John McCauley | Grahamhancock
In this article, John McCauley uses his experience as an Architect and Construction Manager to critically analyse the construction scheme for building the Khufu pyramid and the popular theory of the use of an internal ramp.
There has been an innumerable quantity of books written about the construction of the pyramids at Giza, Egypt. So too have there been any number of different theories on how the construction of these pyramids was accomplished, with each new or expanded theory accompanied by a description stating that it was the “definitive” solution, or “the puzzle finally solved”, etc. Of late, a few authors have focused on the “internal ramp solution” as being the most plausible explanation on how the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid. Indeed, some Archaeologists have also acclaimed this “internal ramp solution” as a creative explanation for this ages-old construction mystery. Most Archaeologists, however, lack the technical training or understanding of the nature of structural forces to make a qualified endorsement of this proposed solution. Let me first state that this “internal ramp solution” represents a complete lack of understanding on how gravity affects structures and why this theory bears no serious thought in the academic world. Before I get into an analysis of why “internal ramps” do not work, let me state very clearly that I honestly do not know exactly how the Great Pyramid was actually built, but I think there are clues that may lead to a reasonable explanation in the future.
Let me first outline some of the facts that we do know about the Great Pyramid of Giza:
- This pyramid appears to be the final evolution of pyramid building that evolved from the mud brick mastabas which were supposedly the resting place of important dignitaries.
- The Great Pyramid has only one cartouche above the King’s chamber that purports to indicate that it is the burial chamber of Khufu (Cheops).
- This pyramid was covered with smooth white casing stones that partially collapsed after a severe earthquake and were later used as a “quarry” to construct some buildings in Cairo, notably the Mosque and Madrassa of Sultan Hassan (completed in 1359). Some of these stones contained hieroglyphics. The Greek historian Herodotus claims to have seen the Great Pyramid before the casing stones were removed.
- If some of the casing stones did contain hieroglyphics and if these stones were scattered around Lower Egypt, finding them and deciphering them could lead to some further understanding as to the construction of the pyramid.
As a retired Architect and Construction Manager with a strong background and interest in Archaeology, I am focused on how ancient cultures built their megalithic monuments. Since many of the very old cultures left no “construction manual” on how they built their monuments, we are forced to reverse engineer the remains of what we observe of their work. We can apply our knowledge of the ancient’s religion, tools and tool marks, hieroglyphics, myth, etc. and weigh these attributes against what we observe but ultimately it is only our best educated guess on how and why certain construction techniques were used. We can also discount certain theories, such as the application of “anti-gravity”, and the like, as being without validity or in the realm of unproven wishful thinking. In the end, we have to make a judgment that makes the most common sense given what we know about the culture and their construction expertise.
So, let me outline some of the thought process that comes to mind when analyzing this “internal ramp approach”. There are some inherent difficulties in building an internal ramp and moving stones on it, as follows:
CONSTRUCTING THE INTERNAL RAMP WOULD BE VERY DIFFICULT:
The ancient Egyptians employed two methods for spanning an opening: large granitic stones from the quarries at Aswan were placed above the opening which divert the structural forces around the opening, such as at the “King’s Chamber”, or corbelling stone over a void as we see in the “Grand Gallery”.
The “King's Chamber” is a good example of the difficulty in constructing a void in such a structure. The King's Chamber required granite stones which weigh about 60-tons each. Stone is not good in bending – only in compression – so the size and depth of these granite stones must be large enough to transfer the loads from above to the stone walls on either side of the void. These granite slabs have a tendency to collapse downward, and their bases spread outward from the loads above, but these movements have to be resisted by the tremendous weight of core blocks against the slabs, especially at the base of the slabs.
The “Grand Gallery” is another example of a void in the Great Pyramid. This Gallery solution was solved by slightly “corbelling” the stones over each other; that is, a slight overhang of each successive course over the course below. To create even a minimum 6-foot wide “internal ramp”, there would have to be quite a few corbelled tiers of stones, thereby creating a void that would be quite considerable in volume. If, for instance, each course was cantilevered 6” above the course below, it would take six courses of stone to cantilever three-feet; half the width of the void. The height of these six courses would be about 18’-21’ high, on top of two vertical courses, thereby creating a void 6’-0” wide at the base and 27-feet or higher. This void would have to occur around the entire pyramid, all the way to the top. As the pyramid grew taller, the amount of void space would eventually be greater than the amount of remaining stone!
The complexity of creating such an internal ramp, using corbelled stones or granite slabs, is further compounded by the following realities:
- Such a void would have to be quite a bit inboard of the outer face of the pyramid so that there is enough solid pyramid stone above the void thereby allowing an adequate pathway for the structural transfer of loads to the walls of the void. Even so, as the ancient Mayans intuitively understood, there would be a tendency to “spread” the ceiling stones of the internal ramp apart, leading to instability and collapse; the Mayans solved this by installing timber tie-beams across the spring point of their vaulted ceilings.
- Following this train of thought, there is a reason why the King's Chamber is approximately in the center of the pyramid; the tendency of the granite roof slabs to “spread” is limited by the equal dead weight of the pyramid mass on either side of the spring point of these stones. If the Chamber was closer to the outboard face of the pyramid, there would be an unequal dead load resisting the spread of the granite slabs and the “outboard” limestone core blocks could not resist the horizontal thrust forces.