Egypt pyramid breakthrough as expert discovers ancient workers’ mistake during renovation

The pyramid-shaped structures were built for the country’s pharaoh and their consorts during the Old and Middle Kingdom periods and have been revered in the centuries since for their incredible accuracy. The earliest known Egyptian pyramids are found at Saqqara, northwest of Memphis, with the Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, believed to date back as early as 2630BC. Meanwhile, the most famous pyramids are those found on the Giza plateau, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, all built during the Fourth Dynasty.

Less famous is the Bent Pyramid, an ancient monument located at the royal necropolis of Dahshur, approximately 25 miles south of Cairo, built under the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Sneferu.

Unlike its peers, this pyramid still boasts its original outer limestone case, but structural engineer Peter James says that is no surprise.

Mr James, who has spent the last 14 years working on preserving the historic buildings and temples of Egypt – most recently the Step and Bent pyramids – says ancient Egyptian construction techniques were “so simple that it’s laughable”.

He told “When I was working at the Step Pyramid I was asked to have a look at the outer casing of the Bent Pyramid.

“It is the only pyramid that still has a large quantity of its casing stones – of the seven great pyramids in that area of the Old Kingdom – all the others have lost theirs.

“The reason it went was during the day the Sun would expand the outer casing, which was attached to the main body of the pyramid.

“Then, as it expanded the joints would open slightly and you would get sand, grit and various other things inside.

“Then, at night, it would shrink and go back down again.”

Mr James, who is also the author of ‘Saving the Pyramids: Twenty First Century Engineering and Egypt’s Ancient Monuments,’ explained how the ancient workers built the Bent Pyramid differently to the others.

He added: “Because there was interference in the joints, they wouldn’t go all the way back down, so the next day you would get the same cycle again.

“The outer casing would be growing all the time and limestone never goes back to its original position.

“I wondered why this pyramid, which was the third one built, still had the outer casing on, yet the buildings after their casing disappeared.

“Then it became fairly obvious that the Bent Pyramid, built at an angle of 54 degrees over 43 degrees, is not one piece – it’s actually a pyramid on top of a trapezoid.”

The Newport-based Egyptologist detailed how the ancient techniques changed in the future.

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He continued: ”So that one elevation is not as big as the other ones, like the Red Pyramid or the Great Pyramid.

“The Bent didn’t because of the angle, therefore it didn’t have the same amount of expansion.

“You can imagine in the modern world that you wouldn’t build a wall 20 metres long without an expansion joint, but of course they knew nothing of such joints.

“It’s obvious that the Bent Pyramid survived because of its shape.”

Mr James has spent his career strengthening and restoring historically significant structures all around the world, from Windsor Castle to the White House.

In ‘Saving the Pyramids,’ he puts forward a unique perspective to the structural engineering of ancient Egypt, giving his opinion on common theories surrounding the pyramids – along with new and innovative projections on their construction.

The book, which is published by University of Wales Press, is available for purchase in bookstores throughout the UK, as well as online here.


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