Ancients built pyramids, temples, majestic columns, colossal statues, quarried and moved huge blocks of stone. How did they do it?                              Part 1     Part 2     Part 3                     Home

The great Hall of Columns at Karnak has been for nearly forty centuries the wonder of all mankind; its mighty columns sixty
feet in circumference, and towering nearly a hundred feet in the air, bear huge roof: beams of solid stone twenty-five and thirty
feet long. The lofty, doorway leading, to the grand "Hall of Assembly" is covered with sandstone blocks upward of forty feet in length; and in the Great Pylon the lintel over the doorway is a huge stone beam measuring twenty-five feet. Most gigantic of all
the statues of Upper Egypt are the two sitting Colossi of Amenhotep lll at Western Thebes. Each statue was originally carved
from a solid block of stone sixty-four feet high and weighing over one thousand tons and made from a variety of granite not known within several days' journeys of Thebes. The northernmost of the two statues, known as the Vocal Memnoni of antiquity was shattered by an earthquake in the year 27 B.C and was rudely restored during the reign of Septimus Severus. Throughout the
Valley of the Nile may be seen hundreds of wonderful examples of the ability of the ancient Egyptians to transport stones of vast size and tremendous weight; and according to the ancient writers they were able to do even greater things than these of which
we have tangible evidence.Herodotus tells of a monolithic temple-sixty feet square, composed of one solid block of granite, and which weighed not far from five thousand tons, which was quarried on the island of Elephantine near the first cataract, and transported to Buta in the Delta a distance of over sixhundreds miles. The great question of all ages has been, how did they do
it? Eminent scholars have asserted that many an Archimedes flourished among the ancient Egyptians who far excelled in wis-
dom the Sage of Syracuse; but a quaint-hieroglyphic picture which has been discovered on the walls of a tomb at El Burcheh, dating from the reign of Usertsen II, in the twelfth dynasty, seems to shed considerable light on the subject and would seem to prove that the whole secret of the ancient Egyptians consisted of their unlimited command of individual labour. In other words, instead of by the use of an unknown power, all of these marvelous works have been accomplished solely by a vast aggregation
of brute strength.

Myriads of slaves

Ancient Egyptians moving a coloss. From a hieroglyphic picture in a tomb at El-Burcheb

In the hieroglyphic picture refered to, the method of moving these huge stones is most admirably portrayed. The picture is
carven in the conventional style of ancient Egypt and shows a colossal seated figure of granite, about twenty-six feet high and probably weighing about five hundred tons, secured by tightly twisted ropes to a wooden sledge which is drawn by a great throng
of almost naked slaves, who are harnessed two-by-two. The engineer in charge of the work is seen standing upon the knees of
the statue, marking time to the measured cadence of a song, very much as the Egyptians of today are acoustomed to sing as
they go about their work. Upon the toes of the colossus, at the front of the sledge, stand a man who pours oil from a jar upon the causeway in order to lubrlcate the passage of the sledge and also to prevent fire from friction. Other slaves remove the wooden sections of the causeway after the colossus has passed over and place them again before the sledge. Some of the hieroglyphic inscriptions upon the walls of the tomb and the temples also make reference to this method of moving great masses of stone
and in the tomb of an Egyptian noble, who lived In the sixth dynasty we learn of a monolith of such gigantic proportions that It required the combined efforts of 3000 men to move it; and Herodotus tells of a single block of stone which was transported by
order of King Arnasis from the city of Elephantine to Sais, in the Delta, and which required the undivided efforts of 2000 men for three whole years to complete the task. How far these ancient writers may believed, is a matter for conjecture, but Pliny tells
of an obelisk ninety-nlne feet high which needed the united strength of 20,000 men to raise it into its upright position. It is also recorded in many of the hieroglyphic inscriptions that huge boats were often used In transporting obelisks and other great stones for the temples. Among the most interesting of these inscriptions is that to be found on the walls of the terraced temple of the
great Queen Hatasu at Deir-el-Barhi, in which she tells of transporting the two great obelisks from the first cataract to Thebes
on a huge, barge, which. was towed by thirty galleys, rowed by 960 oarsmen. All of which would seem to prove that the marvels
of quarrying and building performed by ancient Egyptians and Phoenicians were not accomplished through the instrumentality
of some tremendous unknown force, but were the result of forced labour and cost unnumbered thousands and tens of thousands
of human lives. And so, as the blood from the guillotine besmeared the fame of the new born French republic and dimmed its
glory for all time, we come to look upon these ancient marvels of architecture with less of admiration as we begin to understand
the full measure of human suffering which was their price and in the new Egypt of the twentieth century, with its schools for the common people and the bettered conditions of its teaming millions, its magic transformation of the desert into fertile acres by
the great Nile Dam, and in the steady trend toward the better things of the age, we find a broader interest and a deeper satisfac-
tion than in those mighty monuments of human woe which fill the wondrous valley of the Nile.

Quarries in Giza

Statue of Ramses II at Luxor