Demystifying the Egyptian Pyramids with Hard Facts
It has always fascinated, and worried me at the same time, how many people I meet that are still mesmerized by aspects of the pyramids in Egypt that archeologists solved many years ago. The when, how, what and where aspects are all now understood, leaving “why” as the real mystery.
How Many People Built The Great Pyramid?
Archeologists, Engineers and amateur enthusiasts debate on exactly “how many” people contributed to the building of the pyramids in Egypt, which were erected for each of three pharaohs: Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure. Most Egyptologists over the last two decades have thought this number to be between to 20,000 or 30,000 based on the size of the tombs and the cemetery, but famed Egyptologist, Zahi Hawass, believes around 36,000 ancient Egyptians built the pyramids.
The first attempt at guessing what this elusive number might be was made by the Greek historian Herodotus, who estimated that “100,000 men worked in three shifts” to build the structures. The trouble with this account is that it was unclear whether each shift contained 100,000 men, or 33,000 men worked three shifts. According to a archeologist Mark Lehner of the Giza Plateau Mapping Project at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago and Harvard Semitic Museum postulated a different number .
Map of the Giza Plateux by MesserWoland, work created in Inkscape. CC BY-SA 3.0
Lehner's team calculated how many men would be needed to deliver “340 stones each day” and determined there were likely 1,200 people in the quarry and 2,000 transporting the stones, while others must have cut stones and set them into place. He concluded that to have built the pyramid within a 20-40-year period, the process would have required "5,000 men to actually do the building and the quarrying and the schlepping from the local quarry.”
More recently, archeologist Richard Redding, the chief research officer at Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA), estimated the workforce at Giza to be around 10,000 people “for all three pyramids.” In a Live Science study published in 2013, Redding found that “enough cattle, sheep and goats were slaughtered every day to produce 4,000 pounds of meat, on average, to feed the pyramid builders” and he used the animal bone remains found at Giza, to calculate the “nutritional requirements for a person doing hard labor, to arrive at his number of 10,000.”
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How Were The Pyramids Built?
Although many old school, pseudo-historians, will tell you that “if anybody tells you they know how the pyramids were built they are lying,” this is either a lie itself, or less sinisterly, ignorance. It is a fact that many thousands of highly qualified archeologists, engineers and anthropologists know precisely how pyramid structures were assembled.
A word of caution. When a writer or lecturer tells you that mystery surrounds how such massive stones blocks were shaped and transported for using in the pyramids, they are really saying “I wrote a cranky book in the 90’s and now “I can’t" admit archeologists understand how all this was done.” So, they continue to throw on layers of childish complexity and for every person that listens to this type of author, a thousand cry.
A fact that this type of writer holds back from readers, is that about 90% of the pyramid's blocks are soft limestone quarried "just across the river" from the pyramids. And while you are often told “no metal” was used in the pyramid’s construction, contrary to this, according to James A. Harrell and Per Storemyr, The University of Toledo, Ohio archeologists have found many copper wedges which were used with “wooden levers to mechanically fracture the soft limestone.”
In the face of spaceships, anti-gravity levitation mechanisms and magic, a papyrus found by the Red Sea explained precisely how the massive blocks were made easier to move using water. The papyri, found at Wadi al-Jarf informed that the limestone “used in the casing is from a quarry located at Turah, near modern-day Cairo,” and was shipped to Giza by boat over 4 days along the Nile River then along a series of canals. And most of the stones used to build Khufu's pyramid were quarried from a "horseshoe-shaped quarry located just south of the pyramid," said Mark Lehner who published his finds back in 1985 in the journal Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts.