www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler

How were the pyramids built? Using rope rolls and sledges on tracks.

A new method by Franz Löhner

Many methods for constructing the Great pyramids of Giza have been suggested. Ramps in all shapes and forms have been drawn, but so far no really good explanation, how this great feat was done has been found. Calculations show that a stone weighting 2.5 tons had to be moved up the pyramid of Khufu every 1 to 2 minutes, so the pyramid could be finished in a maximum of 20 years.

No more large construction ramps!

The German Franz Löhner [1] has thought of an impressively simple way how the ancient pyramid builders could have erected those large monuments - using wooden rope rolls and sledges on tracks installed directly on the flank of the pyramid. The rope roll is basically a small wooden stand with a wooden bearing (a cross beam) over which a rope can be deflected or turned around (details below).


Rope roll stations on the pyramid flank

A wooden track is constructed directly on the pyramid face and anchored on the casing. Two rope rolls are installed on both sides of the track and anchored on a special casing stone each. The two rope rolls constitute a rope roll station. A rope roll station is installed about every 30-37m height and an additional one on the edge to the pyramid plateau. On both sides of the track, a ladder-like rig is installed for the haulers to walk on. The stone block (weighting an average of 2.5 tons) is laid on a wooden sledge and tied down with ropes. The sledge is then installed on the tracks. Of course the tracks and the skids of the sledge are well lubricated with watered oil.

Rope roll station, tracks and haulers on pyramid flank (illustration R. Zuberbühler)
Click here for version with detailed explanation / print version

Now the ropes which are attached to the sledge are brought up to the rope roll, slung over the cross-piece of the rope roll and left dangling. Two hauling teams (of 24 men each - calculations show a minimum of 46 men are necessary) are waiting on the top, standing in two groups on each side of the track on the top of the ladder-like rig just down from the rope roll station (reel station). To pull the stone up, the hauling teams are walking down the steep ladder-like rig on the pyramid flank. Two haulers together grab a crossbar handle (wooden toggle) attached to the rope and, holding it in front of their chest, they push. When they walk down, the sledge with the stone is carried up the tracks.

Once the sledge arrives at the edge of the pyramid frustum, it is tilted, so it rests on the plateau and another hauling team takes over and transports the stone to its intended position on the pyramid plateau. The sledge is released and returned to its starting point in the stone quarry. The hauling team meanwhile can return back to the rope roll station for their next assignment, using a normal stairway which is installed for their convenience.
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's rope roll


Löhner's rope roll

Why build separate ramps when the pyramid has four inclined planes as an integral part of its structure? Löhner's solution is a very simple device - a so called rope roll or reel station. This rope roll is basically a small wooden stand with a wooden bearing (a cross beam) over which a rope can be deflected or turned around. Pairs of these rope rolls and tracks for the sledges are installed directly on the pyramid flank (the illustration also shows the ropes tying the rope roll down to the stone block) and anchored to protruding casing stones.

Because the ropes from the sledge are turned around and back down, the hauling teams can walk down on both sides of the track instead of walking up ahead of the sledge. By walking down they pull the sledge with the stone attached to it up the tracks.

Which principle is behind this? Because the haulers can add their own weight to their strength to pull the stone up, it is possible to accomplish this on the 52°-slope on the pyramid flank with teams of only 48 men. Without the rope roll to turn the rope, it would not be possible. Calculations show, that without the rope roll even on a moderate slope of only 5° you already need over 50 men to pull the same 2.5 tons stone block up.

Rope roll

Rope roll (this smaller rope roll can carry about 1 ton)

Detail of rope roll with rope

Detail of rope roll with rope

Detail roll and copper bearings

Detail roll and copper bearings

Simple sledge made from wood on tracks (model)

Simple sledge made from wood on tracks (model)

Click on the thumbnail for a larger photo.
Löhner's rope roll
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary (by H. Illig and H.U. Niemitz)



The rope roll can also be used on a ramp - and the steeper the ramp the better! But ramps are not necessary, Franz Löhner suggests, that the pyramid builders permanently installed wooden tracks for the sledges on the flank of the pyramid and erected not only one but a system of these rope roll stations directly on the flank. It was possible to build several reel-stations on each side of the pyramid, thus transporting the required one block per minute up the flank.
Calculating the capacities necessary for construction the pyramids
Overview pyramid building

Calculations by H. Illig and H.U. Niemitz [1] show, that on the 52° steep pyramid flank and using Franz Löhner's rope roll 46 haulers are enough to transport a stone block weighting 2.5 tons. Because the hauling teams have to walk in pairs and on each side of the track, they form a hauling team of 48 men. Adding 7 helpers (lubricating the tracks, levering the stones, changing ropes, and overseeing etc.) we calculate, that one hauling team on the pyramid flank consisted of 55 men. For slopes of 5° we need 24 haulers, on plain ground only 12 haulers. Please take note, that without a rope roll you need over 400 men for an inclination of 10°!!
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary (5° = 53 men and 10° = 427 men with 12kp force / 5° = 36.5 men and 10° = 136 men with 15kp force)

So instead of a huge labor force of 20 to 30'000 men for building the pyramids, Franz Löhner suggests a work force of under 7000 men! This was a very large, but manageable construction site where skilled workers were employed over a number of years, each worker with a very precise assignment as part of a large planned undertaking - building the Great Pyramid of Giza!
Detailed calculations how many workers were necessary to build the pyramid


Is this technique within the capabilities and the knowledge of the ancient Egyptians?

This technique can be compared to slinging a rope attached to something heavy up over a branch of a tree and then pulling the heavy object up by grabbing the rope and walking a short distance away from the tree. If you walk down a steep incline you need even less force than on level ground. A simple technique that the ancient Egyptians surely had mastered!

The same principle applied on a ascending slope of 52° (like the flank of the Cheops pyramid): two worker are walking down the incline. They carry a stick in front of them and the rope attached to it run over a beam on top. The stone block is carried upwards while the workers walk downwards.

The same principle can be applied on a ascending slope of 52° (like the flank of the pyramid of Khufu). If you sling a rope over a beam you can walk down the ascending slope and pull a heavy load up at the same time.

If you use Löhner's rope roll instead of a beam, there are only a few differences: the crossbeam that is the rope roll turns on well lubricated bearings in a wooden block and it is well anchored on a special casing block on the pyramid flank. This method works, because the haulers are using their own weight in addition to their strength to pull the stone. Because they walk down, not up or horizontally, they use much less force to haul the stone. Please note, this is not a counterweight as suggested by some people - it is not only the weight of the 50 men that is pulling the stone up, but their strength plus their weight.

This is also not a pulley or a pulley block, these use wheels and have an axle which were both not known at that time. The illustration shows a pulley block with several wheels used for a sailing rig, but those were also not known during the 4th dynasty of the Old Kingdom. The rope roll is a simple device - all you need to make one is some wooden planks, a wooden crossbeam and copper sheets for the bearings.
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary
Löhner's rope roll


Quarrying stones and transporting them to the pyramid

Limestones were quarried close to the pyramid construction site but white Tura (Thura) limestones had to be brought from the eastern shores of the Nile. The stone blocks were transported with special barges on the Nile and the Nile channels to the Giza plateau.
The outer casing stones of the pyramid
Shipping the stone blocks down the Nile to Giza

Khufu's pyramid is the first pyramid, where granite stones were used in large quantities, for example for the Grand Gallery and the King's Chamber. But granite from Aswan posed special problems, the stone is very hard and difficult to quarry and the blocks were huge and had to be brought by ship to the Giza plateau.
Quarrying stones for the pyramid

Acknowledged doctrine says, that even hard granite was cut and carved with copper tools. Franz Löhner did several experiments with copper tools and is sure, that it was not possible to work the granite without iron tools.
Cutting granite with iron tools


Does Löhner's method work on the pyramid of Khufu?

Khufu pyramid construction process: moving illustration

Khufu's pyramid construction process

Once the blocks were in Giza, they were transported by rope roll to the base of the pyramid and then up the side. The large chambers, halls and corricors inside of the Cheops pyramid posed special problems because of the large granite blocks used. Another special concern were the last 10 meters of the pyramid and how to place the large pyramidion stone on the apex (tip).
Transporting the large granite blocks up the pyramid
Alignment of the pyramids and controlling the shape of the pyramid
Transporting the pyramidion to the top of the pyramid


Advantages of Franz Löhner's methods over those suggested in accepted doctrine

Franz Löhner suggests a number of methods and techniques that have one thing in common - the work on the pyramid and in the quarries should be done with as little effort or expenditure of energy as possible and no resources should be squandered unnecessarily. His solutions also need no new or special tools or techniques, but use methods well within the capabilities of the ancient Egyptians.
Theories of pyramid ramp systems disproved
Ramp models described in details

For example transporting stones:

  • Which version for transporting stones causes the least friction sledges hauled on fixed tracks
  • Short routes a system of tracks installed directly on the pyramid flank
  • Expending as little force as possible using Löhner's rope roll which redirects the force extended and applies the weight of the haulers in addition to their strength to pull the stone by walking downwards instead of upwards
  • Pulling in coordination hauling teams walk in pairs, grabbing a crossbar handle attached to the rope for pulling, which they hold in front of their chest. They don't walk on the tracks but to the left and right
  • As little levering as possible in the quarries the stone is cut to measure and in a certain shape, tied to a sledge on which it stays until it reaches the pyramid plateau. There it is hauled to its intended place on tracks and levered exactly where necessary
  • Resources are conserved no need to build huge construction ramps


In this website dates according to conventional Egyptian chronology are used, which is based on several list of the dynasties of pharaohs, for example the Aegyptiaca of Manetho of Sebennytos.


You want to know more....

The methods for pyramid building described on this website were first published in a book with coauthor Heribert Illig. Only available in German language.

Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner
Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide
Mantis Verlag 1993, 1994 und 1998
ISBN 3-928852-17-5

Available at www.amazon.de or www.buch.de
Literature and sources

More books by H. Illig


Buch:  Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide von H. illig und F. Löhner

www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler