What is the secret behind strength and durability of the Great Pyramid of Khufu?

The Great Pyramid of Khufu is ranked no.1 in Antipater’s list of Seven Wonders. It is the oldest of the wonders, having being built 4 to 4.5 millenniums ago and the only ancient wonder still existing today. That sure rises the question as to what makes it stand still till now.

The base of the pyramid is a wide square and the apex is pointed so it is natural that the structure would remain intact. But more important is the uniformity maintained in the slopes on all four sides. Four corners at the base have to be at equal angles. If this is not ensured, then not only all the four edges would not meet at the top but the weight of the pyramid would also not be distributed evenly all over the base. With about 5 million tons of weight being borne by the slabs at the base, some would break because of more pressure on one side and less on the other. In the course of time, there would be further cracks in the broken slabs of the stone. If the weight of the pyramid causes the slab to slip even a little, those above would also get dislodged. The pyramid will eventually fall apart.

The craftsmen who built approximately 80 pyramids in Egypt must have been well versed in trigonometry. They have not compromised at all in maintaining the slope of each of the sides. The angle of the highest pyramid – the Great Pyramid of Khufu – is 51°50’40”. All four sides of Khufu slope up in exactly the equal manner and finally meet at the top at the central point of the structure. Note that the angles are not integers but fractions. A degree of angle can be divided into 60 fractions called minutes and each minute can be further subdivided into 60 seconds for surgical precision. While building a structure of this height, it must have been really difficult to maintain accuracy of high order but this has been achieved in the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The Khafre pyramid next to Khufu has slopes of 53°10’ and a third pyramid named Menkaure had slopes 51°20’25”.

When the construction work of pyramids was undertaken in the Nile River valley modern engineering instruments were not invented. This really makes historians wonder why and how Egyptians took on such a gigantic engineering project of building pyramids. Without machines to assist in the construction work, it would have taken a large number of workmen to do the job.

More reading:
Great Pyramid of Giza (Wikipedia)
Wonders of the World (Wikipedia)

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