credit: Pierre Tallet
A Papyrus Tallet found at Wadi al-Jarf from 2600 BC, the worlds oldest, refers to the “horizon of Khufu,” or the Great Pyramid at Giza | Image Credit: Pierre Tallet

[This is] the greatest discovery in Egypt in the 21st century. ~ Zahi Hawass, former minister of antiquities

The papyrus was discovered in the ancient port of Wadi al-Jarf located on the Red Sea. It was part of a collection of documents now known as the Diary of Merer. Merer was an official involved in the building of the Great Pyramid of Khufu and he detailed some of the construction of it in his writings. He led a crew of around 200 men who traveled all over Egypt picking up and delivering goods.



Egyptian Boats

The ancient Egyptians were master boat builders. In fact, they were the first civilization to use lighthouses, and they traded globally. Images of thousands of men building pyramids and grand structures rarely speak to the globalization of the Egyptians. They were however, very active on the world stage. Egyptian artifacts are abound with images of boats and ships. Burial ceremonies for the Pharaohs included ships and boats.

Egyptian model of a boat from 1985-1650 BCE North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh
Egyptian model of a boat from 1985-1650 BCE
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh

A burial ship was even discovered at the base of the Great Pyramid. The ship was likely used to transport King Khufu’s body to his final resting place. Archaeologists have theorized that the stones used to build Khufu’s Pyramid may have been transported on boats, but they didn’t have any evidence.

Transport Boats Confirmed by Merer

Merer’s writings reveal that limestone was moved from Tora on boats. Stone blocks were moved across the Nile in canals that terminated close to the construction site. It’s possible that the same type of boats were used to transport granite from Aswan. He describes stopping at Tora and filling his boat with stone and taking it to Giza. He even mentions Ankh-haf, the half-brother of King Khufu, by name.

Sorry Ancient Alien Believers

So what’s missing from Merer’s writings? Aliens. That’s right Ancient Astronaut theorists. The writings describing how the stones were moved makes no mention of aliens. While the Diary of Merer fails to unlock all of the secrets in regards to pyramid construction, it does complete a piece of the puzzle. Let’s hope that down the road we’ll have the full picture, aliens or not.

 

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