Quarry Discovery May Explain How Pyramids Were Built

Researchers find ramp system in Egypt
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2018 7:37 AM CST
Updated Nov 10, 2018 7:00 AM CST
Key to How Pyramids Were Built: A Ramp?
An Egyptian camel owner waits for customers to take a ride, in front of the Khafre pyramid, near Cairo, Egypt.   (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty, File)

Scientists have long theorized that Egyptians used a ramp of some kind in building the pyramids, and a new discovery in an ancient quarry might provide a tangible look at just such a system. Researchers say they found the remains of a system that dates back 4,500 years, to around the time when the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. "This system is composed of a central ramp flanked by two staircases with numerous post holes," Yannis Gourdon of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology tells Live Science. As the Guardian explains, the ramp system as built would have allowed workers to pull giant alabaster blocks out of the quarry faster and at a steeper angle—perhaps 20% or more—than previously thought.

“The system we have discovered would allow more people to exert force at one time, so it means you would be able to exert more force and move the blocks more quickly,” Roland Enmarch of the University of Liverpool. The post holes suggest that a pulley system of some sort was in place, with workers above, below, and on either side of the blocks on the staircases pulling in unison. Inscriptions found near the system date it to the time of Pharaoh Khufu, or Cheops, who had the Great Pyramid built, per a post at Phys.org. (This teenager got a unique view of the pyramid, albeit an illegal one.)

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