Going beyond even the expertise of archaeologists and historians, world-class engineer Craig B. Smith explores the planning and engineering behind the incredible Great Pyramid of Giza. How would the ancient Egyptians have developed their building plans, devised work schedules, managed laborers, solved specific design and engineering problems, or even improvised on the job? The answers are here, along with dazzling, one-of-a-kind color photographs and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of tools, materials, and building techniques the ancient masters used. In his foreword to the book, Egypt's Undersecretary of State for the Giza Monuments Zahi Hawass explains the importance of understanding the Great Pyramid as a straightforward construction project.
Many questions regarding the Great Pyramid of Giza remain unanswered: How was a structure approximately two-thirds the size of Hoover Dam built by the ancients? How were 2.3 million blocks of limestone and granite weighing several metric tons each lifted into place? How did the ancient Egyptians manage to build such a structure with the tools and human resources at their disposal? In this rather dull book, construction engineer Smith imagines the building of the pyramid as if it were a modern construction project. He lays out the building plans (speculating based on evidence that the Egyptians had plans, scale drawings and models) and the work schedules that Pharaoh Khufu—whose burial tomb the pyramid was—would have needed. Smith examines the evolution of pyramid design to demonstrate that the builders of the Great Pyramid learned to avoid the flaws of earlier models such as the step pyramid. But like others, Smith can only take an educated guess as to how the massive stones were lifted hundreds of meters into place—with ramps. Smith's book is anachronistic in imposing modern standards and methods on an ancient building project, and the history of the Egyptian religion and culture he offers is already well known and better related elsewhere.
Although how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed is unknown, there are technological and physical constraints that allow engineers to imagine how it was done (without invoking helpful aliens). First, throw out the wheel and the pulley, for the ancient Egyptians lacked these tools; second, estimate the labor force required; and third, establish a schedule that ensures the pyramid will be ready to receive the pharaonic mummy. Within these parameters, Smith, a public works engineer by profession, produces a fascinating scenario for the erection circa 2550 B.C.E. of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Smith assumes that a project manager directed affairs; he reasonably speculates that this was Khufu's vizier, Hemiunu. Smith converts material descriptions and mathematical calculations into an almost audible narrative, so that readers hear Hemiunu think aloud as he reflects on the defects of previous pyramids and plans out a monument to impress the gods and astound posterity. This impressive, accessible analysis is an absolute necessity for the basic Egyptology collection.