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How to build a pyramid?

The Egyptian pyramids were constructed to a basic design deriving from the step pyramid. They had a basic internal structure, which was then improved height wise by filling material and capping for visual effect. The stones were hoisted by means of ramps, the material being pulled up by human and animal power, using rollers to overcome friction.

The fundamentals of pyramid construction

The pyramid at Saqqara. Though pyramid construction is simple, pyramid design evolved, with the Egyptians trying out various techniques. The step pyramid at Saqqara was the original pyramid design. Imhotep, the architect, took several mastabas, a kind of square shaped traditional Egyptian tomb, and put several one on top of the other, each one being smaller than the one below, but unlike tombs, filled in with stone, except for the burial chamber. This step design is the core of all subsequent pyramids.Some pyramids used stone walls and chambers infilled with rubble, but they have not lasted as well as the more solid ones. The development of true pyramids. After Saqqara, true pyramids with sloping sides, developed. The sides were made to slope by covering them in smaller filling stones, over which was laid a coating of limestone to create the smooth appearance. These true pyramids had to be very carefully laid to ensure smoothness. Pyramids had a court area in front of them where ritual practices could take place in honour of the dead. Burial chambers All pyramids had burial chambers. Originally there was a simple chamber and passage, but as design evolved they became more complex. The technique was to design chambers and tunnels into the pyramid, using smaller blocks. Some pyramids used carefully designed dead end passages to confuse grave robbers, for example the Great Pyramid at Giza. Some of these passages were adorned with art and hieroglyphs.

The construction process

Most of the process was simply laying stones carefully on another, however two areas stand out: the alignment and the movement of blocks.
Alignment The Egyptians had developed astronomical knowledge because they needed to calculate seasons when the Nile flooded, so they used this knowledge to precisely align pyramids according to sacred points in the heavens.
Movement Moving massive blocks was the problem. It is likely that the Egyptians built huge ramps up each of the steps. As the ramp had to be taken higher, it would be lengthened and broadened for stability. We imagine the Egyptian workforce composed of hundreds of men hauling massive stones on log rollers. This possibly happened, but the Egyptians were familiar with the use of oxen for traction, so it is quite likely that teams of oxen were used at least some of the time.

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