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How were the Giza pyramids built?


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#1 Turtle

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 03:04 PM

We have this meme that proclaims we humans could not today construct the Giza pyramids. I think this is false inasmuch as it refers to the engineering, but allow the expense is a prohibitive factor.

Anyway, I roll to the idea of Joe Davidovits that the pyramid stones are cast polymers. This makes all the elaborate ramps, sledges, hoists, etcetera moot points in regard to 'placing' large stones.

What's your favorite explanation of how the Egyptians built the pyramids? :) ;)

PS lifted by kites ‽ ‽ ‽ >> http://news.national...echobelisk.html

#2 CraigD

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 07:37 PM

What's your favorite explanation of how the Egyptians built the pyramids?

There are many pyramids in the Giza complex, so note that my comments refer specifically to the largest and oldest of them, Khufu’s, built over about 20 years around 2560 BC.

IMHO, both the old, established view – that the pyramid was built by hauling quarried stone up ramps which were later removed – and Davidovits’s – that some of the stones were cast in place, are correct in part. I believe most of the stones were quarried, but the very well-fitted facing stones were cast.

Even Davodivits concedes that the core stones are quarried, leading me to question how his explanation supports the claim (from his wikipedia article) “Using Davidovits' theory, no large gangs would be needed to haul blocks and no huge and unwieldy ramps would be needed to transport the blocks up the side of the pyramid”.

Much of the reason for Davodivits’s theory, which dates from the early 1980s, has less to do with the difficult of raising and placing the large (10000+ kg) stones, than the impracticality of precisely forming (“dressing”) them using bronze-age technology (no steel tools, etc). I believe Davodivits and supporters fail to appreciate the possibility that, having long been superseded by later technology, and followed by historic periods of apparently reduced engineering ability, the engineers and artisans of that period may have had techniques now unknown. For example, as Chris Dunn notes in his paper ”Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt”, there’s strong evidence that, although metallurgical limited to soft metal tools, they had mastered techniques such as using water-born abrasives (slurries) and vibrating cutting tools at high frequency (eg: 20 KHz). If correct, they may have been much more capable of cutting and shaping stones than many present-day experts believe.

Questions along these lines can be frustrated by conflicts between efforts to conserve the pyramid and scientifically analyze it. For example, consider how useful it would be to take a bit of the pyramid apart, examine block faces, microscopically and chemically analyze samples of them, etc., but how difficult it would be to convince the legal guardians of this monument to allow you to do this. One of the objections to Davodivits’s theory ascribed to Egyptologist Zahi Hawass in this recent article, is, in fact, skepticism that Davodivits actually has the samples from the pyramid his writings imply.

Several other details from, various theories often thought of as competing, support my “ramps and quarried stones, but better bronze-age technology than widely believed” theory of the construction of the pyramid.

It’s commonly believed that 3rd millennium Egyptians had only crude wheel-and-axle technology. However, as Dunn’s article notes, there’s reasonable evidence that they had a well developed lathe technology. I suspect they may also have had efficient compound pulleys, which would have greatly assisted in hauling heavy stones up inclines.

If you’ve ever attempted to make move something heavy over a packed-earth road, or using rough wood rollers, the idea of hauling a 15000 kg stone up such a ramp using such rolers, seems unlikely. If, however, ancient Egyptian concrete technology was as advanced as Davodivits suggests, they may have effectively paved their ramps. If, as Dunn suggests, they were good a lathing, they may have turned their rollers. Together with the possibility of compound pulleys, the hauling problem seems much less troubling.

#3 Turtle

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Posted 03 August 2007 - 05:42 PM

...”Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt”, there’s strong evidence that, although metallurgical limited to soft metal tools, they had mastered techniques such as using water-born abrasives (slurries) and vibrating cutting tools at high frequency (eg: 20 KHz). If correct, they may have been much more capable of cutting and shaping stones than many present-day experts believe.
...
It’s commonly believed that 3rd millennium Egyptians had only crude wheel-and-axle technology. However, as Dunn’s article notes, there’s reasonable evidence that they had a well developed lathe technology. I suspect they may also have had efficient compound pulleys, which would have greatly assisted in hauling heavy stones up inclines.


I agree about the advanced technology in ancient times going beyond what we think we know. There is a program currently running on the History Channel Ancient Discoveries series called Machines of the Gods. It examines "Greek and Roman technology designed for use in religious temples to create illusions that seem miraculous."

I have seen it before and have now programmed to record it. Not only pulleys as I recall but gears, steam, and pneumatics. Maybe not 3rd millennium stuff, but it's along the way from here. :)

#4 TheBigDog

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 10:10 PM

The Pyramids... I have been waiting for this to finally pop up!

I am convinced that most of our current assumptions about the Pyramids are wrong. I think that much of it has to do with the rather charismatic gentleman who is the head of Egyptian Antiquities for the government of Egypt. I am quite sure that in my lifetime there will be yet another rethinking of the history of the pyramids that ignores less of the historical evidence than the current prevailing theories do.

I believe that the structures at Giza, and some other structures within a few hundred miles, date back to far earlier than the Egyptian Pharaohs credited with their construction. Two things have lead me to that conclusion. First was a documentary that showed how the pyramids were laid out on the ground to mirror stars, and in fact whole constellations. But it was not just location, but the relative size of each pyramid was proportional to the brightness of the associated star. I would often chalk this up to coincidence, but the scope of the coincidence was just too great. Now it is perfectly logical for this to have been done by the Egyptian Pharaohs, but when you look at the arrangement of the pyramids, and the alignment of the stars, if the two are analogous then the pyramids were built around 10,000 BC, not 2600 BC as currently stated. Second was a documentary on the Sphinx. It investigated the erosion in the rocks surrounding the sphinx, and came to the conclusion that it was several thousand years older than currently claimed, about the same age as the star dating of the pyramids.

The Orion-Theory

That site is a pretty balanced discussion of the topic I list above, and has good illustrations. One of the things that we don't consider is that there could have been mistakes made, or our understanding of culture could be wrong. One of the things that "dates" the great pyramid is the internal shafts that point to various constellations, and when those constellations were inline with the shafts. Since you cannot actually see out of the shafts, it is possible that they are not precisely aligned, although during construction there would have been a good view I presume. Or, it could be that they are purposefully misaligned, out of some respect for the Gods or some other such thing that may not be documented or remembered. Or, similar to "sitting on the right hand of God" they were aligned to be on the side of a constellation, not at the constellation itself.

So I am standing on the idea that the pyramids and Sphinx predate 10,000 BC, and are the product of an unknown culture. I know that some of the evidence is tenuous, but this is the Alternate Theories forum.

The Great Pyramid is credited to Khufu, but this is based upon what is described as "workman's graffiti" found in the pyramid in 1837. There is virtually no writing in the whole pyramid, and other documents from Khufu state that he "restored the pyramids and the sphinx" not that he built them. There is debate over the authenticity and the merit of the "workman's graffiti". It could be real writings from 2650 BC when Khufu reigned, but left there by the crews that did the restoration, not the construction. Radio carbon dating of the paints might provide an answer, but it has not been done. There is also a piece of wood discovered in one of the shafts investigated by robotics in 1993. Carbon dating that could provide valuable information as well, but the administrators of the pyramid have not allowed it to happen.

Egypt - Giza Theory

What I am endorsing is called the adoption theory, which is talked about in detail at the above site.

And now to the construction...

I state with all the certainty I am worth that the Great Pyramid was not built in 23 years, or 30 years. The encasement may have been rebuilt in that time, and the temples that ran between it and the sphinx, but the pyramid itself was built over a much longer time. I think that Khufu may have had the top of the Great Pyramid dismantled and replaced with some honorarium to the gods that no longer exists, explaining the flat top. But I cannot believe that it was designed and constructed in the lifetime of a man of those times. Consider the work that went into each stone. It must be quarried, rough shaped, transported, fine shaped, and placed. The rough dimensions had to be know at the time of quarrying for a stone that would take weeks to prepare in an area not yet ready for construction. At any given moment there must have been hundreds of stones in process and transport. Here is a formula for looking at the scope of work...

1,000,000 stones
12 hours/day
365 days/year
30 years

131,400 hours of construction
7.6135 stones/hour placed

A stone place every 7.884 minutes for 12 hours each day for 30 years. That is assuming there are 1,000,000 stones. If a stone is placed every 7 minutes and 53 seconds, and it takes a week to quarry and place each stone, then how many stones were in process at any given time? I get 639.2 stones in process at any given time. Imagine the task of managing that system? The complexity is mind numbing even with modern communications and equipment. Now top that off with the fact that the Egyptians for all of their written history have virtually no documentation about the building of the pyramids. Yet they trained people in all of these various tasks, had workers coming and going seasonally, had experts in different disciplines, and have no record of how any of it was done. It would lead me to believe that they did not actually do it, and the culture that did is buried under everything built later by the Egyptians.

But wait, I said 1,000,000 blocks? Estimates of the number of stones range as high as 2.5 million, but 2,000,000 is a common accepted number. Than DOUBLES the rate of placements, and DOUBLES the number of stones in process, which far more than doubles the complexity of managing the task. Unless of course they were built over a far longer period of time, as I suspect.

2,000,000 stones
12 hours/day
365 days/year
30 years

131,400 hours of construction
15.2207 stones/hour placed

Less than 4 minutes between the placement of each stone. 1278.5 stones in process at any time. How much workspace is required to do the placement and final finish on a stone to meet the quality standards of the pyramids? If it was more than 4 minutes then several areas needed to be under construction simultaneously, further complicating the construction. Especially where areas had to join up coming from different construction lines. I just don't buy that they did this in thee times that are quoted. In my estimation it may have taken 400 years to build the Great Pyramid, about twice the time taken to construct the Notre Dame Cathedral (1161-1345).

How did they do all the lifting? Whoever did the lifting, I think they did it with very long ropes and counterweights made from smaller stones. A stone would be moved to the base of the pyramid where a "Construction ramp went right up the side at a steep angle, no long low angle ramp. The stone was secured with ropes to a long sturdy rope that went up the side of the pyramid, across the top to the far edge. There a bunch of hide sacks or wooden structures were fastened to the rope. Workers would fill the sacks and wooden buckets with large, but manageable rocks until it was heavier than the target stone. At that point gravity would slide the counterweight down, and the target stone up to the top. Logs and grease would be used at the flex points of the rope to prevent wear and reduce friction, but loading the smaller rocks would overcome all resistance eventually. When the counterweight reaches the bottom the stones are carried up one-by-one again. With several of these lifts operating a steady stream of stones would reach the work level with minimal effort for each individual, but not one ever 4 to 8 minutes.

My 400 year numbers...

2,000,000 stones
12 hours/day
312 days/year (6 of 7 days)
400 years

1,497,600 hours of construction
1.33547 stones/hour placed

1 stone placed every 45 minutes. There would be 112 stones in process at any moment assuming a week (7 days) to process each stone. 400 years of work, and one of the Pyramids completed.

Who knows?

Bill

#5 Buffy

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Posted 04 August 2007 - 11:28 PM

The May/June 07 issue of Archaeology Magazine has an interesting new theory: there was a spiral ramp built just inside the pyramid walls, allowing the stones to be brought up easily without having a long straight ramp (which they can tell from observation was never built), an external ramp (which would have left evidence both along its length as well as making it difficult to keep the alignment of the sides), or using shortcuts (filling with concrete).

Makes a lot of sense and solves a lot of problems, and there's some evidence from infrared (or some such--I don't have the issue in front of me) showing a ramp structure inside.

Pretty smart, those Egyptians,
Buffy

#6 billg

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 08:05 PM

TheBigDog - you state

There is virtually no writing in the whole pyramid, and other documents from Khufu state that he "restored the pyramids and the sphinx" not that he built them.

Do you have a reference for this?

#7 TheBigDog

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 10:01 PM

[quote name='billg']TheBigDog - you state
[QUOTE]There is virtually no writing in the whole pyramid, and other documents from Khufu state that he "restored the pyramids and the sphinx" not that he built them.[/quote]
Do you have a reference for this?[/quote]
Yes.
[quote name='http://jcolavito.tripod.com/lostcivilizations/id10.html']For millennia, the Great Pyramid has stood in mute testimony to the architectural genius of its builders. Within its walls no hieroglyph proclaims the name of the architect and no cartouche celebrates the life of the pharoah for whom it was built. When the caliph Mamum forced his way in over a thousand years ago, he found no record of who had built the massive structure. Not in the Subterranean Chamber, nor the so-called Queen's Chamber or even in the much-vaunted King's Chamber. Not until 1837 did any marking or identifier turn up within the pyramid's walls, and only then deep inside the secret relieving chambers which keep the pyramid's bulk from crushing the flat roof of the King's Chamber. Many alternative researchers believe that these marks were faked to bolster the traditional identification of Khufu with the Great Pyramid.[/quote]
[quote name='http://www.hunkler.com/pyramids/pyramid_symbolism.html'][14:58] - There are no hieroglyphics or writings in the Great Pyramid. The only symbols are some graphics on the wall of the Room of Chaos[/quote]
[quote name='http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/uvwxyz/vyse_richard.html']Howard Vyse was a colonel for the British military and was an explorer of the great pyramid in Egypt. Howard Vyse married Julia Agnes Jollifee on July 22, 1856 and had many children. Vyse is recognized for two “great discoveries”. The first of which is the only hieroglyphics in the Great Pyramid.[/quote]
It is one of the anomalies of the Great Pyramid. The "Other writings" are referenced in the links in the original post.

Bill

#8 billg

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 10:06 PM

Sorry I should have been more specific - I meant a reference to the part about "other documents" that state he restored the pyramids and sphinx.

#9 TheBigDog

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Posted 05 August 2007 - 10:09 PM

Sorry I should have been more specific - I meant a reference to the part about "other documents" that state he restored the pyramids and sphinx.


The Inventory Stele - Google Search

#10 charles brough

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 03:13 PM

The forming of the blocks theory is well over 20 years old and while it is valid and may well be true, it makes little if any difference. Either way involves about the same amount of labour. Instead of hauling blocks up, they had to haul cement and forms up or make the cement blocks or make them below and haul them up. Did it save all that cutting and chipping? Well, consider where they got the polymere cement? They had to grind it up into powder. That would not save much labour!

What is amazing about the pyramids is that they represent a patriotic enthusiams and nationalism of such exhuberance that we cannot even imagine it. The builders of those early pyrmaids volunteered their labour. The pride the Egypitians had in their immense and powerful state was something new to human civilization. They had created a most powerful nation unlike anywhere else on Earth. It was efficiently run. Their leaders were believed to be gods. They loved their society.

Of course, things change and the Old Empire period finally did come to an end in an age of lawlessness and decline. People were robbing the very pyramids they had formerly volunteered to build. Change does happen to civilizations. Nations like the U.S. that rise to the top, just fall the harder when they do decline.

#11 Turtle

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 03:51 PM

The forming of the blocks theory is well over 20 years old and while it is valid and may well be true, it makes little if any difference. Either way involves about the same amount of labour. Instead of hauling blocks up, they had to haul cement and forms up or make the cement blocks or make them below and haul them up. Did it save all that cutting and chipping? Well, consider where they got the polymere cement? They had to grind it up into powder. That would not save much labour!


The casting ideas of Joe Davidovits is quite old, and his geo-polymers constitute more than what we now call cement and concrete. I agree about grinding up the ingredients, but this can even be done stone on stone at the quarry. One of the 'mysteries' of the building is how did they move/lift the large blocks, and the problem is moot if one only needs individuals carrying baskets/buckets of mix to the level where the casting is going on. Neighboring blocks 'form up' 3 sides of a new casting and 2 sides are formed with wood. Pour, cure, remove form, move over, repeat. :)

What is amazing about the pyramids is that they represent a patriotic enthusiams and nationalism of such exhuberance that we cannot even imagine it. The builders of those early pyrmaids volunteered their labour. The pride the Egypitians had in their immense and powerful state was something new to human civilization. They had created a most powerful nation unlike anywhere else on Earth. It was efficiently run. Their leaders were believed to be gods. They loved their society.

Some kind of amazing enthusiasm at any rate. :D:doh::)

Of course, things change and the Old Empire period finally did come to an end in an age of lawlessness and decline. People were robbing the very pyramids they had formerly volunteered to build. Change does happen to civilizations. Nations like the U.S. that rise to the top, just fall the harder when they do decline.


:( That does seem to be the case, although natural disasters have also historically precipitated a decline which led to lawlessnes, which led to an end of an age, which led to robbing, all in the house that Jack built. Those who fail to recognize the failings of the past are doomed to repeat them...warn your grandchildren. :shrug:

#12 Jay-qu

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 05:57 PM

If the stones where indeed quarried, has anyone found a candidate for one of these quarries?

#13 TheBigDog

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 09:53 PM

If the stones where indeed quarried, has anyone found a candidate for one of these quarries?

I have seen candidates for the quarries, but as I recall there have never been any tools recovered that are reputed to have been used in building the pyramids.

Bill

#14 CraigD

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Posted 10 August 2007 - 11:31 PM

I believe that the structures at Giza, and some other structures within a few hundred miles, date back to far earlier than the Egyptian Pharaohs credited with their construction. Two things have lead me to that conclusion. First was a documentary that showed how the pyramids were laid out on the ground to mirror stars, and in fact whole constellations. But it was not just location, but the relative size of each pyramid was proportional to the brightness of the associated star. I would often chalk this up to coincidence, but the scope of the coincidence was just too great. Now it is perfectly logical for this to have been done by the Egyptian Pharaohs, but when you look at the arrangement of the pyramids, and the alignment of the stars, if the two are analogous then the pyramids were built around 10,000 BC, not 2600 BC as currently stated. Second was a documentary on the Sphinx. It investigated the erosion in the rocks surrounding the sphinx, and came to the conclusion that it was several thousand years older than currently claimed, about the same age as the star dating of the pyramids.

To the best of my knowledge, the hypothesis that the Giza pyramids and related structures are about 12,000, rather than about 4,600 years old, conflicts with radiocarbon dating of wood particles in their mortar. This research was performed in 1984 and 1995 by the David H. Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Project. I’m unaware of any other similar research of the structures at Giza. Interestingly, this research was funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, which sought to support the claim of its namesake founder that the the Sphinx and Khufu's Great Pyramid were built around 10,500 B.C. (sources: many, including ”Dating the Pyramids”, Archeology magazine, September/October 1999).

Although controversy remains about the precise age of these structures, the uncertainty is no greater than a few centuries. Although problematical to historians, this uncertainty is small enough to rule out the hypothesis that these structures are more than 7,000 year older than most archeologists believe.

It’s possible that the Giza and other Egyptian structures were built much earlier using some technique that produced very little carbon from living sources, and that the radiocarbon dating is misleadingly dating the mortar used in much later modification or restoration projects. However, this possibility is, I think, very unlikely.

#15 TheBigDog

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 10:43 AM

To the best of my knowledge, the hypothesis that the Giza pyramids and related structures are about 12,000, rather than about 4,600 years old, conflicts with radiocarbon dating of wood particles in their mortar. This research was performed in 1984 and 1995 by the David H. Koch Pyramids Radiocarbon Project. I’m unaware of any other similar research of the structures at Giza. Interestingly, this research was funded by the Edgar Cayce Foundation, which sought to support the claim of its namesake founder that the the Sphinx and Khufu's Great Pyramid were built around 10,500 B.C. (sources: many, including ”Dating the Pyramids”, Archeology magazine, September/October 1999).

Although controversy remains about the precise age of these structures, the uncertainty is no greater than a few centuries. Although problematical to historians, this uncertainty is small enough to rule out the hypothesis that these structures are more than 7,000 year older than most archeologists believe.

It’s possible that the Giza and other Egyptian structures were built much earlier using some technique that produced very little carbon from living sources, and that the radiocarbon dating is misleadingly dating the mortar used in much later modification or restoration projects. However, this possibility is, I think, very unlikely.

My reading on the matter indicates that the radio carbon dating has focused on the outermost layer of the pyramid, which according to the Inventory Stele was redone by Khufu, and should show that age. But without going deeper into the pyramid, or doing at least a partial disassembly, that may never be answered with certainty. I don't think it is going too happen because the mystery is a big part of what keeps the pyramids so popular.

I would rather focus on the 20-30 year estimates for assembly of the pyramid. For me that is demonstratively false.

Bill

#16 CraigD

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Posted 11 August 2007 - 11:06 PM

My reading on the matter indicates that the radio carbon dating has focused on the outermost layer of the pyramid, which according to the Inventory Stele was redone by Khufu, and should show that age.

This appears true. A complete inventory of all the sample collection sites can be found in this document. The greatest number of samples were taken from the smallest of the 3 Giza pyramids, the Pyramid of Menkaure. 3 samples were taken from the Sphinx.

Importantly, note that many samples were taken not from the monuments themselves, but from the preparation and staging areas where mortar and other materials were prepared. If the pyramids were constructed using these areas more than 12,000 years ago, rather than the accepted 4,500, there should be large deposits of charcoal dating from that period, which would have been detected by the Wenke et. al. study, which was financed by a group that wished to find the 12,000 year result, not the 4,500 one.

But without going deeper into the pyramid, or doing at least a partial disassembly, that may never be answered with certainty. I don't think it is going too happen because the mystery is a big part of what keeps the pyramids so popular.

It would certainly be satisfying, and settle the dating issue definitively, to actually excavate a few small, deep tunnels into the pyramids, radiocarbon dating mortar deeper than any possible restoration could have reached. I agree, however, that this is unlikely to be allowed by Egyptian authorities, not only for pure conservation reasons, but because, as TBD suggests, these authorities have a vested interest in preserving elements of mystery, even those unsupported by scientific evidence, such as Cayce’s psychic visions dating them at 10,500 BC. Sound science and good tourism promotion, it seems, do not necessarily coincide.

A large enough payment to Egypt would likely be able to obtain permission for such an excavation, but as with so many experiment necessary to conclusively prove or disprove fringe scientific hypotheses, it seems unlikely that that sort of money will be available. Though though-provoking, increasing the certainty of estimates of the age of the pyramids appears to have little practical or financial value. Were it not for the funding of the Cayce foundation – an unlikely-seeming “friend of science” – we might not have even what high-quality scientific research we have now.

I would rather focus on the 20-30 year estimates for assembly of the pyramid. For me that is demonstratively false.

According to a 1999 detailed study described in this wikipedia article, it’s been demonstrated that the Great Pyramid could have been built using modern techniques and equipment in about 10 years, with a workforce varying during construction from 15,000 to 40,000. The question, then, is if ancient techniques and workforces could have done it in about 3 times that time.

Even if allowed to sample from the deepest part of the pyramids, radiocarbon dating would not be of use in determining if the construction could have been completed in several decades, having 1-sigma margins of error of 50 to several hundred years.

#17 charles brough

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Posted 13 August 2007 - 08:03 AM

My reading on the matter indicates that the radio carbon dating has focused on the outermost layer of the pyramid, which according to the Inventory Stele was redone by Khufu, and should show that age. But without going deeper into the pyramid, or doing at least a partial disassembly, that may never be answered with certainty. I don't think it is going too happen because the mystery is a big part of what keeps the pyramids so popular.

I would rather focus on the 20-30 year estimates for assembly of the pyramid. For me that is demonstratively false.

Bill

I have seen diagrams of the pyramids that show there are shafts that do deep into it.