on 10 December 2012
This is a quickly read book with large typescript and many illustrations. The author provides a brief overview of the early stone-built pyramids from Djoser's step pyramid to the last and smallest Giza monument built for Menkaure.
Djoser's pyramid, built by the famous architect Imhotep, was a technological success, having largely survived to the present day. The immediate successors were less fortunate, the pyramid at Meidum apparently collapsed partly under its own weight, and the two monuments at Dashur suffered from a weak geological foundation. During the construction one started to settle unevenly and was finished at a lower angle in the top part (the "Bent Pyramid"). The second one was, apparently as a consequence, built at an ungraceful low angle, resulting in a somewhat squat appearance (the "Red Pyramid").
Only the next two pyramids, built by Khufu and Khafre at Giza were resoundingly successful: huge, beautiful and sturdy monuments.
Dick Parry relates this well-known story clearly and with many fine illustrations. All the way he is evidently warming up to the presentation of his theory on how the pyramids were built.
Many books and articles have been written on this subject, and even when we ignore the extra-terrestrial-origin nonsense, many of the ideas put forward are clearly not realistic. For example, the use of levers on a grand scale is shown by Parry to be prohibitively difficult and dangerous. We are left with the ramps and hauling up the stones one by one.
Parry's theory now is that instead of dragging up the stones on sledges, they were encapsulated in 2x4 quarter-circle wooden "cradles" which then enabled the stone to be rolled along or uphill at comparatively ease. Actually, a few ancient model specimens of these cradles have been found, however, with no information regarding their practical use. Modern-time full-scale experiments with the idea have been conducted in Japan, transporting 2.5 ton concrete blocks. It worked well.
All in all a nice little book, regardless of whether the theory proposed is believed or not.
on 4 April 2014
A civil engineer analyses the building of the pyramids in a highly numerate fashion.
There may be disagreement with Mr Parry's conclusions, but one cannot doubt the value of his contributions. Everything here is fascinating. The sheer numbers put paid to the popular view that the pyramids were built with simple massive slave labour. The massive slave labour part is true, but by putting real numbers to this, Mr Parry shows us how fantastically organised the building was. The only surprise is that he hasn't turned up a hieroglyphic gantt chart.
Highly recommended as a read.
Need on who, and when, and why the pyramids were built? Then this is the book for you. It is loaded with pictures and diagrams so that just about anything you need to know about the pyramids are in this book.
This is a most excellent book to get you off the ground and it has a selected bibliography for further reading.
One - Origins and Purpose
Two - Evolution and Pyramid Design
Three - the Tomb Chambers
Four - Basic Aids to Construction
Five - Construction Preliminaries and Operations
Six - Stone Sources and Quarrying
Seven - Herodotus on Pyramid Construction
Eight - Levers, Rockers, and Cranes
Nine - Sleds
10 - Rolling Stones
11 - Ramps
12 - the Workforce