Nevertheless, they are built with the same precision and attention to detail as the huge platform the pyramid sits on. Here is, essentially, this great granite-lined box, built, for the most part, to contain the body of the king. There must have been spiritual power that made them take these choices. All of the weight of the stone between this ceiling and the top of the pyramid would be bearing down on this flat surface with no support in the chamber below to hold it up. Yet, 4, years later, it is still intact. How is that possible? In , a British antiquarian, Major General Howard Vyse, solved the puzzle by discovering what was above the granite slabs that formed the flat roof.
NARRATOR : Vyse used gunpowder to blow a series of holes up through the heart of the pyramid and discovered not one hidden chamber, but a stack of five empty granite roof spaces and, at the very top, a large sloping gabled roof. MARK LEHNER : They were over-engineering, because they had never really done this before, so that the pyramid, the very thing that was meant to protect the king and ensure his resurrection would not collapse and crush his mortal remains.
In this barren landscape, archaeologists have discovered a unique written record. To cut massive stones, the builders needed high quality metal tools. The only metal readily available to the Egyptians was copper, which was mined in the Sinai and ferried across the Red Sea to this port at Wadi al-Jarf.
And you, when you are building huge structures in limestone, like pyramids, you dramatically need copper. They then made a surprising discovery. It was inscribed with the name of Khufu. But nothing prepared them for what they found next. That name was Khufu. In , Pierre Tallet published the first volume of his analysis of these ancient writings. Amazingly, they offer the only firsthand record of the building of the Great Pyramid.
We were excited. It was, yeah, kind of a dream. There was even a note, in red ink, that someone had fetched a large supply of bread for the crew. And it just gives you a sense that throughout Egypt there would have been these little hives of activity and people keeping the same kind of account. And by putting it all together, you get a much bigger picture.
Incredible discovery made inside Great Pyramid of Giza
His was one of several ships delivering fine quality limestone to the construction site from the quarries of Tura, 10 miles from Giza. But how did they deliver the stones from the Nile to the site, over feet higher on the Giza Plateau? The papyri referred to artificial basins and harbors that Merer encountered as he approached the construction site.
Traces of the artificial basins recorded by Merer have been found underneath these streets.
And thanks to the papyrus, we now know the ancient name of one of them, Ro-She-Khufu, the entrance to the Basin of Khufu. When the Nile floods filled this manmade pool, a navigable path opened between the river and the Giza Plateau. MARK LEHNER: So, we now know that the major influx of material, both gigantic stones, timber, wood, grain to feed the people, happened during the flood season, when the Nile rose and covered the valley and filled the deep channel, where it rose more than seven meters.
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And they used this system of basins and waterways, almost like a hydraulic lift, to bring the materials needed for pyramid building. Its annual floods not only freed up a national workforce but enabled the laborers to deliver supplies all the way to the foot of the pyramid site. One has already been carefully restored, from the 1, pieces recovered by archaeologists, who believe that it was a ceremonial boat, crafted to transport Khufu in his journey through the afterlife; while the second is now being meticulously excavated, under the watchful eye of project consultant Mohamed Abd El-Meguid.
All of this will constitute the boat itself: the hull and the, deck and also the superstructure, which is, which is the canopy itself.
Mohamed believes these timbers reveal a cunning design feature that allowed Merer and others like him to use the same boat on bodies of water separated by miles of desert. So, it can pass through these ropes from one side to the other.
Ancient Egypt holds priceless treasures yet to be discovered
Then, they would put the parts together. They would, basically, stitch the whole ship together, sail across to Sinai, get their loads of copper, bring the copper back. The amount of copper required for tools on the job site must have been tremendous, but nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of tons of stone demanded by the builders. Meeting that need would have been a massive logistical challenge, made even more difficult because the great pyramid is actually built of three different types of stone. The exterior was an outer casing of high-quality white limestone, concealing a much rougher inner core of coarse common limestone, and then, deep within the pyramid, the complex of granite chambers reserved for the sacred tomb of the king.
And that meant millions of tons of stone had to be shipped to the site. These different types of stone all had to be delivered at around the same time, because all the sections of the Great Pyramid were constructed simultaneously. But as the pyramid grew, how did the builders manage to raise the blocks up the rising and sloping sides of the monument?
MARK LEHNER : By looking at what seems to be, in its loose state, just rubble, we can have an understanding of how they built the pyramids, because they formed this rubble into ramps and embankments, some of which, like this one, remain together until this day. Probably they enveloped the entire pyramid with big embankments like this.
Their solution was well suited to the desert terrain. It is, in fact, a sledge. And you can use them on sand as well as snow. And so, here we have this big sledge that would have been used to take la… the large rocks on them, and pulled by teams of men, up through the causeway, up the ramps to build the Great Pyramid. NARRATOR : For the people of Egypt, this backbreaking work was a physical investment in the spiritual future of Egypt, their contribution to ensure the pharaoh would be successful in his journey through the afterlife.
And they did it all with just the most basic of equipment. You had wood rollers, you had rope, you had hard stone on soft stone and you had a few metal tools, and, most importantly, you had the brains and the brawn of human beings.
It was an operation that would strain even a modern supply chain. Ankh-Haf was a noble, the half-brother of the pharaoh. Today, the monument has been almost completely stripped of that outer casing, but four-and-a-half-thousand years ago, the smooth white limestone, delivered by people like Merer, would have covered the whole of the pyramid, catching the rays of the rejuvenating sun in a spectacular display.
But for them, such special effects were not entertainment, for them they were, they were religious, they were magical. Its last and most enduring mystery is that the mummy of the god-king Khufu has never been found.
Many Egyptologists believe it was cleared out by tomb robbers in ancient times. Others speculate that Khufu was never buried in his tomb at all.
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If so, where might he be? In , scientists detected a mysterious void deep inside the Great Pyramid. We might not have his body, but his name lives forever. And as each person recites it, he is once again given more empowerment in the afterlife. And his Great Pyramid does reign supreme.
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MARK LEHNER : The networks that they created and the national unity and infrastructure, national infrastructure, that they created for building these giant pyramids, that now was what, where they devoted their attention and their energies. This program was produced by WGBH, which is solely responsible for its content. Some funders of NOVA also fund basic science research.
Experts featured in this film may have received support from funders of this program. Original funding for this program was provided by Draper, the David H. However, in the 14th century, many of these stone were cut loose and used to build mosques around Egypt, under the orders of ruler an-Nasir Hasan. The remaining stones began to wear away under the unforgiving Sun and the constant weathering. Earthquakes have also loosened the casing stones and created piles of rubble around the structure.
Exactly who built it, and how, has been the subject of wild speculation for centuries Bettany Hughed. Many of them can still be seen around Cairo completely intact. This was cleared away in order to keep the region looking tidy.