www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler
Lifting the granite blocks with a heavy duty track system with counter weights
A new method by Franz Löhner
How were the huge 50-tons granite beams brought up to more than 40 meters
height (25th to 85th stone course) so they could be used for the construction
of the King's Chamber and the Grand Gallery?
In the pyramid of Khufu the hard granite stones were used in the interior
for the Grand Gallery and the King's chamber as well as for the sarcophagus.
Huge granite beams weighting 48 to 52 tons (1.3 x 1.8 x 8m with a density
of 2,6 - 2,8 g/cm³) were used for the King's chamber. The pyramid
temple had granite columns and an extensive basalt pavement was layed
down around the pyramid .
A lot of methods for transporting, that just barely work for the normal
2.5-tons stone blocks, don't work for these heavyweights. If you distribute
the enormous weight on several rope roll stations this problem
can also be solved.
The large granite blocks arrived in the harbor of Giza (the Nile channel
lies on approx. 17m above sea level, the exact position of the harbor
is unknown) and had to be transported over a distance of 500-600
meters and overcome 40 meters difference in
height to the foot of the pyramid. Most of the route is not very steep
- the average angle of inclination is about 4° - but there are some
stretches with 8° to 24° inclination, that have to be negotiated,
until you reach the rock plateau at the base of the pyramid.
For the granite blocks a separate route which goes from the harbor to the foot of the pyramid is installed with heavy tracks and rope roll stations about every 75 meters. The weight of the huge stone blocks is distributed among more rope rolls and of course for these large weights you need more haulers per team. It is also possible, that instead of two hauling teams per section there were four teams with ropes of different lengths, so they could walk one team behind the other. The granite beams are hauled up lengthwise to produce less friction. We calculate that eeven when using rope rolls you need between 300 and 500 haulers for a 40 tons stone.
On the pyramid flank Franz Löhner's rope rolls can also be used for the heavyweights, but not only with humans as haulers. A 50 tons load including the sledge (300kp) would demand more than 670 haulers, even if using rope rolls. Actually this large number could be put to haul, if you make groups of 30 haulers using 23 rope rolls, but it can also be done more smartly, more economical and with less risk.
After all, on 21 meters height where you start to use granite blocks for the Grand Gallery, there are enough limestone blocks lying around to be let slide down the flank as counterweights. To counterbalance a granite block of 50 tons you need 8 limestone blocks of 5.6 tons (2m x 1.2m x 0,9m at 2,6g/cm³), that was a common weight for larger blocks used while building Khufu's pyramid. These 8 blocks are hauled up in the usual way and then used as counterweights until all the 90 heavyweight granite beams are hoisted up. If you take in count, that over 2'300 000 stone blocks were moved in total, you must realize, that moving those blocks was a ludicrous minor additional effort.
On the pyramid flank (probably on the eastern side) a heavy duty track system with counterweights is installed. This track system consists of three (not two) rails and an additional pair of rails to the left and to the right for the stones serving as counterweights. Then ladder-like rigs for the hauling teams are also installed on each side. Additional ladder-like rigs are installed between the main rails for the men controlling the ascend of the granite beam.
To haul the heavy granite blocks up the pyramid flank it is very important to plan each step and only use the most experienced hauling teams. The granite block should move up the flank on the tracks in one uninterrupted movement. Every time the sledge with the stone has to be stopped and started again it uses a lot of force because you have to overcome the static friction (stiction). To hoist the block over the edge to the pyramid plateau an additional team operating on the pyramid frustum is used.
Illustration of the procedure to lift a granite beam up to the edge of the pyramid plateau (here on 65m) by using counter weights on a heavy duty track system (Granite Beam / Counterweights / Intermediate Rope-Roll-Station). Hauling teams are not shown.
1. The granite beam (blue) lies on a sledge at the foot of the pyramid, the 8 counterweights on sledges (red) are anchored below the first intermediate rope-roll-station (green) on 20-25m. The counterweights are slowly released and glide down while the granite beam is lifted to the height of the first intermediate rope-roll-station.
2. The counterweights have arrived at the foot of the pyramid and are stopped just shortly before they reach the ground. At the same time the second series of counterweights start to move down, sliding over the first intermediate rope-roll-station and stopping a short distance further down (they could be lowered more, but for safety reasons the ropes shouldn't be too long).
3. The third series of counterweights starts to move and slides over the second intermediate rope-roll-station.
4. When the granite beam has reached the edge of the pyramid plateau, the counterweights are slowed on their way down and nearly stopped.
5. At the edge there is an additional hauling team which is hauling on the pyramid plateau and the granite beam is carefully lifted over the edge with the help of levers.
6. The ropes attached to the granite beam are released and each counterweight stone is hauled up separately to its starting position by hauling teams (the upper stone series first) and the next granite beam is brought to the base of the pyramid.
Illustration - with and without ropes (mouse over)
The granite beam (A)
The counterweights (B)
The hauling teams (E)
Tracks and ladder-like rigs (F)
Position of the intermediate rope-roll stations (C and D)
Position of the rope rolls in the intermediate rope-roll-stations (C)
tracks (F) are built going up the pyramid flank and the
tracks (H) coming from the harbor are lengthened until
they reach the base of the pyramid. On the side where the sledge (1)
nearly touches the outer stones of the pyramid another sledge (2)
is attached. The granite beam (A) now lies lengthwise
on the second sledge so it can be hauled up the pyramid flank
widthwise. Now it has to be carefully tilted with the help of
levers so it lies flat on the tracks going up the pyramid flank. Nine
double ropes are attached. For extra safety double ropes are used, this
is no problem for the rope rolls. The double ropes go to the next rope
roll station where a total of 8 rope rolls each are installed on special
Tura stones on each side. As counterweights 5.6-tons-blocks on sledges,
are each hanging on the ropes, ready to glide down to the foot of the
pyramid. With this arrangement 8 times 5.6 tons which adds to
44.8 tons can be lifted with the counterweights. The difference
(with a 50 tons stone this would be 5.2 tons) is lifted by hauling teams
which walk down to the right and left of the tracks on a ladder-like rig.
For safety reasons separate rope roll stations are used for the hauling
Now high up, at the intermediate rope-roll-stations, the blocking devices which held the sledges with the counterweight stones in place are removed one after the other. On the outer side of the track system the hauling teams get ready. After a last check the ropes tauten and at the base of the pyramid men with levers push the sledge with the granite beam so it starts moving up the tracks. The sledges with the stones are moving slowly and deliberately, since it is important to keep all the sledges aligned on the tracks. Any jerk or jolt could unbalance the whole contraption, something which would be extremely dangerous.
All sledges are accompanied by overseers ready to stop the sledges if there is any danger. Others are carrying long poles which are oiled at the tip and are checking the numerous ropes, lifting some of them carefully with poles which are covered in front with slightly oiled leather, so they don't get entangled. For each rope roll station there is one man in charge and the sledge with the granite stone is accompanied by several men carrying stopping devices (wooden triangles). The workers are secured above with ropes so they can move fast and are using the ladder-like rigs between the main tracks.
The length of the ropes has to be calculated, that the moment the counterweights reaches the base of the pyramid next to the starting tracks, the granite sledge would reach about 25 meters height. Somewhat earlier, about at 20 meters the ropes are changed. That is to say, the ropes of the second intermediate rope-roll-station (with shorter hauling distances the ropes were not changed) are uncoupled and the ropes coming from the next station attached. The counterweights from the second station are set in motion, gliding past and over the intermediate rope-roll-station and are stopped shortly after. In such a way all heavy stone blocks can be lifted to the required height.
The largest stones were used for the Grand Gallery, the King's chamber and the relieving chambers. Additional large stones were used for the entrance, the Queen's chamber and the corridors. So the first heavyweights were needed at 20m (Queen's chamber and entrance), the last stones on 66m or more (= known height of the gable of the upper most relieving chamber ).
It is incidental that several intermediate rope-roll-stations
should be installed permanently. The main intermediate rope-roll-station
had to be situated between 30 and 37 meters ,
because this is where the King's chamber is built. Additional rope-roll-stations
were installed with a difference in height of about 20 meters, so the
granite beams could be brought up high enough. Khufu's pyramid has specially
thick stone layers which could be used to install rope roll stations on
17m / 30m (+13m) / 37m (+7m) / 54m (+17m) / 69m (+15m) / 75m (+6m) / 89m
(+14m) / 105m (+16m) / 125m (+20m) and probably shortly before the top
of the pyramid .
Unlike a standard block, the granite block is tied widthwise on the sledge, so it is wider and taking up more room. This is the reason why the rope roll stations have to be installed several meters apart to the left and right of the track system in the middle. For the hauling team a separate rope roll station is used.
For the 4 counterweight stones a total of 8 rope rolls are needed per
station. These are installed always 4 rope rolls next to each other on
a ledge. With standard stones the sledge passes between the two rope rolls
tied to protruding stone bosses. But with the heavy duty track system
the sledges with the counterweights coming down from the second station
above (or on the edge) have to glide over the intermediate rope
roll station. This is the reason, why the rope rolls and Tura
stones should protrude only slightly from the side surface of the pyramid.
This problem can be solved if we use a shorter wooden rope roll (20cm instead of 35cm long). Now the ledge of the Tura stone where the 8 rope rolls lie on top can also be much narrower. To anchor these rope rolls soundly, the Tura stone on top of this stone layer is cut in such a form, that they are clamped between the two stones. The ledge together with the upper stone form a kind of cross-sill.
The sledge with the counterweights slide down from above on rails made with round logs, which lie to the left and right of the rope roll station. The logs are quite thick, so the sledge can easily glide over the elevation of 20cm which the rope roll station represents. The sledge doesn't even touch the wooden rope rolls!
Care should be taken, because the Tura stone is not so resilient. Specially at the places where the rope roll is placed on the stone, a lot of force is applied. With several rope rolls in a row, pressures of more than 30 tons are generated, however not uniformly but with punctiform points of contact. These stresses can cause cracks in the supporting stone underneath. This can be solved by placing a long wooden board (B) on the stone underneath the rope rolls (A), so the force is applied more uniformly. This board has slots so the ropes don't chafe. The upper Tura-stone is slightly overhanging and every rope roll is firmly lodged in between the stones with a wedge (C).
To facilitate handling the ropes, the 4 rope rolls of the upper (2) and lower series (1) are slightly offset laterally against each other and the rails for the counterweights go past the station to the right and left.
The upper stones (2) are also slightly higher so the ropes (blue) can stretch over the lower stone and don't chafe against it. The area (red arrow), where the ropes could possibly chafe are under laid with leather, so there is no friction.
The additional expenditure to construct such a solid track system and large rope roll stations is well worth it, because it will be used to transport all granite blocks up the pyramid flank - more precisely all the material used to construct the King's chamber which lies between 43 and 65m (= height of the roof). After all the granite beams are incorporated and the intermediate rope roll stations are not used any more, the protruding Tura stones are simply beveled to the appropriate angle and no sign of the station is visible anymore on the surface of the pyramid.
The last rope roll station, the one at the top of the frustum of pyramid, was positioned on the very edge. A specially large Tura stone (1) with 9 rope rolls (A, B and C) protrudes out over the edge to the pyramid plateau.
The special Tura-stone is anchored with some poles rammed into the stone underneath (2). This stone has been cut to such a shape, that it interlockes with the Tura-stone above with the help of a peg. This helps, that the large Tura-stone (1) tilts and is pulled from its place by the weight of the granite beam. The Stone is cut in such a way, that 5 roperolls are positioned on top and 4 roperolls in a ledge underneath.
A third rope roll (D) is placed about one and a half meters back on the plateau and anchored by another protruding stone (3) and some poles rammed into the stone underneath.
Now it is specially important, how the ropes are directed over the roperolls. Nine ropes are attached to one side of the sledge with the granite beam. Two ropes (red) each are taken together and directed over the upper rope roll (A) and then underneath the second rope roll (D), then back over another upper rope roll (B) and down to the counterweights. The rope rolls lie very close to each other and a total of 4 ropes are redirected. Another four ropes (blue) lead over lower the rope rolls (C) installed on a ledge in the special Tura stone. These rope rolls are shorter and firmly wedged in. One rope (green - only shown on the small illustration) leads up from the granite sledge to a rope roll and back to the hauling team.
Special care has to be taken, when the granite beam is tilted over the edge onto the pyramid plateau. But because the beam is hauled up the pyramid flank widthwise, this is not that difficult. To accomplish a smooth tilting, the ropes are attached to the rearmost bar of the sledge shortly before reaching the edge. Of the double ropes one is passed above, the other rope below the anterior bar of the sledge. Directly before the edge additional ropes are attached to the anterior bars and a hauling team positioned on the plateau itself helps to accelerate the tilting.
Tilting the stone is controlled very precisely, so the sledge doesn't
hit the edge. Two strong round wooden logs are placed on ropes which are
stretched across and held by two strong men, so the impact of the beam
can be cushioned. Overseers standing just at the edge of the pyramid are
giving precise instructions as to how to level the sledge. Once on the
pyramid plateau the stone is transported by hauling teams on oiled tracks
to its intended place, for example to the construction site of the King's
Now all you have to do is to get the counterweights up to their starting
position again and tie them down until they are used again. The hauling
teams pull those stone blocks up one by one in the usual way - on the
same track where they have been lowered. There was plenty of time to do
that, because the granite beams arrived from Aswan only occasionally,
not every day.
These methods for building the pyramids were first published 1993 in the book "Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide" by Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner.
www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler