New study explores the transportation of pyramid blocks in ancient Egypt
University of Amsterdam physicists recently addressed the final question in a recent study published in Physical Review Letters. By wetting the sand in front of sledges carrying heavy stones, Egyptians were able to reduce friction and pull the large objects more easily. Wet sand is more stiff than dry sand, as water droplets bind grains together; the Physical Review Letters introduction notes that “everyone who has been to the beach will know that dry sand doesn’t make good sandcastles—the grains slump into a puddle when the bucket is lifted. Adding water can solve this problem: the grains stick and the castle holds its shape.”
The free eBook Life in the Ancient World guides you through craft centers in ancient Jerusalem, family structure across Israel and articles on ancient practices—from dining to makeup—across the Mediterranean world.
A wall painting from Egypt’s 12th dynasty show workers transporting a colossal statue; on the front of the sledge, a worker pours water into the sand. The Egyptians were well-adapted to manipulating the granular desert environment around them, and modern physicists are just starting to put together the science behind Egyptian techniques. Maybe someday we’ll be able to build sandcastles to the scale of the Great Pyramids.
How were stones moved in ancient Israel? BAS Library Members can read Murray Stein’s article “How Herod Moved Gigantic Blocks to Construct Temple Mount” as it appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review.
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