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

Theories of pyramid ramp systems refuted

The main problems / drawbacks of all ramp systems

Many suggestions about Egyptian pyramid construction techniques have been made. Most archeologists suggest, that the building blocks were transported on one or several gigantic ramps to their locations on top of the pyramid. But several problems haven't been solved, specially where to get the large volume of material used for the ramps (400'000m³ or more) and how to tow the 2.5 ton-blocks of stone up steep ramps and around corners, transporting the required one block per minute up the pyramid.
Detailed calculations how many workers were necessary to build the pyramid
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary

But are large ramps really necessary? Franz Löhner's rope roll eliminates the need to build construction ramps!


Method of Franz Löhner: Using the pyramid as an inclined plane

Franz Löhner suggests a new but simple solution: utilizing the angled faces of the structure itself as a means of transporting the blocks up the pyramid. To accomplish this so called rope rolls are employed. The rope roll is a wooden stand (or reel-station) which holds a roll in place.

Wooden tracks for the simple sledges are installed and anchored (on protruding casing stones) on the angled flank of the pyramid. On both sides of the track the rope rolls are installed in pairs and in intervals of about 35 meters height.

Two ropes are attached to the sledge on which the stone is tethered. The ropes lead up and over the reel of the rope roll, turn and go back down.

The workers don't pull the sledge with the stone up by walking in front, but are walking down and by pulling the attached rope, which is deflected by the rope roll, the sledge is carried up. Thus the workers are using their own weight in addition to their strength to pull the sledge with the stone. This is not a pulley (which was not known during the 4th dynasty of the old kingdom and which uses a wheel) but simpler.

Calculations show, that when using a rope roll, 46 men can haul a 2.5 tons stone up the flank of the pyramid (=52° inclination).


Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture - detailed explanation

Löhner's rope roll
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary


Probably smaller ramps, with a lower gradient and stretching only over a few hundred meters toward the pyramid construction site, were used by the ancient Egyptians. But not ramps rising up over a hundred meters and consisting of hundred thousands of cubic meters of material!

No large ramps have been found, only small ramps stretching over a few meters and towards but not up or around a building. There is a wall painting in Rekhmire (Rechmirê) which depicts a small ramp and in the papyrus of Anastasi a scribe has to calculate a ramp which would have been 380m long and which would have had an inclination of 9.9° [1].


From the harbor to the Giza Plateau - what kind of gradients have to be negotiated?

The Tura limestones (Turah) and the large granite blocks arrived in the harbor of Giza (the Nile channel lay about 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 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 plateau. Then you have only transported the stone to the foot of the pyramid and not yet up to where you need it, on top of the pyramid itself!

These gradients are no problem at all to surmount, if you use Franz Löhner's rope roll. Without the help of the rope roll those gradients could only be managed with large ramps and large hauling teams. Calculations show, that with a 5° angle of inclination you need a ramp which is 114m long to surmount 10 meters, with an inclination of 10° you need a ramp of 56 meters. If the angle of inclination is above 10° you need teams of over 400 men to haul a 2.5-tons block!
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's rope roll
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary

cross section through the tip of the Khufu pyramid , the giza plateau and the Nile channel

Cross section of the Giza plateau from West to East through the center of the pyramid of Khufu. Degrees = app. inclination, that a sledge with a stone has to negotiate (calculated from the drawing). Elevation in meters above sea level (from GPMP).


Five requirements that every pyramid construction theory should fulfill

Franz Löhner stipulates that any method or theory for pyramid construction should fulfill the following 5 requirements, otherwise it should be rejected:

1. A solution that is as simple as possible using a technology that is as simple as possible (Occam's razor)
2. Continuity in technical matters and craftsmanship
3. Verification through pictures and/or text
4. Technology keeping with the time and culture
5. The supposed technique / method must really be a solution


Facts contradicting all models

All ramps get smaller when they reach the upper portion of the pyramid. So it is of great importance, that when you get higher up you only use smaller and lighter stones. With a ramp you would expect, that the size of the stones would decrease steadily as you get higher. It is interesting, that this is not the case in the pyramid of Khufu! On the contrary you find thicker stone layers even very high up - on 69m, 75m and on 89m. This fact is inconsistent with the proposed ramps but corroborates the use of Franz Löhner's rope rolls and the installation of rope-roll stations also high up on the pyramid flank.
Stone courses of the Pyramid of Khufu
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's rope roll

Egyptologists propose, that the outer stones were bevelled and polished from the top down. This is mainly, because they need protruding stones, so the ramps can be anchored to them. With ramps you can't dress and polish the surface straight away, but you first have to dismantle and remove the ramps to reach the surface. But with these methods it is not possible to achieve an even surface or the desired accuracy! On the contrary, when beveling the upper stones, the strong blows would be transmitted through frictional connection to the stone lying underneath and that stone could break or crack. That this would happen is a fact, that any stone mason knows. So the stones had to be bevelled before they were transported up the pyramid. A ramp can't be anchored on the smooth surface of a pyramid.

Franz Löhner thinks, that the Tura stones were dressed and bevelled as accurately as possible already in the quarries and then were brought to the pyramid. Here they were hauled to their intended place placed next to their neighboring stone and then had to be polished to be finished.
The outer casing stones of the pyramid


The main problems / drawbacks of all ramp systems

1. Angle of inclination and number of haulers needed

  • The gradient of a ramp has to be quite low, if teams have to haul the stone blocks up. Calculations show, that only an angle of 5° or slightly more is realistic (= hauling teams of 53 men), if you don't use Löhner's rope roll.
  • The longer the ramp the longer the route one worker has to cover, first by hauling the stones up, then by hauling the empty sledge down again.
  • Spiral and winding ramps pose an additional problem: It is extremely difficult to negotiate the tight right-angled turns at each corner of the pyramid. The teams of stone haulers (5° = 53 men and 10° = 427 men with 12kp force / 5° = 36.5 men and 10° = 136 men with 15kp force) can only haul the blocks in a straight line. Each blocks would have to be levered separately at the corners - one block every minute, and each one has to be turned by 90°!

spiral ramp: problems with going around corners - not enough room to turn with large hauler teams

Sledge A: The area to turn around is much too small, so the haulers walk on air, because they can't just go around the corners of the spiral ramp.
Sledge B: The haulers have to stop, because there is not enough room to maneuver.
C: Area to turn the sledge around.


The sledge with the stone is hauled by 40 or more men. To turn around the corner, one solution could be to plant posts at each corner and pivot the ropes on the posts. The men hauling the rope at the inner side would have to pull faster than the ones at the outer side. Already before turning another team (B) has to take over from the original team (A). Then the stone has to be turned by wooden levers at the very corner. The teams wait, until the ropes are arranged again and they can continue.

But even if the corner posts withstand the constant strain and are anchored well enough, so they don't get ripped out - this complicated maneuver can not be done with one stone every minute! It is impossible!
Numbers and figures of the Cheops-pyramid (pyramid of Khufu) (output)

2. The size of the ramps

  • The proposed ramps are not auxiliary constructions, but need immense additional resources.
  • A large volume of material has to be used to build a ramp. Egyptologists have calculated a volume of 400'000 to 1 million m³ depending on which ramp model you choose. This material first has to be brought to the pyramid construction site, then piled up to form ramps and after completing the pyramid, the ramps have to be dismantled. This alone would have tied up vast resources and considerately lengthening the construction time.
  • The ramps are simultaneously used by several teams pulling the blocks up and other teams walking down with the empty sledge. Which width is secure enough for the hauling crews? Most of the suggested ramps have a relatively narrow hauling surface of 1.8 to 14m.
  • Each time the ramp has to be lengthened or raised the whole working process has to be stopped for several days or weeks- this loss of working time would have considerably lengthened the time to build the pyramid. Considering that with every new stone course you have to raise the ramp this would be at least 210 times!
  • Maintaining the ramp during the construction of the pyramid would have been a colossal undertaking.

3. Stability

  • Even stone pyramids pose the problem of "melting" - the weight of the upper stone layers effect the lower layers so they slide away to the side - with adobe or rubble this effect is even more pronounced.
  • For enough stability the ramps need a large base as support. The higher the ramp the larger the base has to be.
  • To anchor the ramp to the main pyramid body the some outer stones have to be left protruding (illustration)
  • In addition many models of ramps would need supporting walls and bracing. Even then a ramp which is only anchored to the core stones and not interlocked with the pyramid pose a major risk.

4. Material

  • For the ramps most Egyptologists suggest either bricks or rubble. Others think, only solid masonry could provide the necessary strength needed for ramps
  • A framework made of adobe bricks (mud bricks were not very durable since wood was scarce in Egypt they often didn't fire them), with an interior filled with sand and other rubble, and perhaps covered with clay is suggested for most ramps. Adobe bricks can't be used more than once because they break fast. They can't be reused for building ramps on another part of the pyramid (see combination ramp model / Photo of Egyptians making bricks).
  • Some Egyptologists have suggested, that for lubrication water was poured on the ramp. This would certainly not help, on the contrary, clay gets so slippery that anybody walking on it would fall down. Imagine slipping and falling men trying to haul a 2.5 ton block up this kind of ramp! Water also weakens a building, specially one made from adobe bricks!
  • Clay has a lot of small grainy components, those would abrase the wood of the sledge and the rollers in no time.
  • Sand which is available close by is not stable enough to use for a ramp
  • Every stone and every irregularity the sledge has to surmount needs more human force and a larger number of haulers. This is the reason, why even a well prepared and smooth slope made from bedrock is better than a ramp made from rubble or brick.

5. Transporting the heavy granite blocks

  • The large granite blocks (8m long and weighting 40 tons) pose special problems. The ramps have to be wide and stable enough for these blocks, so they can be pulled up to the required 40 to 65m height. Some Egyptologists suggest, that these blocks were placed on the pyramid ground floor and then levered up with every new stone layer. But what happens if one of these blocks cracks and breaks to pieces - there is no way to bring up a replacement! Anyway, they would need a lot of space to store (about 1'500 m²) and would hamper the ongoing work process.
  • The pyramidion or cap stone also weights 5 to 6 tons and has to be transported to the very top (146.59m) of the pyramid. This stone is specially important and if it has to be levered all the way up it probably wouldn't have survived the trip!

6. Exactness and control

  • If ramps cover the pyramid entirely or also just in parts, controlling and measuring the inclination and height becomes very difficult if not impossible. With spiral and winding ramps this problem is specially serious.

7. Safety

  • Don't forget Murphy's Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong!
  • Not slaves but skilled workers were employed on the pyramid construction site, probably well paid and not just expendable!
  • A stone block that leaves the planned course and starts to fall down the flank of the pyramid or the ramp is extremely dangerous for the working crews. Once lying outside of the chosen path, how do you haul it back? Ramps therefore have to be extremely stable and sturdy with enough room for the hauling crews. The stone blocks have to be secured at every phase of construction, so they can't slide or skiff away.

Alignment of the pyramids and controlling the shape of the pyramid
Numbers and figures of the Cheops-pyramid (pyramid of Khufu)
Detailed calculations how many workers were necessary to build the pyramid


What has been found?

Only small, embankment-like structures have been discovered on the Giza plateau. Actually some smaller ramps were found - one on the southern side of the pyramid of Medûm (Meidum), which was 5m wide (adobe bricks) and at the pyramid of Sesostris I in Lisht there is a ramp of about 50m length. But these ramps are much smaller than the huge construction ramps suggested by the Egyptologists, more like transport roads or auxiliary ramps.

There is a dearth of conclusive archaeological evidence supporting the theory that massive ramps were used for the construction of the pyramids. For winding ramps there is no archaeological record at all that indicates the use of one, the depictions of ramps on wall paintings or papyrus generally show straight ones which lead up to a wall.

Another fact strengthens the case against ramps - when employing a ramp it is crucial to use smaller stones further up because the ramp gets narrower and often also steeper. But while the stones used for the layers of Khufu's pyramid overall get smaller the further up you go, again and again there are stones layers much thicker than the ones before. Illustration of the height of the first 50 layers [2].



[1] Papyrus of Anastasi: There is a ramp to be made of 730 cubits, with a breadth of 55 cubits, consisting of 120 compartments, filled with reeds and beams, with a height of 60 cubits at its summit, its middle of 30 cubits... (inclination of ramp = 9.9°)
[2] W. Petrie The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh

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