The views expressed in this article are strictly those of Max Wideman.
The contents of the book under review are the copyright* property of the author.
Published here April 2021.
* Unfortunately we were unable to contact either the author or the book's publisher. However, the copyright statement on p4 does permit extracting quotations for purposes of reviewing this book.
Quest for Answers
Evolution of the pyramid
"Early tombs featured a flat bench or platform a mastaba on top of the grave. These tombs evolved as more lasting forms of burial mounds. It is believed that the earliest pyramids evolved from mastabas and reflected this custom on a larger and much grander scale, fitting for the king.
Later, additional levels or "steps" were added to the mastaba. This stepped construction reached its apex with the Step Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara.
[This pyramid] rose to a height of 60 meters and could have symbolized a stair step to the gods for this Third Dynasty ruler. We next encounter the early Fourth Dynasty pyramids constructed by Sneferu at Dahshur, which built upon Djoser's work and include the Bent Pyramid and the North or Red Pyramid. The latter is the first true pyramid constructed on a large scale and certainly served as the inspiration for Khufu's pyramid. After all, Sneferu was Khufu's father!"
Figure 2: The evolution of pyramid design
"Egyptian mathematics were advanced, and we know that the ancient Egyptians could calculate areas, angels, and volumes. In fact, records of such calculations have survived from later periods. The Egyptians were able to carry out the accurate dimensioning and layout of large structures. They could calculate the weight of large objects and structures and determine the number of blocks required for a sloping embankment.
They used a decimal system and had methods of multiplying and dividing. Division was accomplished by breaking quotients into a series of sums of fractions accurate enough for practical purposes.
Among the more sophisticated calculations the ancient Egyptians made was finding the volume of a truncated pyramid, obviously of great importance in determining the volume of material needed and the labor required, among other practical matters."
Figure 3: Measuring-instruments
"Laborers used tools resembling mattocks or hoes for digging and woven reed baskets for hauling dirt and debris. Stonemasons used copper chisels and saws, drills, wooden mallets, wedges, wooden rollers, stone hammers, and smooth round balls of dolerite, a hard stone used to cut blocks of granite. A wide variety of woodworking tools existed, including mallets, hammers, drills, copper saws, chisels, scrapers and planes."
Figure 4: Various building tools
"On land the ubiquitous donkey was used to transport goods. However, the main artery for transportation was the Nile River. Skilled boat builders and sailors, the Egyptians developed vessels ranging from small reed boats to oceangoing vessels. They sailed the Mediterranean coastline as far north as what are now Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria and crossed the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. For transporting stone, they used sailing vessels and barges, some with capacities of at least 100 metric tons and perhaps as much as 1,000 metric tons. For larger loads, it is likely that rafts made of logs were assembled."
"No wheels are known to have existed during the Fourth Dynasty and the builders of Khufu's pyramid did not have wheels or pulleys for moving or lifting loads. Instead, blocks of stone were levered onto wooden sledges and then dragged to the construction site by teams of laborers. Wooden levers were used to move loads over short distances, but for longer hauls it was necessary to construct ramps to bring blocks of stone up to the higher levels of the structure.
To place heavy roof beams, the room was filled with sand, and workers placed the beams (typically granite) while supporting them on the sand base. Then the sand was excavated. A similar approach was used to lower massive stones or a sarcophagus into a subterranean chamber, placing it on the sand and then removing the sand."
10. Ibid, p44.
12. Ibid, p73.
13. Ibid, p74.
14. Ibid, p82.
15. Ibid, p83.
16. Ibid, p84.
17. Ibid, pp84-5.