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You probably remember learning about the Egyptian pyramids at some point in elementary school.
And even if you weren't part of the public school system, you were bound to encounter
some information about them at a museum or in a book.
These mammoths of structures are hard to escape as they're famous for being grandiose in
nature -- to put it lightly.
The tallest pyramid in Egypt, the Great Pyramid of Giza, once stood at 481 feet tall, but
has since eroded down to 451 feet because of vandalism.
For you to better imagine this, the average three-story building stands at just 45 feet
So, if we're doing the math correctly on this one -- and we know we are -- this pyramid
would've stood at the height of a 32-story building.
So, who's responsible for the creation of these ridiculously tall and ever-elusive,
mysterious pyramids?
We'll get to the bottom of it today on this episode of The Infographics Show -- Who Built
the Pyramids?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of who built them, let's start with some Pyramid
101, shall we?
There are about 80 pyramids currently standing in Egypt.
The oldest is the Pyramid of Djoser, and it's located in Saqqara, north of the city Memphis.
The pyramid was built in 2630 B.C. for King Djoser.
Many of the more popularized and notable pyramids are in Giza, a city on the outskirts of Cairo,
some of which include the Giza Necropolis, Pyramid of Khufu -- one of the Seven Wonders
of the World -- and the Khafre Pyramid.
Ancient Egyptians were one of the first civilizations of people who believed in an afterlife.
They didn't see death as the cessation of life, but rather an interruption.
They believed that when a king died, a part of his spirit, or his ka, remained intact
with his physical body.
The mummification we've all come to know about that has also been popularized in media
served the purpose of preserving a king's spirit that they believed lived on.
They basically hoped the king's soul would return to his body and give it life again.
So the king's ka was never left wanting, they'd also bury riches like gold vessels,
food and furniture along with the dead king.
Egyptians really weren't messing around with this belief.
When the pharaoh was still alive, they revered him as an incarnate of Horus, God of the Sky,
and when he died, he took on the form of Osiris, the God of fertility and the underworld.
His responsibility as Osiris was to set the sun, while the new pharaoh, his son, would
raise it.
They believed this symbiotic relationship was important in maintaining cosmic balance.
Back to pyramids, though.
They were built to last -- made mostly of stone, like limestone, which was used to build
the core of the pyramid, while white limestone was used for its outer casing and for the
interior walls.
Pink granite was used on the walls inside, and basalt and alabaster were sometimes used
for the floors.
Egypt has sometimes been referred to as the “state of stone,” so there was never a
shortage of it.
The basalt they used sometimes came from the Fayum depression, one of the major oases of
the Western desert, while alabaster was from Luxor, a city on the eastern bank of the Nile.
Denys Stocks, an ancient technology consultant, believed that 45 workers were needed to move
a 35,900-lb -- that's 16.3 tons, by the way -- block, and eight people to move a 6,060
block, as he noted in his 2003 book Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology
in Ancient Egypt.
One single pyramid project could have taken between 20 to 30 years to finish building.
For the longest time, it was thought that slaves who were at the behest of an evil pharaoh
built the pyramids, and we can blame this fake news first and foremost on Herodotus,
the Greek historian who wrote that the Great Pyramid was constructed by 100,000 slaves
who 'laboured constantly and were relieved every three months by a fresh gang'.
The BBC further argues that there's no way King Khufu - 4th Dynasty ruler of Egypt responsible
for the commissioning of the Great Pyramid, had a body of slaves this large to work for
him, and there's no way that all of them could work at the same time.
We can also thank western Hollywood movies in part for perpetuating the myth.
Movies like The Ten Commandments, that epic from 1956 -- and we're not just saying that,
it's literally an epic saga that ran for 220 minutes -- portrayed slaves as the builders.
Another misconception that's circulated is that Jews built the pyramids.
This lie started when former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin made the claim when
he visited the National Museum of Cairo in 1977.
Amihai Mazar, a professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem and Israeli archaeologist, refutes Begin's claim because it simply doesn't
make any sense.
“No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn't exist at the period when the pyramids
were built," Mazar was quoted saying.
Dorothy Resig, an editor of Biblical Archaeology Review in Washington D.C., said this falsehood
could've also stemmed from a verse in Exodus which says something to the effect of: "So
the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with backbreaking labor" and the Pharaoh put
them to work to build buildings.”
That's not exactly the way the verse reads, but you get the picture.
Then there are those people out there who believe aliens are the ones who built them.
Let's all let out one huge exhaustive sigh.
This far-reaching theory looks a little bit like this:
If light moves 299,792,458 metres per second and the geographic coordinates for the Great
Pyramid are 29.9792458°N, and humans weren't capable of measuring the speed of light with
this type of accuracy until 1950, then "advanced aliens" must have time traveled back to Earth
from the future to build the pyramids.
People who believe in the Ancient Aliens theory also think aliens built Stonehenge in the
UK, and other ancient monuments.
Look, we're not responsible for what you guys believe and don't believe, but we are
saying that graffiti inside the pyramids, along with other evidence, tell a much different
story and have gotten archaeologists -- and now us -- closer to having a better idea of
who built the pyramids, how they would have lived and how they did it.
The BBC notes that archeologists have agreed that the workforce behind the Great Pyramid
was made up of two teams -- the primary workers and the temporary workers.
There were about 4,000 primary workers who worked on the quarries and were hauliers and
They lived with their families in a pyramid village.
The temporary team was made up of 16,000 to 20,000 workers who built ramps, shaped tools,
made mortar and were in charge of miscellaneous activities like supplying food, clothing and
They lived in a separate camp near the pyramid village.
The state of the Nile was also important for pyramid builders to take into account.
For the building of the pyramid at Giza, Mark Lehner -- more on him later -- and archaeologist
Zahi Hawass believed that a skeleton crew would work on the pyramids throughout the
year, but a larger force would labor in late summer and early autumn, when the Nile flooded
surrounding fields.
Archaeologists haven't discovered all there is to know about the villages and camps where
pyramid builders dwelled, but excavations done between 1999 and 2002 by archaeologist
Lehner shed more light.
We know they slept on mud ramps, which served as barracks-style beds.
These barracks were in galleries, which can be thought of as like huge dorms in which
up to 2,000 temporary workers would stay.
These sleeping galleries also had spaces in the back for cooking and copper-working.
In 2016, archaeologist and Egyptologist Yukinori Kawae spoke out to an audience at a taping
for Nat Geo Live.
In that discussion, he said there was a vast amount of data on the outside of the pyramid,
but not enough on the inside -- or core -- of the structures themselves, which would shed
even more light on the construction techniques.
Before going into his discoveries, he laid out three hypotheses for how the core of a
pyramid would shed light on construction techniques.
For example, if the inside of the pyramid was made of horizontally arranged blocks,
this would've been amenable to using a straight ramp.
What he found was unlike any of these, though: He and other members of his team -- some of
which were computer scientists -- climbed the Great Pyramid for two and a half hours
and found a notch with a crevice and then a cave that was further in.
The team didn't have a laser scanner that would've been too heavy and clunky to carry
while climbing up, but they did manage to capture 20 minutes worth of video footage,
which they then broke down further into 300,000 3-D images.
Through these 3-D image renderings, they found that the cave was used for the packing of
sand and debris -- something called the chamber method.
He noted that it was also used for the construction of Egyptian temples and cities.
What did pyramid builders eat?
Turns out they had no beef with beef.
As much as 21 cattle and 23 sheep were sent to them daily from farms to get their meat
fix in.
They also ate fish and liked to kick it back with some beers.
And while we noted before that these people weren't slaves, pyramid building came at
a cost: Discoveries of their bodies show they suffered from arthritis, and their lower vertebrae
were impacted by the wear and tear.
As we mentioned before, an enormous amount of stone was needed to build these pyramids,
so the Egyptians had to figure out an efficient way of moving the blocks they eventually stacked
An illustration in Twelfth Dynasty tomb of Djehutihotep of 172 men pulling a 60-ton alabaster
on a sledge has given experts a better sense of how they went about it.
These sledges they'd drag across the hot desert sand were simply wooden planks with
upturned edges.
So, not the most sophisticated, but still clever.
To make their lives easier, they'd wet the sand to make it easier to drag the sledge
And they were old-school when it came to measuring.
They didn't use rulers, but a "cubit" was equal to the length from the tip of your middle
finger to your elbow, and a “hand” was a unit that served as the guide -- the width
of your hand with the thumb on the side.
Cubits served them when they dug post holes at ten cubits along the base outline and laid
out the site in a grid.
Pyramid builders were precise in that they wanted to make sure the sides of the structures
ran parallel to the north-south and east-west axes, according to How Stuff Works.
To achieve this, they had to rely on nature instead of using compasses, which weren't
at their disposal.
The movements of the stars helped them identify which way was North and they used sighting
rods and circles to identify the rising and setting stars or the sun's shadow.
Finding out the other cardinal directions using lines and right angles then became a
piece of cake.
They were certainly a resourceful bunch.
In his book Engineering the Pyramids, Dr. Richard Parry hypothesizes that they might
have also used a cradle-like machine that suspended the rocks and allowed them to be
rolled by a few people.
The Obayashi Corporation, a Japanese construction company, went so far as to conduct a test
in 1996 to see if a two-and a half-ton block could be dragged by 18 men over 18 metres
per minute and the study proved it could be done.
In 2013, French archaeologist Pierre Tallet and his team discovered the papyrus writings
of a pyramid-building official simply named Merer in a cave in Wadi-al Jarf -- an area
on the Red Sea Coast -- and these gave an unprecedented look at how sophisticated the
teams worked, specifically when it came to obtaining copper.
And their method involved an L-shaped jetty that was 200 meters long.
According to Merer's writings, they'd use this harbour to protect a fleet of cargo
boats that would sail to the Sinai Peninsula, where copper would be mined, before returning
to Wadi al-Jarf, then using those materials for the construction of the Great Pyramid.
After all this, now you can whip out your impressive pyramid-building knowledge at the
next cocktail party when the topic comes up, or simply slap your silly friend who thinks
aliens built them.
You make the choice.
The pyramid-building, brain-eating aliens that secretly run our show and pay us to convince
you they didn't build the pyramids tell us that you would enjoy learning more about
ancient egypt, so check out our video Unbelievable stuff they didn't teach you about ancient
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Evidence Reveals How the Pyramids Were Actually Built

9 Folder Collection
Summer published on July 31, 2020
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