This 4,500-Year-Old Ramp Contraption May Have Been Used to Build Egypt’s Great Pyramid
University of Liverpool academics have uncovered what could be the remnants of a 4,500 year old ramp structure to transport the massive alabaster blocks used in the construction of Egypt’s Great Pyramids.
Researchers from the Department of Archeology, Classics and Egyptology (ACE) University and the French Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo discovered the ancient ramp on the Hatnub site.
“The Hatnub quarries were the most prestigious source of Egyptian alabaster, a milky white stone banded, much beloved in the Egyptian civilization,” said Egyptologist Dr Roland Enmarch.
“Their importance today lies in the fact that they are archaeologically very well preserved.
“The quarry preserves large numbers of inscriptions left by ancient quarrying expeditions from 4500-4000 years ago.
These enable us to better understand the personnel and logistics of organising expeditions to these desert quarry sites.
“Equally remarkably, the archaeological context of the quarries is very well preserved.
“They sit in a broad landscape of Bronze Age structures related to stone extraction and transport: huts for sleeping and stone working, pathfinding cairns, ancient footpaths, and even simple dry-stone religious structures.
The quarries are connected to the Nile by one of the best-preserved Bronze Age roads in Egypt.
“In our most recent season, we discovered an extremely well preserved ramp leading up out of the quarry, with traces of post holes that will enable us to reconstruct in more detail the ancient technologies of stone haulage and extraction.
“Since this ramp dates to the reign of Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World), our research offers the exciting possibility for offering further insights into the logistics and technologies used in constructing that astonishing building.”
Along the sides of the ancient ramp are two staircases lined with postholes, to which ropes were likely tied thousands of years ago to drag the huge stone blocks.
Such a design would have alleviated some of the burden for the workers who had to pull these huge loads.
Yannis Gourdon, from the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, said: “This system is composed of a central ramp flanked by two staircases with numerous post holes.
“Using a sled which carried a stone block and was attached with ropes to these wooden posts, ancient Egyptians were able to pull up the alabaster blocks out of the quarry on very steep slopes of 20 percent or more.”
Dr. Roland Enmarch added: “Our joint Anglo-French mission to Hatnub aims to study all of these features of the site, in order to produce a more fully rounded picture of how quarrying worked in Ancient Egypt, and what it meant for the people involved.”