Egyptian Pharaohs from the 3rd dynasty were thought to be semi-divine and their majesty considered worth preserving well into the after life – hence the elaborate pyramids constructed in their honor. Using self-inflating water-filled bags for stability, Cintec recently restored the oldest pyramid from that era built for Pharaoh Djoser.
The “Step Pyramid” in Saqqara was built by the well-respected scribe and vizier Imhotep roughly 2700 years before Jesus was born. It consists of six mastabas or flat-topped tombs that rise in a descending step fashion to reach its peak at 200 feet.
The entire structure was clad in polished white limestone, according to WAN, and a sprawling, six kilometer long network of tunnels runs beneath the 109m x 125m base.
Originally excavated by French architect Jean-Phillipe Lauer, the pyramid was damaged in 1992. The burial chamber, which had been completely robbed of its contents by the time Lauer discovered it, partially collapsed, rendering the central chamber structurally unstable as well.
Cintec, a Welsh engineering firm, used their Waterwall technology to restore the pyramid. In part, they wedged self-inflating water-filled bags in between vulnerable spaces to prevent their collapse, while stainless steel structural reinforcement anchors strengthened the central chamber.
The High Council of Egyptian Antiquities commissioned the project awarded to Cintec in 2011. At the time, the company’s managing director Peter James spoke about their goals.
“The Step Pyramid project is of particular importance to us as the entire structure could be destroyed at any point due to the damage on the ceiling and roof caused by the earthquake,” he said.
“We aim to work as efficiently as possible on this project without comprising the design or strength of the structure.”
They were successful, and National Geographic filmed the process. A hero of history, the project also offers a reminder of Egypt’s extraordinary past and some small hope for a better future.