Archaeology breakthrough as scientists unveil theory on how Great Pyramids were built

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell Jul10,2024

Archaeologists believe they have solved the riddle of how Egypt‘s pyramids were built.

The construction of these ancient tombs has fascinated and baffled experts in equal measure for hundreds of years.

The first of these magnificent monuments was built around 2780 BCE near the ancient city of Memphis.

It is believed that 118 were commissioned and constructed in all of Egypt, while over 200 were also built in Sudan.

Now scientists think they have discovered an ingenious technique used by ancient Egyptians to help them construct these colossal edifices.

Physicists from the University of Amsterdam started analysing an old wall painting from the tomb of Djehutihotep, dating back to around 1900 B.C.

The image depicts the construction process of a pyramid, and shows 172 people moving the massive stones. One detail in particular from the image caught the eye of the researchers, as they pored over it. 

In one section, a worker pours water on sand in front of a sled that’s carrying a colossal statue. For years Egyptologists had interpreted the scene as part of a purification ritual, Daniel Bonn, Professor at the University of Amsterdam, told the Washington Post.

The lead researcher said they had never considered the image might have a technical and scientific explanation to it.

He and his team argue that making the sand wet helped the workers to move the stones by reducing friction.

He explained: “Friction is a terribly complicated problem. Even if you realise that wet sand is harder — as in a sandcastle, you cannot build on dry sand — the consequences of that for friction are hard to predict.”

He said the experiment not only solved “the Egyptian mystery, but also shows, interestingly, that the stiffness of sand is directly related to the friction force.”

The physicists wrote up their discoveries in a 2014 paper, which was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The study said: “We show experimentally that the sliding friction on sand is greatly reduced by the addition of some—but not too much—water.

“The formation of capillary water bridges increases the shear modulus of the sand, which facilitates the sliding.

“Too much water, on the other hand, makes the capillary bridges coalesce, resulting in a decrease of the modulus; in this case, we observe that the friction coefficient increases again.

“Our results, therefore, show that the friction coefficient is directly related to the shear modulus; this has important repercussions for the transport of granular materials.

“In addition, the polydispersity of the sand is shown to also have a large effect on the friction coefficient.”

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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