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How the Great Pyramid Was Built

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. 32 color, 50 b&w illus. (Dec.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Smith, former president of the engineering firm DMJN-Momes & Narver, uses his expertise as an engineer to offer a plausible answer to the age-old question of just how the Egyptian pyramids, and in particular the Great Pyramid of Khufu, were built. Discoveries during the past two decades at the Fourth Dynasty Giza pyramids and the adjacent workmen's village published by Zahi Hawass and Mark Lehner form the basis of this study. Instead of extraterrestrials or mistreated slaves, the archaeological evidence points to the sophisticated project management of skilled workmen in 2694 B.C.E., having evolved from the experiences of previous generations constructing step and true pyramids of various angles of inclination. After providing a brief overview of Old Kingdom Egypt and the evolution of the pyramid, Smith presents a flow chart to demonstrate the multiplicity of logistical considerations facing the ancient project manager. Additional tables propose time lines for construction, payment estimates for a workforce of 4,656 persons, and a critical path schedule for the construction of Khufu's pyramid. Recommended for all libraries to complement Miroslav Verner's The Pyramids and I.E.S. Edwards's classic The Pyramids of Egypt.-Edward K. Werner, St. Lucie Cty. Lib. Syst., Ft. Pierce, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“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. . . . This impressive, accessible analysis is an absolute necessity for the basic Egyptology collection.”—Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060891589
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/2/2006
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 727,658
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Craig B. Smith is former president of Daniel, Mann, Johnson, Mendenhall, Holmes & Narver, a global engineering, architecture, and construction firm that has been involved in many major public works projects, including the renovating of the Pentagon before and after 9/11. He holds a Ph.D. in engineering from UCLA, where he was an assistant professor of engineering and assistant director of the Nuclear Energy Laboratory. His work on the Great Pyramid was featured on A&E's The Great Builders of Egypt and on PBS's Lost Cities of the Pyramids.

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Read an Excerpt

How the Great Pyramid Was Built


By Craig Smith

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Craig Smith
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060891580

Chapter One

Egypt During the
Old Kingdom

The Great Pyramid at Giza! Anyone who experiences this magnificent structure up close cannot help being amazed -- or at least enormously impressed -- that an ancient race erected such an enduring, colossal wonder. For more than 4,000 years, it stood as the tallest structure ever built, its simplicity of form and precision of design and positioning imbuing it with an enduring power that has captured the imagination of humankind for centuries.

Constructed as the tomb of Pharaoh Khufu, the Great Pyramid stands as splendid testament to one who could conceive such a work -- one who could inspire or command the dedication necessary to accomplish this monumental public works project. Henceforth I will refer to it as Khufu's pyramid, giving due honor to the man who created it as a fitting structure in which to be buried (See Plate 1.) In a general sense, the basics of how it was built appear obvious. Blocks of limestone were cut from a quarry nearby on the Giza Plateau and stacked up to create a towering structure. It is only upon considering this approach in detail that some of the attendant difficulties emerge and questions arise. How did the Egyptians, who had only primitive tools, cut and move hugeblocks of stone? How many workers were required? How long did it take?

At the time of Khufu's reign, the population of Egypt was between 1 and 2 million.1 This provides an upper limit on the human resources available to supply and feed a workforce for a huge public works project. While the population included artisans, laborers, craftsmen, and farmers, a large number of the able-bodied workers were required to feed both the pyramid builders and the rest of the population. However, the available workforce was equal to the task of building the pyramid.

It was also essential to have willing workers with the necessary skills. Having visited the tombs of the workers and artisans at Giza -- those whose own statements, written in their tombs, bespeak the pride they felt working on the pyramids -- I find it inconceivable that slaves were involved. The tombs contain multiple generations. Father and son worked at Giza, and entire families were buried there. These people obviously took great pride in their work, and many of their tombs are smaller, pyramid-shaped versions of Khufu's tomb.

'What could motivate people to dedicate their lives to such a demanding project voluntarily? I believe the explanation lies in the fact that construction of the pharaoh's pyramid was an act of national pride, a monumental achievement that symbolized the strength and power of Egypt. I liken it to the Apollo Space Program, undertaken by the United States under the direction of President Kennedy. In a way, the goals were similar: to undertake an enormous challenge, something that had never been done before -- to reach out and touch the sky. As Jaromir Malek suggests, the large-scale building projects pushed by the pharaohs became a catalyst for change in Egyptian society.2 And the fundamental forces that drove the execution of this extraordinary undertaking were rooted in the ancient Egyptians' culture and religion.

The Predynastic Period

Egypt occupies one of the most unique geographies on earth: the fertile valley of the Nile River. The annual flooding of the Nile brought a layer of rich black silt to the Nile Valley and Delta. At the same time, the flooding removed accumulated salts. Another quirk of geography -- Egypt is bordered on the east and west by vast inhospitable deserts -- combined with the fertility of the river, created ideal conditions for the emergence of a new civilization. In the distant past, wandering nomads found this fertile area and began to hunt and live there. The Paleolithic implements that have been found in Egypt show a gradual evolution paralleling that of Europe.3 The archaeological record shows that stone tools became more and more refined.

The first "true" human, Homo erectus, lived several million years ago and is usually associated with the beginning of the Stone Age, or the Lower Paleolithic era.4 H. erectus left Africa and arrived in the Middle East as early as 1.8 million years ago, probably transiting the Nile Valley on the river, a convenient route north. Some of these early humans no doubt settled in this fertile area.5 H. erectus fabricated crude tools including scrapers and choppers. In the Middle Paleolithic era, H. erectus gave way to Homo sapiens Neanderthalalensis, also known as Neanderthal man. Some Middle Paleolithic sites have been found in Egypt in the Western Desert. There may have been sites in the Nile Valley, but they have been buried by the cycles of Nile flooding. The earliest known burial -- that of a child -- is thought to date to 55,000 years before the present time.6 Then, about 40,000 years ago, Homo sapiens sapiens (often referred to as Cro-Magnon man after the site in France where remains were first discovered) emerged as the forerunner of modern humans. Most of what is known about H. sapiens sapiens comes from caves and burial sites in Europe; these sites have lent their names to specific cultures-that is, Aurignacian, Solutrean, and Magdalenian. As these cultures evolved, tools and weapons became more advanced, and the first examples of jewelry and art appeared (15,000-8000 BC).7

It is interesting to consider the accomplishments of Cro-Magnon people in view of subsequent developments in Egypt. The Cro-Magnon improved tools and implements, including needles, fishhooks, and the bow and arrow. They developed communities that were based on a division of labor. They could count and possibly established a crude form of writing. They produced superb cave paintings. And they developed concepts of an afterlife, demonstrated by the care exercised in burying their dead and supplying their graves with jewelry, weapons, tools, and food.8

Many Late Paleolithic sites dating between 21,000 and 12,000 years ago have been found in Egypt. These include graves, remains of communities, hunting sites, and mines.9

Continues...


Excerpted from How the Great Pyramid Was Built by Craig Smith Copyright © 2006 by Craig Smith. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Introduction : quest for answers 16
1 Egypt during the old kingdom 28
2 Pyramid evolution 58
3 A tomb for a king 86
4 We consecrate this holy ground 108
5 The desert comes alive 126
6 Soaring toward the heavens 150
7 Stair steps to the gods 178
8 The workforce 202
9 The construction schedules 222
10 Life everlasting 234
App. 1 Egyptian gods 245
App. 2 Units of measurements and other technical data 248
App. 3 Calculating the number of blocks in the pyramid 250
App. 4 A primer on program management 252
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 8, 2014

    I am a high school sophomore and i chose to read this book for m

    I am a high school sophomore and i chose to read this book for my research project.The only thing I didn’t like about the book was how it kept repeating a lot of the stuff over and over again. Some certain things such as the construction and different types of pyramids and who built them really fascinated me. I thought it was amazing that from a mastabas they thought of a Step Pyramid, and the Bent Pyramid, to an actual pyramid. I found out that the pyramid builders started designing the and working on the pyramids for the Pharaohs once they were born. They do that so when the Pharaoh dies he can be placed in the tomb inside of the pyramid. They were buried in the pyramid so they could be guided to the journey of their afterlife in peace. The book discussed all the different pharaohs for the Dynasties especially from the Third and Fourth Dynasties. From the Third Dynasty I thought djoser was the most influential pharaoh because he is the one who began the whole idea of a pyramid, starting with a Step Pyramid. From the Fourth Dynasty I felt Sneferu was the most influential pharaoh because he took the Step Pyramid and came up with the Bent Pyramid. From the Bent Pyramid he came up with the Red Pyramid, which is a regular pyramid. Overall I felt this book was very informative and helped a lot on my research project. 
    The only thing I didn’t like about the book was how it kept repeating a lot of the stuff over and over again. Some certain things such as the construction and different types of pyramids and who built them really fascinated me. I thought it was amazing that from a mastabas they thought of a Step Pyramid, and the Bent Pyramid, to an actual pyramid. I found out that the pyramid builders started designing them and working on the pyramids for the Pharaohs once they were born. They do that so when the Pharaoh dies he can be placed in the tomb inside of the pyramid. They were buried in the pyramid so they could be guided to the journey of their afterlife in peace. The book discussed all the different pharaohs for the Dynasties especially from the Third and Fourth Dynasties. From the Third Dynasty I thought djoser was the most influential pharaoh because he is the one who began the whole idea of a pyramid, starting with a Step Pyramid. From the Fourth Dynasty I felt Sneferu was the most influential pharaoh because he took the Step Pyramid and came up with the Bent Pyramid. From the Bent Pyramid he came up with the Red Pyramid, which is a regular pyramid. Overall I felt this book was very informative and helped a lot on my research project. 

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