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The ancient monument is believed to have been built more than 4,500 years ago for the Fourth Dynasty leader Pharaoh Khufu, yet questions still remain over its construction. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, it is the only one still largely intact and is estimated to weigh approximately six million tonnes from its 2.3 million limestone blocks. Numerous theories exist about how the Great Pyramid was built, but most archaeologists believe each stone block was cut and transported from a nearby quarry and positioned into place using a large external ramp.
But this is nearly impossible, according to structural engineer Peter James, who has spent the last 14 years working on preserving the historic buildings and temples of Egypt with his company Cintec.
He claimed in his book ‘Saving the Pyramids: Twenty First Century Engineering and Egypt’s Ancient Monuments,’ that “the theory is based on the assumption that the pyramids contain several million large blocks”.
Mr James believes experts have overestimated this number.
And he explained why, adding: “Having located a suitable source of stone, the top covering of sand and debris would need to be removed to reveal the selected stone.
“Next it is necessary to locate, mark out and cut 2.3 million blocks and dress them to fit each course, then to transport them on paved roadways to the pyramid or the start of the external ramp.
“It has been calculated that this method of construction would need to have been undertaken every six minutes during a ten-hour day for 25 years to complete the construction of the pyramid.
“This also leads to the question of how many men were needed to build the pyramids.
“Surely, this method would need the 20,000 – 30,000 mentioned in many of the articles published today.”
But the Egyptologist believes these numbers are “staggering” adding it would be “difficult to imagine how all these labourers would be able to work on such a confined site”.
He stated: “The process of quarrying would not be able to supply the number and quality of stones using this method, even if they were available within the time frame.
“The stones would have to be cut from the quarry face, therefore access would be the limiting factor, not the number of workers.
“The quarrymen would get in each other’s way. A face would have to be worked and totally removed before the next face was exposed.”
Instead, the Newport-based author believes the outside of the Great Pyramid differs from the inside.
He claims “internal ramps would be constructed to provide working access” rather than using the external ramp theory to place each large stone block.
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Therefore “this infill would comprise of much smaller and more easily managed stones” to speed up the building process leaving large parts of the Great Pyramid empty or “filled with a material that is a different density to the outside”.
Mr James has spent his career strengthening and restoring historically significant structures all around the world, from Windsor Castle to the White House.
In ‘Saving the Pyramids,’ he puts forward a unique perspective to the structural engineering of ancient Egypt, giving his opinion on common theories surrounding the pyramids – along with new and innovative projections on their construction.
The book, published by University of Wales Press, is available for purchase in bookstores throughout the UK, as well as online here.
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