Washington, March 28 : Researchers have suggested that the process of building the Egyptian pyramids was not as colossal an undertaking as is generally believed.
For centuries, people have theorized how the great pyramids were built. Some have suggested that they must have been constructed by extraterrestrials, while others believe the Egyptians possessed a technology that has been lost through the ages.
But, according to Donald Redford, professor of Classics and ancient Mediterranean studies at Penn State University, the process of building pyramids, while complicated, was not as massive a project as believed earlier.
According to an article in physorg.com, estimates suggest that between 20,000 and 30,000 laborers were needed to build the Great Pyramid at Giza in less than 23 years. By comparison, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris took almost 200 years to complete.
Pharaohs traditionally began building their pyramids as soon as they took the throne.
The cores of the pyramids were often composed of local limestone. The capstone was usually made of granite, basalt, or another very hard stone and could be plated with gold, silver or electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, and would also be highly reflective in the bright sun.
The method for building the massive structures involved quarrying - the processes for cutting and removing stone. Scholars have found evidence that copper chisels were used for quarrying sandstone and limestone in the region, but harder stones such as granite and diorite would have required stronger materials.
According to Redford, 60 to 70 men would pound out the stone. At the bottom, they rammed wooden pegs into slots they had cut, and filled the slots with water. The pegs would expand, splitting the stone, and the block was then slid down onto a waiting boat.
Teams of oxen or manpower were then used to drag the stones on a prepared slipway that was lubricated with oil.
"Once the stones were at the construction site, ramps were built to get them into place on the pyramid," said Redford.
These ramps were made of mud brick and coated with chips of plaster to harden the surface.
"If they consistently raised the ramp course by course as the teams dragged their blocks up, they could have gotten them into place fairly easily," said Reford.