Retired Priest | Episcopal Diocese of Texas

By Doug Cadwallader

One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza represents a stunning achievement in human willpower. Built around 2,560 B.C., the pyramid reigned as the tallest structure in the world for nearly 4,000 years.

Approximately 2.3 million limestone blocks were transported to the site to build the pyramid. In all, roughly 5.5 million tons of stone that had to be moved by boat or by hand using the most primitive of methods. To cement together the stones, the Egyptians used 500,000 tons of mortar, giving the pyramid stones a bond that has lasted for millennia. Estimates vary on how long the labor force toiled to build the Great Pyramid, but the generally accepted number is approximately 20.

Evidence points to nearly 100,000 skilled laborers as the workforce behind the construction of the Great Pyramid of Giza. With some of the stone blocks weighing 80 tons apiece, these workers needed to devise intricate methods for transporting and raising the blocks. A series of ramps were likely used for much of the construction, although completing the top of the pyramid using this method is unlikely. Scholars suggest several types of ramps as possibilities, including straight ramps, zigzagging ramps, and spiral ramps, where milk or water was used to lubricate the ramp for easier sliding of the stones. Various levers are thought to be the most likely solution for moving the blocks further up to the top of the pyramid after they were transported on ramps. Using stone or wooden shims to push the stones is one method of levering likely used by pyramid laborers.

Today, the Great Pyramid of Giza continues to stun visitors with its sheer immensity as well as its engineering marvels. The base of the pyramid is level within a fraction of an inch, a feat that is hard to achieve even with the best 21st-century technologies.

About the author:
Doug Cadwallader gained an appreciation for the ancient world while pursuing a Master’s degree in cultural anthropology from Louisiana State University. During his travels in Egypt, he crawled through the Great Pyramid, and was able to touch interior stones and intricate carvings.

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