Egyptian pyramids are the oldest stone buildings in the world. They were built nearly five thousand years ago. These ancient tombs are also among the world's largest structures. The biggest is taller than a 40-story building and covers an area greater than that of ten football fields. Men built these huge structures without the help of equipment that we have today, such as cranes and bulldozers. The ancient Egyptians used tools of copper, a softer metal than steel and wood. Their tools could cut limestone. Wooden wedges and levers were also used in building the pyramids. Manpower was plentiful. Oxen and other beasts were considered too valuable for the heavy work of building pyramids. Sometimes up to 100,000 men worked for 20 seasons on one pyramid. Building a pyramid was difficult and dangerous. It required planning, organization and teamwork.
To build the pyramids, two kinds of rocks were used, limestone and granite. These rocks had to be brought from the quarries to where the pyramid was being built and were transported on the Nile River in wooden boats. The weighed-down boats then set off for the pyramid site. The average weight of one of the pyramid's stone block is two and half tons, which is about the weight of two medium -sized cars. Some blocks, however, weighed up to 15 tons, which was as much as five elephants. To complete the Great Pyramid at Giza, one huge stone block was quarried, shaped, and smoothed every two minutes for 23 years. The pyramids were not built for exploring. They served a very serious purpose. Ancient Egyptians had a strong belief in life after death. The pharaohs wanted their bodies to last forever, so they had pyramids built to protect their bodies after death. Each pyramid housed a pharaoh's preserved body. It also held the goods he would need in his next life to continue living as he had when he was alive. Granite doors, false passages and fake burial chambers were built in an attempt to confuse and stop robbers from robbing the pyramids. Inspite of of these precautions, nearly all pyramids were robbed of their treasures by around 1000 B.C.
Building plans showing how the pyramid were built have never been found but experts today use present knowledge about construction to make some intelligent guesses. One can see though how the ancient Egyptians were ingenious and hard working people as you look at the work it took to build a pyramid.
Step 1: The huge limestone blocks were taken off the boats near the pyramid site. If one block accidentally fell, it could crush hundreds of people to death.
Step 2: Once unloaded, the limestone blocks were hauled on sledges over wooden rollers by gangs of men. Water or milk was poured around the sledges to help them slide.
Step 3: Ramps, built of mud brick were used to haul the heavy stones to the level where building was going on. To raise the stones higher, spiraling ramps were probably put against the pyramid sides.
Step 4: A causeway connected each pyramid to the Nile. Built as a highway for the sledges, it later served as a corridor for the funeral procession.
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