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Pyramid Stones Were Poured, Not Quarried 445

Posted by Zonk
from the that-was-really-far-up-the-tech-tree dept.
brian0918 writes "Times Online is reporting that French and American researchers have discovered that the stones on the higher levels of the great pyramids of Egypt were built with concrete. From the article: 'Until recently it was hard for geologists to distinguish between natural limestone and the kind that would have been made by reconstituting liquefied lime.' They found 'traces of a rapid chemical reaction which did not allow natural crystallization. The reaction would be inexplicable if the stones were quarried, but perfectly comprehensible if one accepts that they were cast like concrete.'"
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Pyramid Stones Were Poured, Not Quarried

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  • by lecithin (745575) on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:59PM (#17069890)
    "They found traces of a rapid chemical reaction which did not allow natural crystallization. "

    That is what I call concrete evidence!

    • by dr_dank (472072) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:14PM (#17070218) Homepage Journal
      That is what I call concrete evidence!

      It would have been conclusively proven years ago, but the investigation was stonewalled.
    • by Herkum01 (592704)
      I think you meant to say that this is "hard evidence" or maybe "evidence that puts this hypothesis over the top".
  • by Pojut (1027544) on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:59PM (#17069896) Homepage
    wouldn't the aliens have just created them out of random molecules in the air using some sort of crazy technology?
  • Oh come on! (Score:5, Funny)

    by necro81 (917438) on Friday December 01, 2006 @02:59PM (#17069902) Journal
    How are we supposed to believe that an advanced alien race would still be using something so mundane as concrete?
  • Casting Vs Forming (Score:5, Informative)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:00PM (#17069924) Journal
    I've poured a lot of concrete with my dad over the years. So I will share with you some of the useless knowledge I acquired before college. He has only a high school degree so it's not like he was a scholar on this material.

    My dad always used to tell me that when Alexandria was burned, all the publications holding the Roman recipe for concrete went with it. That, he claimed, was why all concrete poured was inferior to the Roman Aqueducts. And why it wasn't until 1948 that the right combination of limestone & other minerals was discovered to be able to resist water and hold that high a level of precision. Cement/concrete are by nature porous surfaces and so often sap water which causes structural problems. The fact that the some of the aqueducts still hold their accuracy within inches of their architectural specifications after 2000 years is nothing to overlook.

    If Egyptians (for thousands of years prior to the Romans) had experimented with or refined this process and if an Aristotelean (such as Demetrius of Phaleron) had moved this information to Alexandria, that would explain how the structures like the aqueducts were constructed with such high quality mixtures.

    I have one tiny problem with the summary as the article states:
    The Ancient Egyptians built their great Pyramids by pouring concrete into blocks high on the site rather than hauling up giant stones, according to a new Franco-American study.
    While summary uses the word cast:
    The reaction would be inexplicable if the stones were quarried, but perfectly comprehensible if one accepts that they were cast like concrete.
    I would like to point out that this is known as forming [wikipedia.org] concrete and not casting [wikipedia.org] concrete. The difference is like the difference between pouring concrete for a foundation of a house and laying brick. Laying brick is casting while pouring concrete (like the article alludes to) is called 'forming.'

    This might sound like a small matter but laying brick & forming concrete walls are two entirely different professions.

    In all honesty, if you were to ask me to construct a pyramid today--knowing what I know, I would build the core of the pyramid out of laid brick. And then I would, starting from the bottom, form up the angled sides and fill in those areas. If you're wondering why I would take this route, try it with paper. Cut out blocks of paper from a notebook without making marks and try to make a perfect angled edge between them. Pretty difficult. Now try it in three dimensions with 2000 year old tools.

    It makes sense that they would have both technologies (like the article states), one quarried for huge bricks and the other formed up ash, salt & lime. It would also explain a lot of technologies the Romans had.
    • by 0racle (667029)
      If Egyptians (for thousands of years prior to the Romans) had experimented with or refined this process and if an Aristotelean (such as Demetrius of Phaleron) had moved this information to Alexandria, that would explain how the structures like the aqueducts were constructed with such high quality mixtures.
      Or the Romans tried many times before creating Bath's and Aqueducts.
      • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:18PM (#17070296) Journal
        Or the Romans tried many times before creating Bath's and Aqueducts.
        There's a lot of stuff out there that I can grind up and mold. It will last a day. It will last two days. It will last the week and it might even last the season. But when you come to a place of sand and you see these pyramids that have weathered the elements and retained a decent shape for possibly thousands of years, you might say, "What have you got there?"

        I'm not keen on Roman/Egyptian history but I think that the Egyptian society and race are a bit older than the Romans. Wikipedia tells me that the Egyptian empire ran some 7,000 years while the Roman Empire technically only lasted only from 44 BC to AD 476. Ok so in 500 years, how many experiments with possible mixtures could you test. You can test for hardness & solubility on the fly but not duration. If you mix limestone with gypsum, you come up with something like drywall that won't last long at all in the elements. but might initially have a very hard composure.

        Go look at some of the adobe structures that have lasted for hundreds upon hundreds of years in the Southwest of the United States. They were using the most abundant resource that was known to last the longest. R&D for the Romans was probably pretty high quality but I was just speculating that nothing then could match 7,000 years of research for something that would bring your leader's through the ages.

        It was just speculation on my part but I highly doubt the Romans were the sole originators of the formula for the aqueducts. It really is too bad Alexandria was burned. If I could undo one thing in history, I would be tempted to pick that one.
        • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:36PM (#17070644)
          Wikipedia tells me that the Egyptian empire ran some 7,000 years while the Roman Empire technically only lasted only from 44 BC to AD 476.

          To be fair, you should probably measure the duration of the civilization, not just the time when it was called an "empire." In that case, the Roman civilization (monarchy, republic, and empire) lasted from 753 BC to AD 476.

          Also, the Wikipedia article on Ancient Egypt says that your 7,000 year figure is high by a factor of 2:

          Ancient Egypt developed over at least three and a half millennia. It began with the incipient unification of Nile Valley polities around 3150 BC and is conventionally thought to have ended in 31 BC when the early Roman Empire conquered and absorbed Ptolemaic Egypt as a state.

          So the Egyptions lasted longer than the Romans, but not by nearly as wide a margin as you stated.

          • by Knara (9377)
            Depends what you consider to be "Roman". you can go back many thousands of years and still pretty safely consider the civilization to be "Roman". See Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]
          • by Knara (9377)
            Sorry, "many hundreds" not thousands. It's not helped that the Romans had a tendency to make up their history as they went (and as was convenient at the time), but I generally support your statements.
        • by Knara (9377)
          A detail, but the "Roman Empire" is less than half of the Roman civilization lifespan. You have to add on the Roman Republic and pre-republic period, which tasks on a thousand years or two.
        • by 2short (466733)
          "the Egyptian empire ran some 7,000 years"

          A series of different empires occupied similar territory over a span of more like 3000 years. The Pyramids were all built by the first one, over a fairly short period.
        • by jafac (1449) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:11PM (#17071366) Homepage
          Interesting line of thought -

          One of the main binding factors of ancient Egyptian civilization was the common religion. And an interesting point about the religion, is that they (the priesthood) exercised very strict controls on everything related to the religion, including artistic style (and techniques), monumental architecture, funerary rituals and rites, language, etc. It was this cultural inertia that bound the Egyptian civilization together across thousands of years, dozens of dynasties, even through foreign invasions and occupations.

          The very fabric of the civilization was guided by the notion that CHANGE IS BAD. Pharoh is God. As long as we follow our religion and keep God happy, and make sure God's remains are preserved FOREVER, then Egypt will continue forever.

          By that notion alone, it seems unlikely that there was a vibrant experimentation going on.

          From the art historian perspective, you can compare the stylistic qualities of sculpture over thousands of years, and the features remain virtually unchanged (except for the Armana period, which really only lasted a couple of decades). During Akhenaten's reign, this changed, because he ousted the priesthood, and introduced his own religion - and during this brief period, the art style changed dramatically. Then the priesthood regained control, and used his son, Tutenkamen, as a puppet, to restore the previous order, and the old art style returned, though it was never again as static - and began taking influence from other medeterranean cultures with which the Egyptians traded (ie. Greek, Persian, etc.)

          I'm not saying that they did not discover the perfect concrete formula through experimentation (and it's pretty clear that there WAS a process of improvement in their embalming process over the centuries)- but what I'm saying is that taking 500 years of Roman history, and mapping that over to 7000 years of Egyptian history is like comparing apples to oranges. Egyptian progress most likely moved VERY slowly, in comparison. But they did have a lot of time to work at it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by kfg (145172)
      He has only a high school degree so it's not like he was a scholar on this material.

      Bucky Fuller only had a high school degree, so it's not like he was a scholar on building geodesic domes.

      Cut out blocks of paper from a notebook without making marks and try to make a perfect angled edge between them. Pretty difficult. Now try it in three dimensions with 2000 year old tools.

      Euclid: circa 365-275 BC. I might also note that the ancient Egyptians were so adept at making marks directly on stone that some of thos
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by notthe9 (800486)
      Forming, rather than casting? In my experience with structural concrete (which is not all that much: I am an undergraduate structural engineerning student) I have encountered the term cast used with concrete. I have heard "cast-in-place" contrasted with precast concrete.

      The ACI Committee 318 Building Code defines "Precast concrete" as "Structural concrete element cast elsewhere than its final position in the structure," which would suggest to me that structural concrete members that are not precast are in
    • Brick Pyramids (Score:4, Informative)

      by spike2131 (468840) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:38PM (#17070688) Homepage
      In all honesty, if you were to ask me to construct a pyramid today--knowing what I know, I would build the core of the pyramid out of laid brick.

      A lot of the later pyramids actually were built with a core of laid brick, and cased in stone. These didn't hold up as well as the older, all stone pyramids, like the Great Pyramid, because the bricks were made out of mud and eventually turned to dust. Today, a lot of the brick pyramids basically resemble mounds of dirt and rock, with the original pyramid shape just barely distinguishable.
    • I would like to point out that this is known as forming concrete and not casting concrete. The difference is like the difference between pouring concrete for a foundation of a house and laying brick. Laying brick is casting while pouring concrete (like the article alludes to) is called 'forming.'

      Actually, I'm not so sure I agree with the authors on this point. Assuming some of them are made and not quarried, then if they were formed in place, why are they still clearly distinctive stones with detectable (t
    • The Romans used a mixture of volcanic ash and limestone, which is very different from modern forms. One of the interesting properties of Roman concrete is that it chemically reacts with water to generate heat. This heat allows it to set. As such, it could be used to construct things that existed underwater.

      Very likely the Romans did not invent this technique. Their written language was bought from the Etruscans and much of their science and philosophy was forcibly taken from the Greeks. Much of their religi

    • by Vreejack (68778) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:25PM (#17072722)
      It has been long known that the internal and external blocks of the pyramids were different. It seems that an internal scaffolding of blocks was lain, on which a long pole with a target at the end could be mounted so that the edges could be kept straight and aligned as the external blocks were added. The outer blocks were long thought to be a more attractive grade of limestone, highly polished. They were also highly desirable for building materials and were often stolen by later Egyptians. Since they were more easily stolen from the bottom we have a possible explanation for why the blocks on top seem to be different from the blocks on the bottom, that being that the top blocks are simply exterior blocks which were too difficult to steal.

      The brief article seems to imply that the authors of the study could not be certain of the top/bottom relationship because of their lack of material for study. This is unfortunate as I suspect with more material this hypothesis of their might be completely demolished. I have two major problems with it. First, they are materials scientists, not geologists, so they have no acknowledged expertise in the art of geology. Second, even if they were geologists, they are still arguing from ignorance, claiming that nature could not be responsible for the form of these limestone blocks. Well, nature is often a mystery to those who have not bothered looking at it, and it is easy to claim that something could not happen in nature if you are unfamiliar with it. Just ask the anti-Darwinists.
  • ... b.b.b.but what about the evidence we've found throughout the years about the workers in the area? And what about the timelines?

    I would think that this will throw a bone in some of their theories, so I'm surprised that the two researchers were even allowed on to the site... At any rate, this explains why the separation between the "stones" is so tight in certain places.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by starwed (735423)
      They're just saying some>/i> of the stones were made this way. Not all of them.
    • but what about the evidence we've found throughout the years about the workers in the area?

      Someone had to drive the cement trucks!
    • by 2short (466733)

      Um, casting some of the stones from concrete doesn't mean the pyramids weren't massive projects requiring huge numbers of workers. I don't see how it explains the tightness of the stones particularly; they couldn't have been poured in-place if that's what you're thinking, or there wouldn't be any seperation at all. I'm not celar what theories you think this one piece of the puzzle invalidates, or why you think Egyptologists are corrupt schemers uninterested in new data.
  • by mmell (832646) <mike.mell@gmail.com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:07PM (#17070064)
    Question 1: Is the activity of casting liquified lime depicted on any pictographs/heiroglyphics in Egypt? The ancient Egyptians had a marvellous habit of recording a great many things on very durable media - including how their own technology worked. I would expect to find depictions somewhere of Egyptians or their slaves engaged in the tasks of manufacturing and pouring concrete.

    Question 2: Is there evidence that the Egyptians used this technology elsewhere? I find it difficult to believe that they would've evolved this kind of technology (concrete) and used it exclusively for the task of pyramid-building.

    • As far as point two is concerned, it would make sense, if these findings hold true, that only the pyramids had this technology when one considers why the pyramids were built in the first place. Since the Egyptian Kings were considered gods, they were given the best of everything. Why not make their final resting place of the best materials using the best construction methods?

      It wouldn't make sense to use such processes for the lowly commoner but it would make sense to use this process for a god's structur
      • Since the Egyptian Kings were considered gods, they were given the best of everything. Why not make their final resting place of the best materials using the best construction methods?

        You haven't read much Egyptian history, I see.

        Some Pyramids were cannibalized to finish up others, when they were needed suddenly (by an untimely death). Some Pharoahs (Tutankhamon, for instance) were buried in whatever tomb happened to be ready when he died.

        The Egyptian Pharoahs were Gods, alright. But mostly the dead on

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Beek Dog (610072)

      The ancient Egyptians had a marvellous habit of recording a great many things on very durable media - including how their own technology worked.

      A 1: If they were so good at recording their technology, then why are we still debating how they made the pyramids? Are there pictographs showing hundreds of slaves pushing/pulling a giant slab up the face? Maybe there are, but I haven't heard of them, and they surely would have removed a lot of the mysteries.

      A 2: They article states that the method was used on more than one pyramid, so yes.

      Silly rabbit, sigs are for kids

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I find it difficult to believe that they would've evolved this kind of technology (concrete) and used it exclusively for the task of pyramid-building.

      That's because you don't live in a primitive era where the local boss was considered an actual deity (the reincarnation of Horus, if I recall my amateur Egyptology correctly).

    • Formula (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:35PM (#17070622)
      Is the activity of casting liquified lime depicted on any pictographs/heiroglyphics in Egypt?

      Yes. It goes like this:

      Bird's eye bird's eye, dancing guy, two chicks looking at each other, bird's eye, chicks again, that dog faced god looking to the heavens, some women throwing wheat into the air, guys picking ground, bird's eye, god of something, mound of cement.

      There you go!

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The pyramids weren't built. They *landed*.
  • by whodkne (778580) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:08PM (#17070072) Homepage
    They told those history shows that they lugged those stones up ramps and whatnot!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:11PM (#17070146)
    Dr Daniel Jackson knows the truth
  • by Waffle Iron (339739) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:13PM (#17070176)
    In an era before the invention of the wheel, it wouldn't have been any easier to drag a 20-ton concrete mixer truck chassis up the pyramid than to just drag up a 20-ton block of stone.
    • 4000 AD (Score:5, Funny)

      by bronzey214 (997574) <jason DOT rippel AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:18PM (#17070302) Journal
      I can only imagine archeologist's reactions when our society is kaput.

      "The Americans had slaves that carried concrete slabs to form long unending structures. We also have evidence that these were called "free-ways". We think these "free-ways" were in worship to some sort of God and the metal heaps on these "free-ways" offerings for this God."
      • Re:4000 AD (Score:4, Informative)

        by Khomar (529552) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:02PM (#17071210) Journal

        That reminds me of a great children's book I ran across a few years ago called Motel of the Mysteries [amazon.com]. It was a comical take on what archaeologists might think of our culture as they unearth a 20th century motel. It really makes you wonder how utterly wrong our understanding of history may be. The one thing I remember best from the history of ancient Greece is that all of our knowledge of that culture is based on a single book and a few fragments.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by identity0 (77976)
        "We believe these remains are that of a great Imperial Leader of the Americans, Jimmy Hoffa, who was beloved of his people which is why they built such a monomental stadium over his final resting place."

        "The burning of the Great Archive.org of The Internet was the single biggest tragedy of the Web 2.0 era, much like losing the Library of Alexandria was to the ancients. Because of its loss, we will never know what wisdom lay in goatse.cx or tubgirl.org, sites that are so frequently mentioned in txts of that
    • by EnderGT (916132)
      True, but they could haul up 20,000 1-lb buckets of concrete, or maybe 840-ish 1-gallon buckets of water and 13,330-ish 1-lb bags of lime and a 200-lb mixing bowl.
  • by jbeaupre (752124) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:15PM (#17070224)
    The first time was when a researcher about 10 years ago (give or take 10) claimed they were poured because he found a human hair embedded in one.
  • by us7892 (655683) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:16PM (#17070258) Homepage
    It explains all the pottery found around the pyramids. They formed long passing lines to send water to fill the concrete mixing troughs. And they built casts with lumber, also found around the pyramids...it all makes sense now.

    Or, aliens from mars mixed the concrete on their spaceships and poured the casts while hovering over each apex...
  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:17PM (#17070272) Homepage Journal
    There's no mention of aggregate, the sand and gravel that cement glues together to make concrete.
  • by vtcodger (957785) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:23PM (#17070392)
    If the Egyptians knew how to form and pour concrete, why on Earth would they drag huge blocks of limestone and granite around to build the rest of the structure? (Maybe Union rules negotiated by the Lower Nile chapter of the Amalgamated Pyramid Craftsmen?) Why not make the whole structure out of concrete? And where are the form marks -- the marks from the boards or whatever that were used to make the form for each block? Granted they'd probably be weathered off from the exposed surfaces, but they should still be there on protected surfaces.
    • Granted they'd probably be weathered off from the exposed surfaces, but they should still be there on protected surfaces.

      Unless they were chiseled off by a worker.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Panaflex (13191)
      It's called "Scope creep." Wonder who was the project manager on that one?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by darkonc (47285)
      As somebody else pointed out, the large natural stone blocks work better as foundations, while concrete would work better for the higher reaches and the sidings. This seems to be the theorized case with the pyramids.
  • Not the first time (Score:4, Interesting)

    by edwardpickman (965122) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:23PM (#17070410)
    I've heard this theory before but from what I know the mix they are talking about it isn't nearly as strong as regular limestone. The slower crytalization pattern of natural limestone gives it the strength. I question that artifical limestone would be strong enough for even the top layers of a structure that big. Pure limestone isn't concrete. They aren't talking about concrete, that would be obvious if used, they are talking about reclaimed limestone. There are a lot of problems with that theory. Not the least of which is how would the eygptians make that much lime for the stone? You have to heat the lime dust to a very high temperature to break the chemical bonds. It wouldn't be a small undertaking on it's own and would take huge amounts of energy, charcoal essentially. Wood was scarce. There is no other evidence that they made lime concrete so I have serious doubts.
  • ... just can't get the slaves these days, can you? I remember when we used to use real stones, hewn out of quarries many miles away...
  • by WoTG (610710) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:26PM (#17070462) Homepage Journal
    For once I actually RTFA. The article claims that the rocks used at the top of the pyramids react differently than rocks used at the bottom of the pyramids when poked with some new fangled methodology. I'm actually surprised that it's possible to make limestone that is so similar to naturally formed rock that it took until 2006 for this to be figured out.

    The majority of the pyramid material was still quarried.
    • by freeweed (309734)
      You mean this part of the summary?

      Times Online is reporting that French and American researchers have discovered that the stones on the higher levels of the great pyramids of Egypt were built with concrete.
  • Mortar (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kaoshin (110328) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:32PM (#17070576)
    I always thought that the mortar used was more amazing than the blocks themselves. I had this book named the great pyramid decoded which explained that there were blocks held together with sheets of mortar that were in some places as thin as a sheet of aluminum foil. I have read elsewhere on the web that the chemical composition of the mortar is known but that it can't be reproduced today. I may be easily fascinated by this stuff, and there may be an better mortar now, but I just think that is really cool.
    • Re:Mortar (Score:4, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263) on Friday December 01, 2006 @05:11PM (#17072464) Journal
      I don't know that this answers your question, but people spent millenia dry-fitting stones by hammering down the high points (with other stones) and then rubbing the stones together. (People still make precision flat metal this way for machine tools. It's called way-scraping [machineryrebuilding.com]. Sorry I can't find a better link.) The point being, when they got done you had two rocks that were sufficiently flat that when put together they were within a dozen thousandths of an inch of each other -- you couldn't fit a credit card between them, and sometimes not even a piece of paper. (Common paper is pretty close to 0.002"/0.05mm thick.) So if you do *that*, then put a smidge of mortar in there and put the 2000 ton block down on top of the mortar, that might be responsible for it being only the thickness of aluminum foil. Which is a good thing: the thinner the adhesive, the better the bond, generally speaking.
  • A little insight (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:37PM (#17070662)
    As a student at Drexel, I have had the privilege of hearing about this research firsthand - it is more than convincing. There is no doubt in my mind that he is 100% correct. For those of you in doubt - he is not claiming that all stones were "cast" or "molded" into places. Only the ones at the top and on the outside of most of the "newer" pyramids. The older pyramids do not use this technology. It is believed the egyptians discovered this technology as they were building and their pyramids became more sofisticated as a result. You can just look at the pictures:

    The Bent Pyramid (an older pyramid), its obvious blocks put into place from a quarry up until where it bends.
    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel/Egypt/Dahshur /BentPyramid/EgyptianPoliceman.jpg [richard-seaman.com]

    Now, look inside the Red Pyramid (a newer pyramid), tell me they carved 26 million bricks with such perfect precision. They carved Limestone, using copper tools (ahem, softer than limestone), so perfectly together that you can't even fit a playing card between them? I don't think so.
    http://www.richard-seaman.com/Travel/Egypt/Dahshur /AllPyramids/StaircaseInsideRedPyramid.jpg [richard-seaman.com]

    This article can also be found on the New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/01/science/01pyrami d.html?ref=science [nytimes.com]

    • Bronze, not copper. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Medievalist (16032) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:41PM (#17071928)
      They carved Limestone, using copper tools (ahem, softer than limestone), so perfectly together that you can't even fit a playing card between them? I don't think so.
      Bronze, not copper. HUGE difference.

      Also, the bronze technology of the time was more advanced than anything known to Victorian civilization - Burton writes about the bronze chisel (found inside a pyramid or temple, I forget) that was harder than wrought iron when he's discussing the switch from bronze weapons to iron weapons in The Book of the Sword.

      We know that the ancient Egyptians had bronze tools hard enough to work limestone. We have at least one example.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by smellsofbikes (890263)
      Note that Navajo and Zuni (and many, many other prehistoric civilizations) drilled holes in stones using pieces of straw. Which are, y'know, six orders of magnitude softer than stone. They did it using abrasives. (sand and spit, as it happens.) There's no rule that the Egyptians couldn't do the same thing. It's quite possible to dry-fit stone, using nothing but other stones, to the point you can't fit paper between two of them: you hit the high points, rub the stones together, see where they rubbed, rep
  • A book I have - published back in 1988 proposed the same idea. It's a good read. Here's the Amazon link if anyone wants to try and pick up a copy:

    The Pryamids [amazon.com]
  • by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:45PM (#17070834) Homepage
    is building his own Stonehege - BY HAND, ALONE.

    http://www.theforgottentechnology.com/ [theforgott...nology.com]
  • by Micklewhite (1031232) on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:53PM (#17071026)
    I have a lot of trouble believing these findings. It's well known that the ancient Egyptians were a very 'slow on the uptake' sort of people. This is reasonably apparent with their crazy style of writing. The Egyptians had some notion that rhyming appeased the gods or something to that effect. So naturally all their writings rhymed. Take this classic example: 'Man with a snake, boat on a lake. Bird in the sky, weird curly eye'. If you could say the Egyptians contributed ANYTHING to modern society that would have to be rhyming. Before the Egyptians came along no society had developed an actual working rhyming system. The ancient Greeks came closest. Homer's Odyssey was the closest the Greeks ever came to an actual rhyming system, though, in its native Latin the Odyssey will cause a sane man to go mad.

    One might wonder what this has to do with the ancient Egyptians capacity to mix concrete. Well it has a LOT to do with it. You have to remember the ancient Egyptians were very keen on rhyming. The entire mummification process rhymed, as well as all the names of all the pharaohs. So it's only logical that all their building materials should rhyme as well. Concrete doesn't rhyme with anything. Therefore the ancient Egyptians didn't use it.

    This if you will, is the cornerstone of Egyptology.

  • by thewiz (24994) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @03:55PM (#17071052)
    the stones on the higher levels of the great pyramids of Egypt were built with concrete

    Whoa, that's heavy!
  • Whatever method they used had to be a sensible method. It is human nature to device techniques that minimize effort. Whether it was poured concrete, a method involving hydraulic power which was plentiful with the pyramids being next to the longest river in the world or some here-to-fore yet unknown technology, there had to be a relatively easy way to do it. For example, in Easter Island, the latest belief is that natives built woden "railways" or "railtracks" over which the stones could slide with rather mi
  • Just FYI... (Score:5, Informative)

    by PhineusJWhoopee (926130) on Friday December 01, 2006 @04:00PM (#17071164)
    Just FYI, the limestone blocks in question are *not* the stones you see at the base of the pyramids (for example, all the stones in this photo [wikipedia.org]). These are made of granite.

    The limestones they are talking about used to cover the pyramid to give it flat sides, and the only remains left at Giza can be seen at the very top of the middle pyramid in this photo [www.ashmolean.museum]. (FWIW, this is the pyramid of Khafre (Chepren) - next the the Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), which has had all of its limestone block cladding removed.)

    The third large pyramid at Giza (Menkare/Mycerinus, foreground in the group photo) was intended to be covered in granite cladding. ed

  • by RubberDogBone (851604) * on Friday December 01, 2006 @07:15PM (#17074626)
    Concrete is not really THAT different from technology we knew they had: plastering.

    The pyramids were originally covered in a limestone plaster veneer which would have given them smooth sides rather than the jaggies we know today. It can still be seen on small areas on some pyramids but most of that smooth plaster layer has been eroded over time by the sand and wind and rain. Or low-res game graphics. Take your pick.

    The point is that the plaster was installed using the exact same set of ingredients, tools and technologies that could also have been used to produce the concrete. If they knew how to do one, they might know how to do the other.

    Modern analogy: we know how to build Intel PCs. Using many of the same parts, you can build an AMD PC. That's sort of the difference between plaster and concrete. Kinda.

    Either way, there's not a quantum jump from one to the other.

    Kudos to the builders for coming up with a concrete mix that has managed to fool scientists for hundreds of years. To some future civilization, our modern freeway interchanges will look like water-eroded structures or something created by aliens.

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