- uploaded: Dec 28, 2009
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Timewatch: Pyramid - The Last Secret (March, 2009)
The Great Pyramid of Giza is the largest and oldest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis, next to modern-day Cairo, Egypt. It is the only remaining member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and was the tallest man-made structure on the planet for over 3,800 years, until the 160 meter tall spire of Lincoln Cathedral was completed in England in c. 1300.
Most egyptological authorities believe that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb for Fourth Dynasty Egyptian pharaoh Khufu. The pyramid is composed of over 2.3 million stone blocks averaging 2.5 tonnes, the heaviest being between 50 and 80 tonnes. With a base covering 13 acres, a volume of 2.5 million cubic meters, a weight of 5.9 million tonnes, and a height of 138.8 meters (originally 146.6 meters), the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza is estimated to have taken up to 20 years, concluding around 2560 BC. Based on these estimates, approximately 800 tonnes of stone must have been installed every day.
Just how could such a major feat have been achieved at that time? And in particular, how could such large stones have been raised so high without modern technology? Archaeologists have been wrestling with this question for centuries.
It has been surmised that the stones were quarried from the eastern side of the Nile, shaped with stone and copper tools, and floated across the Nile to the construction site on barges, before being either lifted with cranes to the top of the pyramid or slid to the top on wooden sleds up temporary ramps. However, these theories are not very convincing.
The problem with the crane idea is that the shape of the side of the pyramid would not have presented enough space to use the cranes. And the problem with the ramp idea is that the topology of the plateau on which the pyramid is built would have only allowed a single ramp to be built on the south side of the pyramid. This ramp would have had to be a mile long, requiring as much labour to construct as the pyramid itself.
Another theory also includes a ramp, but one which coils up and around the pyramid. The problem with this theory is that such a ramp would have caused all kinds of problems associated with the obscuration of sight lines essential in the pyramid's accuracy. So how, then, were the stone blocks raised?
Presented by Bob Brier, a popular egyptologist from Long Island University, this documentary from the BBC's long-running "Timewatch" series presents a radical new theory proposed by a French architect, Jean-Pierre Houdin. According to Houdin, the blocks were raised via an internal ramp. This ramp is still inside the pyramid waiting to be discovered. If correct, Houdin's discovery will be the most significant in Archaeology since Tutankhamun.