By Mayuk Saha
Egypt has captured the imagination of the world ever since the time of the ancients. It had one of the most ancient civilisations which merged and remerged with influences from Greece and Rome, before finally becoming a centre of Arab learning. Even today, it is one of the two main centres of Arab culture and sales of Arab books are measured by their successes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia alone.
It has also had a Nobel Prize winner, in Naguib Mahfouz too back in 1988.
Anyway, now that we have established Egypt as a centre of great human understanding, let’s get to the crux of the matter: the pyramids of Khufu.
They are the oldest and the only one of the ancient wonders of the world that still stand, beyond doubt and scepticism. We say this because one of the others, the hanging gardens of Babylon, may not have existed at all according to experts.
The Great Pyramids served as a tomb for Khufu, the pharaoh and took his entire reign to build. They are massive, built with millions of perfectly cut stones aligned at a particular angle to create the perfect slope of the pyramid. Each stone weighed approximately two and half tonnes on average, with the biggest ones weighing something between 6-10 tonnes.
No wonder that an entire school of thought popularly as the ancient astronaut theory have opined that among many similar monuments, the pyramids too were a result of alien technology and that in no way an ancient bronze age culture could have achieved such ingenuity.
That’s where, again, an Egyptian papyrus manuscript has come to the rescue of its motherland.
It turns out, that in a dramatic turn of event, the oldest of papyrus scrolls discovered till date, has uncovered for archaeologists the secret of ancient Egyptian engineering.
The scroll details its author Merer and his skills in stone transportation in the ultimate building of the ancient wonder. What was believed previously has now been refuted partially to say the least.
Professor Mohammed Abd El-Maguid, has been working on said manuscript. The manuscript, in ancient hieroglyphics, says that Merer used an elaborate system of water transport to transport individual blocks from a stone quarry on the banks of the Nile, to the site of the pyramid.
First, the stone was cut out as a block. Then through a system of rigged up levers, it was loaded on a particular spot on the boat which stood waiting. An inch here or two inches there and the boat would sink. This was done with an engineer’s eye alone.
Next, the boat would sail via the river through the desert, to reach the site of the pyramid.
There, through a system of elaborate rails and wooden rollers, individual blocks were hauled by workers and slaves together.
Maguid, who has been recreating the steps himself along with a retinue of workers, noticed just how much speed could be achieved by this formula. Again, ingenuity, engineering sense and not help from ET.
Egyptian engineers including Merer were faced with the issue of shaping the block to make it fit onto the pyramid’s edge. Even then they found an elegant mathematical solution, predating the Pythagorean Theorem by quite a few centuries. They basically used a ratio of 11 and 14 units for the height and width of the cut.
And it was so good, that ancient accounts from travellers state how the seams were all but invisible when it was first encased in white stone.
One can only marvel and be in awe of the skills of these engineers, when all they had were their minds and their hammers and chisels, and ropes knotted to measure things.
It truly begs the question: have we advanced or has civilisation taken steps backwards?
IMAGE CREDIT: Pixabay