For some 4,500 years ago it has sat majestically at the centre of the Egyptian funeral complex of Khufu. For four millennia and a half ‘the Great Pyramid of Giza’ has been there and yet the secrets of its construction remain intact. However, this forty-five-century old mystery might have finally been solved!
A team of archaeologists including specialists from the French Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo have indeed unearthed an astonishing transport system in an excavation site in the Arabian desert: the Hatnoub alabaster quarry.
An ingenious device
‘This system consists of a central ramp, flanked by two staircases and many post holes,’ site co-director of the excavation mission Yannis Gourdon told LiveScience. ‘By using a sled carrying a block of stone which is tied with ropes to the holes in the wood, the ancient Egyptians were able to tow the alabaster blocks out of the quarry on very steep slopes of 20% or more.’
From there it is not a stretch for scientists to say that such a device could have been implemented during the construction of the Pyramid of Giza, and they have the arguments to support this theory. ‘This kind of system has never been discovered elsewhere. The study of the traces left by tools and the presence of two inscriptions [related to] Khufu led us to the conclusion that this device dates back at least to the reign of the Pharaoh, builder of the Great Pyramid of Giza,’ says Yannis Gourdon.
‘Since this system dates back at least to the reign of Cheops, it means that during the era of the Pharaoh, the ancient Egyptians knew how to move huge blocks using very steep slopes. Thus they would have used this system for the construction of his pyramid,’ says the archaeologist.
A mystery that must still be fully clarified
This discovery supports a theory that until now was still very uncertain. Many archaeologists were arguing for the possibility that a ramp was used during the construction of the Great Pyramid, but none had yet been able to determine its exact way of functioning. It is important to note, however, that the ramp theory does not fully illuminate the entire mystery.
It is indeed in an alabaster quarry that the structure was revealed. However, the pyramids were not built out of this material, as noted by Kara Cooney, professor of Egyptian architecture at the University of California to History. On the other hand, alabaster is a less resistant material than the rock from which the pyramids are made. ‘The way the ancient Egyptians cut and moved the rock remains very mysterious,’ says the specialist.
From its height of 450 feet, the monument surveys the scientists who continue to struggle to unlock the secrets of its construction. But archaeologists could now be closer than ever to the resolution of a multi-millennial enigma... A mystery among many others, which after forty-five centuries are still far from all being solved.