Egypt: Scientists make Great Pyramid of Giza discovery
Believed to have been built 4,500 years ago, the famous pyramid on the Giza Plateau remains the only Seven Wonder of the Ancient World still largely intact. Despite this, when it was built the huge structure had another layer of white “casing stones” – slant-faced, but flat-topped, blocks of highly polished white limestone. All that remains today is the underlying stepped core structure after it was believed that a massive earthquake had loosened many of the stones.
But structural engineer Peter James may have exposed an ancient mistake that caused the blocks to fall off within his book ‘Saving the Pyramids: Twenty First Century Engineering and Egypt’s Ancient Monuments’.
He wrote: “The final failure of the magnificent structures could never have been predicted by the pharaoh or his team of builders.
“They would not have been able to understand that, after they had spent so much time and effort on constructing these wonderful structures to the god Ra, their Sun god, he would have been the instrument to destroy the outer casing and undo all their good work.”
Mr James, who has spent the last 14 years working on preserving the historic buildings and temples of Egypt, revealed how the Bent Pyramid – an ancient monument located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur – still boasts its original outer limestone case.
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And the structure of this pyramid could explain why.
He added: “All the missing cladding appears at interfaces or change of directions in the structure.
“In the case of the Bent Pyramid and, I believe, all the pyramids, the outer casing has been affected by thermal movement.”
Mr James explained his theory on how the Sun may have caused the blocks to move, but the angle of the Bent Pyramid may have ultimately saved that building.
He told Express.co.uk: “When I was working at the Step Pyramid I was asked to have a look at the outer casing of the Bent Pyramid.
“It is the only pyramid that still has a large quantity of its casing stones – of the seven great pyramids in that area of the Old Kingdom – all the others have lost theirs.
“The reason it went was during the day the Sun would expand the outer casing, which was attached to the main body of the pyramid.
“Then, as it expanded the joints would open slightly and you would get sand, grit and various other things inside.
“Then, at night, it would shrink and go back down again.”
The Newport-based Egyptologist detailed how the Bent Pyramid is “not in one piece,” instead it is “actually a pyramid on top of a trapezoid”.
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This means it “didn’t have the same angle” of the other pyramids and so “didn’t have the same expansion,” leading it to survive intact for longer.
Mr James has spent his career strengthening and restoring historically significant structures all around the world.
In ‘Saving the Pyramids’, he puts forward a unique perspective to the structural engineering of ancient Egypt, challenging some of the common theories.
The book, which is published by University of Wales Press, is available for purchase in bookstores throughout the UK, as well as online here.
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