It’s one of the world’s biggest mysteries: how did the ancient Egyptians transport massive stones across the desert to create the pyramids? Scientist from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam report that they now know how the pyramid stones were transported. The clue is the dampness of the desert sand.
Previously, Egyptologists were able to show how the ancient Egyptians moved heavy material from quarries to their buildings sites – on barges. But how the schlepped the stones through the desert was one big mystery. But the writing was on the wall, literally.
It’s all about friction. Consider that each stone weighs 2.5 tons. When you put this kind of weight on a simple sled with upturned edges (as they used back then) the weight of the stone would dig into the sand and you’d get stuck. If you’ve ever been dune bashing in the Middle East desert and get stuck you’ll know what I mean.
But if you glide on top of the sand and wet the sand under the sleigh just in front of it, you won’t dig in. It makes the surface stronger and the sand carrying-sled doesn’t get stuck.
Researchers at the University of Amsterdam developed some theories and tested them out.
A UvA press release explains,
“The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.
“Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand…A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.”
The artwork above, within the tomb of Djehutihotep found in the Victorian Era, depicts the scene. There is a guy pouring liquid into the sand in front of a slave. Look to the right of the statue’s foot.
Now it’s time to solve Stonehenge!