Theories of How the Great Pyramid at Giza Was Built
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Theories of How the Great Pyramid at Giza Was Built

Slave labour, gigantic ramps, log rollers, kites and wind power, stones never quarried but actually cast in concrete, a vanished super civilization, alien race with superior technology – how was the Great Pyramid built?

Majestically standing under the relentless desert sun, the Giza pyramid has defied time for millennia. This is one of the most intriguing man-made structures and has been one of the wonders of the world as far as human memory goes.

Who Built the Great Pyramid and Why

Who built this, how and for what purpose? People have tried to answer these questions in vain. We have only theories and speculation. Is modern science finally able to solve the age-long problem? The ancient Egyptians documented every single aspect of their lives in graphic details, but why did they never mention actually building the pyramids? Curiously, the ancient Egyptians never actually mention why the pyramids were built and by whom. Three other crucial questions not found in any ancient Egyptian records:

  1. How were the 2 million stones cut?
  2. How were they laid so precisely?
  3. How were the heavy stones moved to such heights?

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There are many theories of how the Egyptian pyramids were built. Here is an overview of pyramid building theories:

Pharaohnic Slave Labour Theory

Herodotus in the 5th and Didorus Sicolus in the 1st century BC launched the slave-labour theory, which is still the mainstream official theory.

This pyramid was made like stairs, which some call steps and others, tiers. When this, its first form, was completed, the workmen used short wooden logs as levers to raise the rest of the stones…..” says Herodotus the Greek historian in the 5th century BC.

Modern Egyptologists, such as the American Mark Lehner, supported by other scientists claim that the Great Pyramid is only 2/3 the size of the Hoover Dam and a workforce of 10 000 peaking at 40 000 built it by keeping up a rate of 3 blocks/minute using ramps in 10 years.

Alien-Race Builders Theory

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An alien race physically visited our planet, affected human evolution and even shared their technology with us – this is the approach many people take to explain the seeming unbridgeable gap between remnants of ancient Egyptian records displaying their implements and skills and the highly sophisticated know-how required to build the pyramids. The Swiss author Erich von Däniken is the foremost among the strong believers that the pyramids were not burial mounds but astronomical machines or observatories perfectly aligned to the cosmic maps.

Ramp Theory

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This is based on the pharaohnic forced slave-labour theory. A gigantic straight ramp would have to be about 2 kms in length and constantly increased in height so that stones could be carried or dragged to their proper places. The zigzag ramp is a variation of this theory.

Log Roller Theory

Variation of the ramp theory - This theory developed by the Australian Young-Earth Creationist archaeologist, Clifford Wilson in his book “Crash Go the Chariots" (1972) in response to Erich von Däniken’s theories claims that the ancient Egyptians used unknown technology. This theory tries to prove that log rollers were used along ramps to move the giant stones.

Advanced Civilization Theory

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Many people believe that an extraordinary high civilization (some say it was the Atlanteans) built this structure as a spiritual machine. Others say that this high civilization built pyramids as a navigation marker or beacon for spaceships. The Swiss author Erich von Däniken is among the strong believers who support their case with photographic evidence, geometric measurements and positioning of the pyramid in relation to astronomical data.

Wind Power and Kites to lift Stones Theory

This theory of Maureen Clemmons claims that the ancient Egyptians were masters at harnessing wind power by kites and lifted the heavy stones into place. Professor Morteza Gharib of California Institute of Technology demonstrated his support of this theory by lifting a 3-ton heavy stone obelisk.

Cast in Place Concrete Theory

What if the ancient Egyptians did not move any stones but raw materials and cast these stones as concrete in place? In the 1980s, the French chemical engineer Joseph Davidovits claimed that the ancients knew much about natural binders, e.g., in their blue-glaze ornamental statues, and so pulverizing soft limestone, mixing it with water and hardeners would have been a piece of cake for them. Michel Barsoum at Drexel University in Philadelphia found evidence that "suggest a small but significant percentage of blocks on the higher portions of the pyramids were cast" from concrete. 

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Internal Ramp Theory

The pyramids were constructed with stone blocks quarried elsewhere, brought to the site and lifted to place on ramps, which exist even today INSIDE the pyramid – a team headed by Jean-Pierre Houdin and Rainer Stadlemann, former director of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo are certain that computer imagery and continued research will prove this theory as correct. 

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Comments (13)
Ranked #11 in Archaeology

amazing historical sites, wonderful write!


Good overview of the many theories about how the Egyptian pyramids were built. Actually, no theory can fully explain how the great pyramid was built and why. Liked reading this overview though.

A brilliant discussion Rana. I've always accepted the slave labour theory.

Ranked #8 in Archaeology

Very interesting and informative..

Pyramids have always fascinated me. Thus I enjoyed this article very much, more so because of the highly useful illustrations.

Exceedingly fascinating theories. An interesting topic to think about.

A very well researched article. Like Michael, I've also accepted the slave labour theory. Thank you my friend.

Ranked #6 in Archaeology

Thanks for your comments.

Ranked #20 in Archaeology

very interesting...this is why i love history...the mystic..the mystery

The pyramid is an enigmatic structure. There must be some plan hidden somewhere in the pyramid.

This is such a fascinating topic, and you've done a remarkable job of relating these theories. I have previously heard of all these, except the theory of casting them. I also tend to believe the slave theory...I guess it's the most logical. Perhaps it was a combination...? Short of time-travelling back to that era, I doubt we'll ever be able to conclusively prove any one of these theories. Great write-up.

highly informative

I have seen specialists disagree with the slave theory as the work involved took so much precision and power, untrained slaves would be unlikely to have the physical strength or training/learning to do this. I really don't know who built them but this is a great review of the different theories :D