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Ancient Papyrus Finally Solves Egypt's 'Great Pyramid' Mystery (newsweek.com) 253

schwit1 was the first Slashdot reader to bring us the news. Newsweek reports: Archaeologists believe they have found the key to unlocking a mystery almost as old as the Great Pyramid itself: Who built the structure and how were they able to transport two-ton blocks of stone to the ancient wonder more than 4,500 years ago...? Experts had long established that the stones from the pyramid's chambers were transported from as far away as Luxor, more than 500 miles to the south of Giza, the location of the Great Pyramid, but had never agreed how they got there. However, the diary of an overseer, uncovered in the seaport of Wadi al-Jafr, appears to answer the age-old question, showing the ancient Egyptians harnessed the power of the Nile to transport the giant blocks of stone.

According to a new British documentary Egypt's Great Pyramid: The New Evidence, which aired on the U.K.'s Channel 4 on Sunday, the Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built using an intricate system of waterways which allowed thousands of workers to pull the massive stones, floated on boats, into place with ropes. Along with the papyrus diary of the overseer, known as Merer, the archaeologists uncovered a ceremonial boat and a system of waterworks. The ancient text described how Merer's team dug huge canals to channel the water of the Nile to the pyramid.

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Ancient Papyrus Finally Solves Egypt's 'Great Pyramid' Mystery

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  • Water pump theory (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 30, 2017 @01:59PM (#55284569)

    The base of the Great Pyramid may have been designed as a water pump. [sentinelkennels.com] Maybe it was part of the waterworks.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I read that link, and wow, it's some pseudoscientific claptrap. Here are a few choice quotes:

      "The shape has been shown to have dramatic energizing effects. An example being water does not freeze at -40 C. within a pyramid structure."

      What??

      Then we have lots of woo about the "energy of the pyramids": "The glyph is associated with the energy of the pyramids...". And lots of unsubstantiated assertions, like: "The granite coffer and many remnants around the Giza plateau had been machined with some type of tripl

      • An example being water does not freeze at -40 C. within a pyramid structure.

        That's actually a true statement. It doesn't freeze at -40 C because it's already frozen long before that.

      • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

        Heh. I want to know the last time that part of Egypt hit -40 C. (Or -40 F, for that matter.)

    • Man, there are a lot of crazy people out there. They just can't see the simplest explanation: the rich Egyptians in charge liked to have extravagant tombs and had lots and lots of slaves and lots and lots of whips with which to build these tombs.

      • by tsa ( 15680 )

        Well, we know that this simple explanation is wrong. The workers were paid for their work and there were even strikes when there was a shortage of mascara, which was used to protect the workers' eyes from the harsh sunlight.

  • Thanks Science! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by evilbessie ( 873633 )

    Ramps, boats and good rope. I pretty much guessed that as a child but you know well done to those involved.

    • Re:Thanks Science! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @02:07PM (#55284597) Journal

      It's easy to suspect and hypothesize. It's quite another thing to prove it.

      • I know, I am being trite about it. It is interesting what they have found but it's not exactly new information.

        • The proof is new. You know, the "new" part of "news".

          • fwiw, I decided to break an old /. tradition, and read TFA. And I'll agree that TFA is somewhat breathless about "we've wondered for centuries", or whatever. So I withdraw my snark at your snark. I apologize if changing my mind upon review seems un-american.

    • I've got an old mule and her name is Nenet
      Fifteen years on the Khufu Canal
      She's as good an old worker as you're gonna get
      Fifteen years on the Khufu Canal
      We've hauled some barges in our day
      Filled with giant blocks and hay
      And every inch of the way we know
      From Luxor to Khufu - Ho!

      Low bridge, everybody down
      Low bridge for we're coming to a town
      And you'll always know your neighbor
      And you'll always know your pal
      If you've ever navigated on the Khufu Canal

    • Ramps, boats and good rope. I pretty much guessed that as a child but you know well done to those involved.

      No, not ramps.

      Water channels, pumps, water locks, boats, and a tiny amount of rope but not as much rope as you'd think.

      You'd need channels to get to the location of the pyramid, then you'd need a couple of water locks [h-cdn.co] along the way to slowly get the vessels to the starting elevation of the pyramid.

      But think of the pyramid as being one giant reservoir, once a vessel gets inside, the water inside the pyramid acts like an elevator, the water level rises to the level needed. The only tricky part is completing t

      • Actually they used ramps (made from sand)

        A chain of water locks going a few hundred meters high, is extremely impractical, on such a tight place.
        And if they tried that, we likely knew it from the remainings.

      • You'd need channels to get to the location of the pyramid, then you'd need a couple of water locks [h-cdn.co] along the way to slowly get the vessels to the starting elevation of the pyramid.

        Locks require a regular supply of water to work. The photo you link to is of the Caen Hill flight, but if you look at the map [google.com], you'll see the extensive storage ponds needed for the water to operate this flight. That's in relatively moist Britain ; the engineering needed to operate a significant set of locks in Egypt wou

    • Ramps, boats and good rope. I pretty much guessed that as a child but you know well done to those involved.

      Surely you didn't guess that on your own as a child, since we were taught exactly this as a possible theory when we were kids. It always made sense, now there is more evidence pertaining to how it worked.

      • Re:Thanks Science! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by evilbessie ( 873633 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @04:42PM (#55285183)

        I am aware of this, but they got the stone from near a river and they built the pyramids near the same river. It's impressive that they did it at all I grant and the technical details are interesting. But I'd really like to know how they built Stonehenge with Welsh stone. No river there.

        • by Xest ( 935314 )

          It's not a given that they came from Wales for what it's worth, they could just as well have come from much closer.

          One likely site is only 20 miles north, and it's not as though they didn't have oxen back then. The biggest stones could be pulled by 4 oxen, and it's pretty flat around there as the terrain consists of plains, and where there are hills there are shallow paths up them, with few obstacles like dense forests or rocks. The terrain is hardly difficult to traverse.

          I think the stonehenge story is a b

          • You're conflating two aspects of Stonehenge. There are two types (and styles) of stones used in the Stonehenge monument : the large, rectangular stones used in the "two up and one across" structures (trilithons) are made from "sarsen" (a calcareous sandstone remnant from various parts of the "Downs" on which Stonehenge is built. The likely source for these slabs - up to about 40 tons - is considered the Marlborough Downs, 20-odd miles to the north of the site. However there are 56 smaller stones in the site
    • You can guess a lot of things, especially as a child. That doesn't make it practical until you know a great many details. Especially when you take the context of now to make your guess about the past.

      I mean good rope sounds neat and all, but this was 4500 years ago. Incidentally almost 3000 years before Archimedes described the principles of flotation. But I'm sure your childhood guess would have just said the Pharaoh could look it up on Wikipedia too.

      • Incidentally almost 3000 years before Archimedes described the principles of flotation.

        So, nobody built boats before about 500CE? That would explain how the Romans didn't besiege Syracuse in 212BCE, killing Archimedes in the process - they didn't have any boats to get to the island of Sicily.

        Our ancestors knew very how to do a lot of things that they didn't have a comprehensive understanding of.

        • So, nobody built boats before about 500CE?

          Based on what? Evidence? That's kind of my point. 500CE, 2500BC, 10000BC, first bipeds walking on land... we have nothing to go on the capabilities of people other than evidence that they were able to do something.

          After the principles of flotation were published the requirement for evidence was greatly reduced when discussing people making floating things. A child's mind would extrapolate: We know how to send ships to the other side of the world carrying 100000T cargo, so they must have used ships!

          An adult'

  • That link takes you to a site that auto plays a slide of text, slowly with even more weird music.

    Foget Net neuatrality? These sites will kill internet as we know it.

  • Those "archeologists" were not present there.

    That "surveyer" was only part of a conspiracy to surpress the truth about our ancient overlords.

    No ammount of "evidence" will change that.

    I still can not conceive how that could be done by mere humans, therefore: Aliens!

    Anything and everything else is all fake news.

  • The comments section on this site has really gone downhill. Where did all of the intellectually brilliant and funny comments go? Could it be a new age of younger, less smart people due to frequent use of cell phones and Facebook? Has the NSA infested the community? Mass mind control?
  • They think the stones were floated on logs and custom built canals brought the stones from quarry site to the construction site. It is not a mystery and people were already guessing they must have done it. Nile boats are very prominent in all Egypt art work.

    The real mystery is how they lifted these blocks up the structure. The descendant of the caste of temple builders in South India says they build a helical wall that spirals around the structure. The wall is filled with sand. Stones are rolled up the he

    • by narcc ( 412956 )

      BTW the helical inclined plane is used day in day out by us, we call them the threads in nuts and bolts.

      I'm so glad you were paying attention in 3rd grade when they taught us about simple machines. Good for you.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      They could be raised up a water tight shaft made of stone. So entry at the bottom of the shaft, securely water tightly block the entry to the shaft and then fill the shaft full of water raising the stone on it's floating platform. You are still having to shift the same mass up to the top by hand but now you are doing it bit by bit carting water up there. If you have more than one shaft, you can regain some efficiency, by using the full shaft to half, fill other shafts. You could also displace water with san

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @03:26PM (#55284915)
    This "great mystery" hasn't been such for a long time. Quarries carved rocks to make blocks, the blocks were moved onto barges and then the barges were sailed to places where they were required. Evidence for canals was established long before now. The only mystery is why anybody has such trouble understanding that ancient peoples weren't idiots.
    • That they built the pyramids proves that if they weren't idiots, they were deluded. What a waste of human effort.
      • It is an excellent way to have the government spent its money and have basically zero unemployment.

        And unlike you, 5 years ago, hey had universal health care in Egypt 5000 years ago.

    • The only mystery is why anybody has such trouble understanding that ancient peoples weren't idiots.

      You don't need to be an idiot to not understand something and to leave future people questioning if you were able to come up with the idea at all. There is a fundamental disconnect between building something and understanding something. Therefore we are able to only rely on physical records or evidence that people actually did something.

      E.g. given a complete absence of any records before Christ, what would be your basis for belief that Egyptians could build barges? Archimedes didn't describe the principles

      • People are^H^H^H seem only as intelligent as the records show they were. Nothing more, nothing less.

        We know like forever than the ancient world had barges, so not really sure at what you are aiming.
        How would the copper from Cypern/Cyprus reach Egypt if they had no sea going vessels?

        And yes, most likely the Egyptians knew the earth is round. After all they traveled over sea on the east side of Africa down to Somalia and beyond. (The south tip of Somalia is beyond the Equator)

  • Cast in place? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @04:35PM (#55285159)

    Personally, I think the most obvious theory is likely to be the closest to the correct explanation: that the blocks WEREN'T quarried, but are some form of manmade cast stone made from ancient concrete.

    If they were cast instead of directly quarried, the builders could have just built the whole thing like a modern freeway embankment... build the perimeter, backfill the inside with sifted & graded crushed rock & sand. Maybe put down an occasional layer of cloth to stabilize it horizontally (knowing the cloth will eventually decay, but only really NEEDING it for stabilization during construction). Cast the next row of stones, move them horizontally into place, and backfill the interior up to the next level. Stir, rinse, and repeat until you're done. Modern retained-earth construction obviously goes quite a bit further, (like using steel cables to pull the retaining walls inward so they can be vertical instead of sloped, and using precast wall segments instead of casting them on-site), but the basic idea is the same.

    Moving big, heavy things HORIZONTALLY is fairly straightforward. So is moving crushed-rock cementious slurry up a hill in small buckets. If they're cast stone, the pyramids' construction basically just becomes a matter of having lots of money, immense HR management resources, and good supply-chain management.

    From what I've read, Egypt's antiquities ministry is part of the reason why relatively little is known about the "nuts and bolts" construction details of the pyramids. It WANTS to preserve the aura of mystery, because the official narrative drives tourism and brings enormous amounts of money into Egypt. From their point of view, the absolute WORST thing that could happen is if someone were to demonstrate that the pyramids were no more special than a random freeway embankment.

    • Re:Cast in place? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @06:58PM (#55285693)

      Except it is known the blocks used are quarried limestone and granite, not concrete.

      • > Except it is known the blocks used are quarried limestone and granite, not concrete.

        No, they've always been ASSUMED to have been quarried limestone and granite. About 10 years ago, someone analyzed a chunk of "stone" from one of the pyramids & discovered the same kind of bubbles you'd find in manmade cast stone.

        http://www.materials.drexel.ed... [drexel.edu]

        The conclusion of the above: the pyramids are a combination of cast and quarried stone... basically the lower stones were quarried, and the upper stones were

        • You're confused, that's a paper on the "casing", the mostly removed covering that made them pretty and white and smooth at one time but no longer. What we see today is the core, which is quarried rock. Your paper is NOT about "how the pyramids were built" but only on how they were made pretty.

        • Re:Cast in place? (Score:5, Informative)

          by Ramze ( 640788 ) on Saturday September 30, 2017 @09:23PM (#55286109)

          The granite is absolutely quarried. No one denies this. The limestone is debatable, but it matches what's found in a quarry in its consistency. The theory you mention is interesting, but it was mostly dismissed a decade ago.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

          The biggest problem with the theory is... it's limestone. Limestone is a sedimentary rock made from fossilized sea creatures, and it's loaded full of fossils. Pulverizing limestone to make a mixture to re-form into stone would destroy most of those fossils. The pyramids blocks are full of such fossils -- most tiny and in clusters, but some are quite large. That's why no one takes this limestone concrete theory seriously. It'd be impossible to have so many completely intact fossils -- some larger than an average sized hand -- embedded in the "concrete."

          While it's possible they had the technology to do it and maybe even used it in some areas, the evidence strongly suggests that at least most of the blocks were cut and hauled... just like the heavy granite stones.

    • I think you're presuming technology neither known nor suspected to be in existence at the time the pyramids were built. Where's the (chemical) evidence that the stones aren't natural?
    • From what I've read, Egypt's antiquities ministry is part of the reason why relatively little is known about the "nuts and bolts" construction details of the pyramids. It WANTS to preserve the aura of mystery, because the official narrative drives tourism and brings enormous amounts of money into Egypt. From their point of view, the absolute WORST thing that could happen is if someone were to demonstrate that the pyramids were no more special than a random freeway embankment.

      I really doubt that your hypothesis, but I can think of a few reasons why Egypt's antiquities ministry might be blocking excavations.

      1. In the past, excavation sites have been pilfered.
      2. It takes money to excavate, secure, protect from the elements, display, catalog, and maintain artifacts.
      3. Most of the archeologists are foreigners. And when foreigners write your history, their narratives can be quite unflattering and even racist.
      4. The sites and artifacts could have been built by multiple civilizations,

    • that the blocks WEREN'T quarried, but are some form of manmade cast stone made from ancient concrete.
      Which would be obvious for even a layman like me by just looking at a stone.
      We know for certain from where the stones were quarried, that os easy to analyze.

  • I learned that almost five decades ago [imdb.com].
  • I read they were moved using an alien transportation system powered by the Sun's harmonics. The book had equations and everything.
  • Dunno why my idea never caught on :-) .

    Ask any sculptor, and they'll say "take a block of wood/stone and remove everything that doesn't look like a [final object].

    Clearly the Egyptians set up a gigantic block of stone and then carved away everything that didn't look like a stepped pyramid.

    Waiting for my Nobel Prize..

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