MYSTERY OF ANCIENT PYRAMIDS
Hello, friends! About 4,500 years ago, a wonder of the world was built in Egypt that continues to amaze people even today “The Great Pyramid of Giza.” With a height of 147 meters, this remained the tallest structure in the world for over 4,000 years. Heavy stones were used to build the pyramids and it is said to weigh 6 million tons compared to the present-day tallest structure, the Burj Khalifa, which weighs a mere 500,000 tons.
The question that left people dumbstruck was how it was built. Back then, people did not have cranes, bulldozers, or modern technology. They did not even have wheels. Even so, they built a monument that still stands.
Can you imagine a structure standing for over 4,500 years through the hot summers, storms, torrential rains, and weathering? There is no other surviving structure as old as this and as big as this. How this was made possible? Come; let us understand the mystery of the pyramids in this post.
|The Great Pyramid of Giza|
The Great Pyramid is arguably the most enigmatic structure on the face of the Earth. The more we go back in time, the more difficult it gets to figure out sure-shot what happened, when and how. It is estimated that the Great Pyramid of Giza was built in the year 2560 BC by Pharaoh Khufu. The monarchs of ancient Egypt are known as Pharaohs.
We do not know much about Pharaoh Khufu except that he was the second monarch of the fourth dynasty of Egypt’s old kingdom. His reign is a highly debated topic; however, some historian estimates claim 23 years, some 34 years, and some more than 60 years. The pyramid is located on the west bank of the River Nile. It is not the only pyramid. You would see two other pyramids built on the same site. Of the three, the tallest is the Pyramid of Giza, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu. Smaller than it is the Pyramid of Khafre, the second largest pyramid in Egypt. It is said to have been built by Khufu’s son Khafre. The third and smallest is the Pyramid of Menkaure that has been built by Khafre’s son.
|The Great Sphinx|
There are said to be 118 pyramids of varying shapes and sizes. The weathering has eroded many of them and very few are in good condition. In addition to these, there are also present the Great Sphinx, several burial tombs, and smaller pyramids.
Friends, ancient Egyptians believed in the afterlife. They believed that life does not end at death. After death, the soul of the person travels to the underworld where it is then judged by the Gods. Those who lived a life of goodness remain immortal in the afterlife. Therefore, to prepare for the afterlife, the Pharaohs would commission tombs for themselves while they reigned. A large amount of food, treasures, jewellery, furniture, and clothes were to be buried with the Pharaoh in the pyramid so that they would be used in the afterlife. After they died, their bodies were mummified and then sealed in a wooden or stone sarcophagus.
Now, we get to the biggest question. How were these Pyramids built? Honestly, this is the most mysterious aspect of the pyramids. How did the people build a 147m tall structure using these enormous rocks that weigh anywhere between 2.5 tons to 80 tons? Each stone is carved so meticulously and evenly when there were no standard tools for carving. How were the stones stacked on top of each other when people did not even use wheels, and all of this, within a period of 20 years?
Friends, the Great Pyramid of Giza is said to have been built in 20 years. There are several theories regarding this.
For a long time, people believed that slaves built the pyramids. A Greek historian from the 5th century BC, Herodotus, was the first to suggest that slaves built the pyramids.
However, today we know this to be false. People who built these pyramids were highly skilled laborers. They were not starved and abused, rather they were given abundant food. They were fed so well that they were stronger and better fed than the average Egyptian citizen back then.
They dwelled in cities near the construction site. Various communities supported them across the seasons such as farmers. Farmers who were not actively engaged in their fields would help with the construction in their free time. In a way, the citizens in the kingdom were united for the success of the national project. They were very loyal to their Pharaoh.
About 20,000-30,000 workers were involved in its construction, working 10 hours a day to build this Great Pyramid of Giza.
As far as the construction material is concerned, about 5.5 million tons of limestone, 8,000 tons of granite, and 500,000 tons of mortar were used. Most of these materials were sourced from nearby areas. At most, they were brought in from the region of Southern Egypt, which was around 800 km from the site.The question arises, how were these rocks cut? Copper was the most common metal used then, the tools were made of copper. The harder rocks of granite were broken with Dolerite. They used some unique methods, such as finding cracks and holes in the rock and putting in wooden wedges soaked in water in those cracks. When the rocks absorbed the water, the wedges would expand and the rock would break apart.
Now, a major question is how these stones were moved. Back then, wheels were not used in carts. There was not a vehicle with wheels that they could load up with the stones and easily push to the site. A plausible theory is that they built rafts that floated on the river to move the stones from the quarries. Once the stones were at the Pyramids, they were stacked on top of each other using sledges over wet ground.
Once we understood this, the next question was how were the stones stacked on each other. How were these heavy stones lifted up without heavy machinery?
Friends, they had built an efficient system of ramps. In 2015, a team of English and French archaeologists uncovered a 4,500-year-old wooden ramp in a quarry. Scholars suggest that a ramp must have been built like this, a straight slope from the ground to the top. To move the stones up the slope they installed a system of wooden pillars on the sides of the slopes, and then they used the ropes around the pillars to pull up the stones.
In another theory, it was suggested that they might have used levers to stack the stones on top of each other.
The outermost layer of the pyramid was made of fine, whitish limestone. It meant that when sunlight fell on it, these pyramids would shine white brilliantly. This was lost over thousands of years. The outermost layers have worn off from the Pyramids of Khufu and Menkaure, but in the Pyramid of Khafre, you can see a part of the layer at the top.
Moving on from the construction to the design of the pyramids, it is utterly fascinating. Did you know that the pyramids are designed in a way that the directions point exactly towards North, East, South, and West? The error here is minute, an error of merely one-fifteenth of a degree. These are believed to point accurately towards the four directions.
How could that be? There was no compass back then and no modern technology such as GPS. Once again, researchers tried to explain theoretically how the Egyptians could achieve such a high level of precision. A popular theory is said to be by following the Autumn Equinox.
When the tilt of the Earth allows the day and night to be equal, the shadow on the ground is in a straight direction towards East and West. Using this method, the degree of error in the calculations of the pyramid would be the same degree of error in the shadows during the Autumn Equinox.
The second theory is believed to be the constellations that the stars in the sky were used by the Egyptians to align their design. In 1989, Robert Bauval, an author and Egyptology enthusiast came up with the Orion Correlation Theory. He claimed that the three pyramids in Giza were aligned similarly to the three stars of the Orion's Belt. He believed that the alignment was intentional and that the ancient Egyptians knew Astronomy. They would track the stars at night, study them, and accordingly harvest various crops at certain times.
Some people claim that aliens built the pyramids because they believe it was not possible for humans to create this. In my opinion, such theories go against the principle of scientific thinking. This is the shortcut method of somehow coming up with an answer when we cannot find any. It is better to acknowledge the facts that we know and then clearly lay out what we do not know so that the next generation of archaeologists and historians can carry out research on them and discover the complete solution or explanation about the mysteries.
All image sources: Social Media