Pyramids were some of the greatest construction projects the world has ever beheld. Making one was no small feat. Today I’m going to show you how to do it yourself.
Please, please, do not do this at home. Not because of safety, it’s just I don’t want to have to look at that massive ugly thing whenever I wake up.
Find an area to build
Firstly, locate your construction area. The three biggest pyramids were built at Giza, in the wide open desert plains. This allowed efficient transportation of rocks and other building materials to the site. A place with difficult or pronounced terrain will be extremely challenging to build on. Make sure that the main point (where your actual pyramid is going to be put) is flat.
The Ancient Egyptian workers were astonishingly accurate with the bases of the pyramids. Laser measuring systems of today beat the ancient constructions- but only slightly!
Trees are definitely not something you want in the surrounding area – but let’s be honest, where are you going to find trees in a desert like this?
You’ll need to be situated near some villages and a source of water, eg. A river. The Egyptians could transport items up and down the River Nile.
Modern archaeology shows that small towns (however big enough to hold an army) were built near the pyramids to house the stonemasons and other constructors.
Hire your labourers
It’s a common misconception that the pyramids of Giza were built by thousands of labouring slaves! Instead, there was an organised work force which all had specific roles for every division. Just as an army has ranks and positions, the army of Egypt’s workers all had jobs. Architects, stone masons, a couple thousand slaves, and miners are probably the most important people to hire. There were groups designed for a range of purposes, and these were led by experienced leaders.
- Cut The Stone
Granite was the main material in the construction of a royal tomb. Huge blocks measuring close to 1m x 2m weighing over 2.3 tons were hauled across the land, often from considerably far away sites, to the workplace.
Egypt is a convenient land for mining and has always had a long history of a prosperous mining industry. Efficient quarries were often established alongside the River Nile, due to the erosion of the waters which exposed great areas to mine. Hosts of precious minerals and rocks could be found in the desert area, but due to the appalling conditions, this was not made full advantage of.
Some slaves and war prisoners had to be forced to work in the desert, because no one would volunteer, not even for a wage!
Bring The Stone
We still wonder about how the Egyptian workers managed the incredible task of dragging the blocks along the desert dunes and up the slopes of the pyramids. With modern research and archaeology, we have a better idea of what most likely happened.
For a 2.3 ton block, six men were required. Bigger blocks weighing 80tons would require up to eighteen, or even more. One theory suggests that the sand in front of each block was wetted so that the slab could slide along it more easily. Reducing friction enables the wooden sled which the stone rolls on to be moved much quicker.
Stop! Remember To Feed Your Men!
Teams of researchers in Giza have found remains of animal bones, indicating that a huge mass of cattle and other edible animals were kept in the area to be slaughtered and fed to the work force, which numbered some 10,000. In fact, over 4,000 pounds of meat was supplied each day. The inclusion of much more meat into a worker diet would provide them with higher quantities of protein for the hard labour, and make construction seem a little better – after all, meat cannot always be afforded by poor people.
- Start From The Bottom Up
Great! You’ve found a nice spot, built up a team, and gathered your materials at the site. Now comes the most important part – the construction process.
Pyramids could take years to build, 10 or 20 in fact.
Alongside the theory of hundreds of wooden ramps and pulleys, a new idea for how the massive structures were built has emerged in the past few years. This theory is probably the likely explanation for the building process, because it is supported by Ancient Writers who have talked about the same techniques.
It holds that the pyramids were built step by step, and each step provided an excellent work platform until the next stage was completed. A huge stone ramp, which was heightened and increased in length the higher the pyramid got, connected to the stone and enabled workers to haul the bricks up on a slow gradient until the designated location was reached.
It looks a little bit like this:
As you can see, the ramp gets longer to compensate for the height. After the process is completed, the workers can make their way down the ramp, destroying it level by level as they go.
There are a few advantages to this method:
- No need for elaborate or cumbersome structures/contraptions
- Simple and easy to get bricks to the top
- Can be destroyed after use
- Process can work up and is the practical way to build
- Each level, eg. Rooms inside pyramid, can be made one by one with precision
And some disadvantages:
- Big ramp takes time to build
- And even longer if it’s stone
- One way system – blocks coming from other side of the pyramid will have to divert around it
- No pulley systems, etc to haul up
- Everyone will crowd around the one entry!
- The ramp would have to be very looooooooooong
Despite the inevitable problems the step construction will cause, in my opinion, is by far the best way. That’s your best bet.
The Egyptians did actually have mortar which they lay between the bricks. How else would they hold it all together? However, it was difficult to produce in mass.
- Don’t Forget To Include The Burial Rooms!
The actual space of the rooms inside most pyramids tended to be very limited. Shafts were dug into the sides and allowed narrow access through thin tunnels to the chambers within.
The biggest stones in the Great Pyramid of Giza are made of granite, instead of the normal limestone, and can be found in the King’s Chamber. Some weigh over 50 tonnes!
You might need this map of the inside:
Credit: collagen restores. No copyright infringement intended
Credit: collagen restores. No copyright infringement intended
You might be surprised that a lot less than expected of the inside was used up! Most of it is just plain rock – solid through.
- Finish Off
Finish the project by closing the top and ensuring all the blocks are polished and in the correct position. Leave the site and look at it from a distance. This is something that took you twenty years. Appreciate it.
The Pharaoh’s mummified corpse will need to be carried through the shafts and locked in his burial chamber. Bring artifacts, gold and statues with you. Possessions should be left in here so that they are with the King in the afterlife. Remember – he’ll need some weapons as well.
Perform the death rituals and cast the magic spells to protect the Pharaoh against any foes he will encounter.
Destroy all temporary structures around.
Make the finishing touches by locking and sealing the shafts. We definitely don’t want any grave robbers harming your master.
You’ve done it!