The Mystery of Building Ancient Egyptian Pyramids

The essay deals with the extremely contradicting issue of building ancient Egyptian pyramids at Giza. The goal of the study is to explore the key theories, regarding the mystery of the process of creating the unique architectural constructions in Egypt. The paper explores the relevant literature, discussing the key assumptions. They start from the traditional ones up the ideas about the magic intervention into the building process.

The study consists of the Table of Contests, Abstract, Introduction, Literature Review, Argument, Conclusions, Implementations, References, and Annotated Bibliography.

The mystery of building ancient Egyptian pyramids has been constantly the subject to numerous discussions and speculations. Researchers suggest numerous theories about creating Egyptian pyramids. Some of them go as far as to suppose that aliens built those constructions. This study explores the most popular ideas about the issue.

Literature Review

For years, experts and tourists have been exploring the three world-known pyramids of Giza, built for the three Egyptian pharaohs Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. Built for the pharaoh Khufu , who came to power about 2551 B.C., the first pyramid at Giza impresses with its height of 455 feet, or 138 meters (Jarus, 2016). The great pyramid of Khufu consists of approximately 2.6 million stone blocks (Swelim, 2016). Created for the pharaoh Khafre, who started his reigning about 2520 B.C., the second pyramid is about 215 feet, or 65 meters (Jarus, 2016). It is famous for the face of Sphinx. Finally, the third pyramid is Menkaure, built for the pharaoh who came to the power about 2490 B.C. This architectural structure has the height about 215 feet, or 65 meters (Jarus, 2016).

To begin with, the famous historian Herodotus rendered the version of building these unique masterpieces, following the tales of Egyptian dragomans of the fifth century BC (Dunham, 2016). According to one of hypotheses, the heavy blocks of Egyptian pyramids were processed with stone and copper tools. The adherents of this approach prove their idea, stating that “there are examples of each stage of block extraction at existing ancient quarries. Granite was quarried using pounding stones of dolerite” (How did Egyptians build the Great Pyramid, 2012).

Researchers argue that Egyptians did not implement the wheel during the building process because roads in sands were soft and could not support heavy stone burden. However, wooden beams might have been implemented. Some liquid or a lubricant might be used during the building works. Nevertheless, this theory cannot explain the way heavy stone elements could be risen up to the top of pyramids.

There are severe disputes on the subject of ramps’ form among adherents of this hypothesis. Some of them consider that ramps obtained their configuration during two stages.

First, they got approximate form, while the exact shape was created only during the final stage. Other researchers claim that ramps were straight, gently sloping, and linear. Representatives of the third group consider ramps be steep and staircase. Finally, experts suggest the idea about spiraled ramps. The great majority of advocates of this theory claim that massive stone blocks were delivered to the top of pyramids with levers or transformed ramps. To illustrate, “in the case of the Great Pyramid at Giza, the upper half of the total vertical pyramid height represents only 12.5% of the mass of the entire pyramid. The mass of the top quarter of the pyramid’s height is a mere 0.0386% of the whole” (How did Egyptians build the Great Pyramid, 2012). Therefore, the weight of the ramp is in reverse ratio to the weight of building material. The adherents of the above-mentioned theory of ramps state that the creation of pyramids is not extraordinary, regardless the fact that ancient Egyptians created the most massive architectural project in the human history (How did Egyptians build the Great Pyramid, 2012).

According to Jean-Pierre Houdin theory, who proved his ideas with modeling in 3D, inner ramps were implemented during the pyramids’ creation. This hypothesis rejects all the previous suppositions, making them unimportant. The architect states that ancient builders did not see the building process as modern designers undersatand it. Therefore, ancient Egyptians used the method that was radically different from the current ones. The hypothesis is illustrated by numerous pictures and the results of analysis in Dassault Systemes (How did Egyptians build the Great Pyramid, 2012).

According to the geopolymers theory, suggested by Joseph Davidovits, the nature of building material is discussed, interrogating if the ancient Egyptian pyramids are made of concrete, or a man-made re-agglomerated limestone. The researcher states that ancient Egyptians created the structures from a natural limestone that demonstrated the physical features of a concrete. The hypothesis about re-agglomerated stone as the key building material of the pyramids in Egypt rejects the traditional theory about enormous carved blocks, shifted with ramps. Joseph Davidovits argues that pyramids of the epochs of Kheops and Ramses II belong to the periods of two Egyptian civilisations that differ significantly. The first civilization believed that the God Khnum had delegated Kheops the privilege to create his pyramid of man-made stone, while representatives of the second civilization thought that the God Amun had ordered Ramses to use massive carved blocks for the pyramids of Luxor and Karnak. Joseph Davidovits claims that the reason of cancelling the building works was the enormous expoitation of raw materials and an environmental disaster. The expert bases his idea on hieroglyphic messages, scientific analysis, and numerous evidences (How did Egyptians build the Great Pyramid, 2012).

In the middle of the twentieth century, I. Edwards, S. Clark, R. Engelbach, T. Pitman, and W. Vose tackled with the issue, trying to solve the riddle. The ancient Egyptians left pompous pyramids as the result of their culture. However, the engineering technologies were lost irrevocably. Researchers created small artificial models of several famous pyramids to demonstrate their hypothesis about ancient engineering. Experts calculated the size and weight of stone blocks pyramids are consisted of. However, the technologies of quarrying these elements and the places of those quarries’ location left unknown. Researchers suppose that stone blocks were moved by means of wooden sledges found nearby the pyramids. Nevertheless, they failed to prove the implementation of useful tools, such as the wheel, the pulley, and the derrick (Dunham, 2016).

According to the hypothesis of Dutch experts, ancient Egyptian builders, who did not have wheels and animals for transporting the heavy stone blocks of the structures, moved the massive units with the implementation human muscle power alone. In fact, the weight of the stone elements was above 2.5 tons (Macdonald, 2014). The Dutch researchers claim that water became the extraordinary tool that helped to deliver the enormous stone units to the place of destination. The technology consisted of several steps. First, the stone elements were put on the wooden sledges. Then, sand ramps were involved. After that, Egyptians used different methods to make the sand wet that boosted the friction significantly, allowing people shift huge stone blocks.

Therefore, water and sand sleds became the key to the everlasting riddle about the ways Egyptian pyramids were created. Discovered in the 19th century, the picture on the tomb wall proves this supposition, demonstrating people pouring water on the sand sledges. Moreover, the researchers argue that the technologies of watering sands to use the friction as the rising tool were known in the ancient Greece. In fact, the experts reject the hypothesis about rollers and cranes as the key tools of creating pyramids as useless. Unlike their predecessors, the researchers add noteworthy calculations demonstrating the exact amount of water for the building process. (Macdonald, 2014).

10 theories about the aim of the pyramids’ creation and building techniques:

  1. According to the first supposition, the pyramids were built for keeping the grain. In the Medieval Europe, people consider pyramids the granaries that were depicted in the Old Testament. The Bible describes the story of seven lean cows that frightened the Egypt’s pharaoh and made him to prepare some food for hungry years. In this interpretation, the pyramids got the name of ‘Joseph’s granaries’.
  2. According to the second supposition, Noah built the great pyramid at Gaze. This idea was aired by a British journalist John Taylor in 1859. The man did not see the pyramid of Giza. However, he based his hypothesis on the calculations made by Oxford Astronomer John Greaves.
  3. According to the third idea, the Great Pyramid has the magic features, foretelling the date of the Apocalypse. Charles Piazzi Smyth highly appreciated the ideas about the divine nature of the ancient Egyptian pyramids and developed this thought. In 1864, this person combined the Bible’s story about the end of this world and the mysterious constructions in Egypt.
  4. According to the fourth supposition, devil created the Great Pyramid in Egypt. Joseph Rutherford was the author of this idea, continuing the hypotheses of his predecessors.
  5. According to the fifth assumption, the pyramids at Giza were originally hills. This thought was declared in 1884 in one of the articles of the Fort Wayne Journal- Gazette. The paper stated that the building materials for the pyramids were obtained in those hills as well.
  6. According to the sixth hypothesis, the legendary Atlantis created the three pyramids at Giza. This idea belongs to the pen of Ignatius Loyola Donnelly, who was a Congressman from Minnesota in his past. In 1882, the man suggested several arguments for his hypothesis. First, the legendary Atlantis lived on the territory of the modern Atlantic Ocean and had the opportunity to create the unique constructions. The author based his hypothesis on Plato’s stories and the ideas about Atlantis as the first society moving from barbarism to civilization.
  7. According to the seventh legend, Israel plotted to steal the pyramids. Egyptian expert Amir Gamal informed that Israel “Israel does not send its own Jewish archeological teams to Egypt because that would expose its plot” (Strauss, 2014 ).
  8. According to the eighth theory, levitation was used to create the Egyptian pyramids. Edgar Cayce was the adherent of this approach, stating that the union of Atlantis, Egyptians, and Caucasians, who had lived in the southwest Russia, built the unique constructions.
  9. According to the ninth assumption, the ancient Egyptian pyramids aligned with the constellation of Orion. Taking into account the great role of Astronomy in the ancient Egypt, Robert Bauval claimed that aliens participated in the pyramids building, implementing their extraordinary knowledge.
  10. Finally, according to the tenth idea about the ancient Egyptian pyramids, the constructions have the magic power because of their unusual shape (Strauss, 2014).


The riddle of building ancient Egyptian pyramids leaves numerous questions to be answered. However, the most convincing idea seems to be the traditional approach to the issue.

During the recent years, Egyptologysts have found a range of artifacts that explain their viewpoint of the process of ancient Egyptian pyramids were built. Those evidences comprise a town built nearby the pyramid of Menkaure and a papyrus discovered by the Red Sea.

The structure of Egyptian pyramids is unsurpassed. Adherents of the traditional approach to the creation of pyramids state that those constructions “originated from simple rectangular ‘mastabe’ tombs that were being constructed in Egypt over 5,000 years ago, according to finds made by archaelogist Sir Flinders Petrie” (Jarus, 2016). The architectural discoveries reached their maximum during the pharaoh Djoser’s reign about 2630 B.C. (Jarus, 2016). The pharaoh’s mastaba tomb at Saqqara initially was in the form of a rectangular. Later, it obtained the shape of a six-layer step pyramid, comprising inner tunnels and chambers. Around 2575 B.C., another architectural breakthrough took place, marking the reign of the pharaoh Snefru (Jarus, 2016).

During that epoch, more than three pyramids were created in the ancient Egypt. Egyptian builders implemented step elements and improved the techniques of building smooth-faced architectural structures. However, acrhitectural mistakes occurred as well. To illustrate, the famous ‘bent pyramid’ demonstrates the consequences of designers’ mistake when the angle of the building structure shifts, making the impression of a falling pyramid. Trying to improve the state of affairs, architects of the pharaoh Snefru created another pyramid at Dahshur that got the name of the ‘red pyramid’ because of its bright colour. Being carefully designed, the structure has the constant angle.

The largest pyramid was built during the reign of pharaoh Khufu, who was Snefru’s son. Taking into account all the achievemnts and flaws of the past architects, the builders created the pyramid that became the real masterpiece, being the best sample of the ancient
Egyptian architectural art.

Adherents of the traditional approach claim that ancient Egyptian architects thouroughly planned their building structures. Moreover, pharaohs oversaw the building works, appointing a special person in charge who checked all the issues. Discovered papyruses prove this hypothesis, demonstrating Ankhaf’s , who was Khufu’s half-brother, chief position in this matter. However, some researchers consider this statement be contradictory, arguing that the vizier Hemiunu was the key person, managing the creation of the Khufu’s pyramid. The unique nature of the ancient Egypt pyramids is in their structure that includes temples, boat pits, and cemeteries, like king’s chambers inside and ordinary burial ground nearby the pyramids. One of the riddles of the pyramids is their exact location, aligned to true north sharp.

In fact, the possible flaw of the location is less than one-tenth of a degree that demonstrates the extraordinary archcitectural art. Modern experts cannot suggest the entire explanation of the way the predecessors coped with such a difficult building task. Dash suggests his hypothesis about the great development of Astronomy in the ancient Egypt that allowed architects to implement the knowledge in their building works. For example, the exact aligning to the north can be explained by following circumpolar stars, like Polaris and shapes of rope as the effective architectural technique (Jarus, 2016).

According to the traditional theory, the port of Giza played the significant role during the epoch of Egyptian pharaohs. People, food, and supplying materials were shipped and landed at this port that is proved by the papyrus discovered at Wadi al-Jarf allude (Jarus, 2016). Experts calculated that approximately 10,000 individuals participated in the construction of the the Egyptian pyramidz at Giza (Jarus, 2016). Found papyrus states that laborors got excellent food to perform their heavy duties on the proper level. Sheep and goats were brought to have enough reserves of meat for builders to feed. Archeologists discovered a small town near the Menkaure’s pyramid. Located nearby the famous construction, this town became the home for high officials overseeing the building works. Troops and ordinary laborors lived in baracks nearby the pyramid itself.

According to the traditional approach, the building materials were obtained at the area nearby the pyramids. To illustrate, a horseshoe-shaped quarry implemented in Khufu’s structure was discovered to the south of the pyramid. Building materials for Menkaure’s pyramid were found to the south-east of it, while the location of raw materials and quarry, implemented for Khafre’s pyramid, leaves to be discovered. According to the traditional viewpoint, a significant number of laborors pulled heavy stone blocks for the pyramids, using enourmous sledges (Jarus, 2016). Nevertheless, researchers suggest numerous hypotheses of other techniques to produce and shift the blocks the three Giza’s pyramids are consist of.


Egyptian pyramids remain to be one of the greatest riddles modern researchers face. The exact purpose of their construction, their architectural structure, and the building techniques set a great range of questions. Ancient builders obtained the utmost results many modern experts cannot achieve with the help of the latest innovative technologies. Therefore, numerous hypotheses about the above-mentioned issues appeared. On the one hand, all of them seem to be rather convincing, except the bizarre legends about aliens’ intervention and the divine nature of the construction. However, even the traditional approaches cannot give the true-to-fact answer about the real purpose, creators, and building techniques ancient architects implemented.


The information about the process of building of the ancient Egyptian pyramids can be found only from discovered artifacts. The facts are often explained in contradictory ways because of the long period has passed. Even historians’ evidence, like Plato’s stories, cannot be considered as the fact because of the narrative nature of the obtained information. To clarify the issue, numerous trials and expeditions were organized during several centuries. However, the obtained information leaves much to be explained. Egyptologists have not received convincing proofs that suggest one approach to the issue.

Therefore, numerous theories exist nowadays, regardless the great attention to the issue and a significant number of researches. The range of theories is enormous, starting from the traditional one about thousands of laborers and troops, participating in the pyramids’ creation up to such assumptions as the divine origin of the structures and even aliens’ interaction. Taking into account all the obtained information, the issue of creating the ancient Egyptian pyramids leaves a great number of riddles to be solved.

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