www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler
Franz Löhner's rope roll
Why build separate ramps when the pyramid has four inclined planes as an integral part of its structure? Franz Löhner suggests a very simple device - a so called rope roll or reel station as the solution for how to build a pyramid without resorting to construction ramps. The rope roll is basically a small wooden stand made with planks and a movable beam with copper bearings over which a rope can be deflected and turned around.
Illustration of a rope roll made from wood
The term "roll" only refers to the revolving roll. Löhner's rope roll is quite small, about 20cm wide, 25cm high and 40 cm long, and best made from cedar boards from the Lebanon, a specially resilient wood. The movable beam (roll) is round, has a diameter of about 14cm and is 20cm long. Only about 10cm of the beam are actually visible, but this is enough to put a rope around and deflect it. The movable cross beam was probably also made from cedar wood. The ends where it turns inside the holes made in the side wall of the wooden stand, are slightly tapered and covered with a copper sheet. These copper sleeve bearings are well lubricated, so the beam easily turns inside the holes.
The wooden stand which is the rope roll has to be anchored well
on the surface of the pyramid flank because the stones being
hauled up are very heavy and the slope quite steep. For this purpose a
specially cut outer Tura stone is used. This stone sticks out from the
otherwise plane outer surface of the pyramid and is bent slightly upwards.
The wooden block is put on top and fastened down with ropes or even with
a special wooden casing. On the causeway from the harbor to the foot of
the pyramid where the gradients are not so high, the rope rolls are only
anchored to the ground with poles.
These rope rolls have to be made in good quality but in large quantities (like the sledges). They were easy to swap, a worker could bring a replacement rope roll, just grab the old one and carry it under his arm down to the carpenter's workshop to overhaul or fix it.
We don't use the term "pulley" since a pulley consists of several moving parts, so called sheaves which are all mounted on a single axle, almost like a wheel with a grooved rim. Wheels and axles were not known at the time when the Great pyramids were built. For a 2.5 tons stone a pulley made from wood doesn't work - the axle, if made from wood, can easily break.
Unlike the pulley, Löhner's rope roll consists of a non movable wooden stand made with planks and a thick movable beam which can not be detached. Because the wooden beam is thick and well anchored inside the wooden block, the danger of breaking is much less, not like with the wooden axle of a wagon or a pulley.
On sailing ships, a set of these pulleys, a so called block is used. A system of two or more pulleys with a rope or cable threaded between them are assembled and form a tackle. The old Egyptians definitely didn't know this system which is used to lift or pull heavy loads, we don't find anything like a pulley on their paintings of ship riggings.
Two stone implements, so called bearing stones, found at Giza, that were part of an unknown device to pull or lower three parallel running ropes over an edge. Archaeologists think, that it was put into an oblique shaft or crane and used to lift or lower heavy weights - for example, a pillar or a colossal statue .
Franz Löhner, unlike some Egyptologists, doesn't think,
that it could have been used in such a way. This shape of stone is not
suited for a permanent heavy load. Neither stone nor the ropes could tolerate
that kind of strain for long.
Löhner proposes, that sledges on tracks were used for transporting
the pyramid stones. One route with tracks came from the harbor to the
foot of the pyramid (= 4° average inclination with some stretches
of 8° to 24°) and then directly up the flank of the pyramid (=52°).
Without a rope roll you already need 53 haulers, if the inclination is
5°. With the same number of haulers, but deploying the rope roll,
you can easily pull the stone up the 52° angled pyramid flank. In
other words - only thanks to the rope roll these kind of gradients are
even possible to overcome.
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 well anchored, so the traction force of the stone cannot
rip or wrench them out and down. For this purpose special protruding casing
stones are used. The two rope rolls constitute a rope roll station.
A rope roll station is installed every 30-37m height and an additional
one on the edge of the pyramid plateau. On both sides of the track, a
ladder-like rig is installed. 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.
The rope is routed around the beam of the rope roll, one
side is attached to the sledge with the stone, at the other end the haulers
pull. 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.
Oil or grease acts as a cushion between the wooden housing
and the bearing lying around the rotating beam. Oil is better than animal
grease for lubricating. Possibly copper grease was used
as a lubricant for the rope roll. Copper grease is easily produced - copper
is grinded as fine as possible, to get a better lubricating effect. The
copper abrasion is mixed with oil and becomes copper grease. The ancient
Egyptians knew both components - copper abrasion is produced, every time
you polish or burnish copper. Copper grease keeps its lubricating effect,
even if you heat it, that is why it is still used nowadays for car brakes.
Diameter of the roll:
Burden / pressure:
Which principle is behind this? Only because
the haulers can add their own weight to their strength to pull the stone
up, it is possible to haul the 2.5 tons stone up the 52°-slope on
the pyramid flank. Without the rope roll to turn the rope around, 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.
Egyptian lifts a stone block up by flinging a rope over a beam. Then he walks away while pulling the rope.
The illustration above shows the same principle but on
an inclined plane and with a movable beam (= rope roll). We use an angle
of inclination of 52° which is the inclination of the lateral surface
of Khufu's pyramid. Two haulers are walking down (on a ladder-like rig)
and pull the stone up. The steeper the incline, the better the haulers
use their own weight as a load to counterbalance the stone being carried
Very simple techniques, that the ancient Egyptians surely could manage are used to manufacture and employ the rope rolls! The same principle was used in the antechamber of the King's chamber in the pyramid of Khufu to suspend and the lower granite portcullis slabs (see historical sources further down).
Our calculations show, that rope
rolls had to be used where the angle of inclination was more than 5 degrees.
Over and above this inclination, the haulers need much less force with
than without the rope roll. With the help of the rope
roll there is no need to build huge construction ramps, since you can
transport the stones much more effectively. The 52° inclination
of the pyramid flank is no problem whatsoever!
Transporting the stone blocks using a
sledge on tracks
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)
Does the solution proposed on this page by Franz Löhner also meet those five requirements?
What is simpler than to sling a rope over a wooden roll and pull? Of course you first need the idea and inspiration, to do it in such a way, but for solving the technical details you can use simple methods.
Actually you should say - why hasn't anybody else thought about this - why hasn't anybody else hit on this solution before! But we think, somebody had this inspiration before - namely the ancient Egyptians!
An important fact is, that with the help of this method
you need much less workers and much less time to finish building the pyramid.
Our detailed calculations show, that already with a slight inclination
of 5° it is worth while to use rope rolls and inclinations of more
than 10° can probably not be managed without the help of the rope
Actually you can state, that as soon as humans invented ropes they must have noticed, that if you throw them over a tree branch, you can pull small loads up and secure them there out of reach of hungry animals. But to prove, that the Egyptians knew what kind of principle the rope rolls uses we would like to mention the bow drill. This kind of drill can be used for drilling holes or for making fire. The bow drill is an ancient tool, which consists of a bow with the bowstring wrapped around a stick (= principle of the rope roll). The stick is held in place, and the bow is pulled back and forth in a fiddling movement, which makes the stick spin.
The same principle was used in the antechamber of the king's chamber in Khufu's pyramid to suspend and lower the granite portcullis slabs. These slabs blocked the corridors and were meant to impede any grave robbers who wanted to break into the burial chamber. This system didn't help much - the robbers probably climbed over the lowered portcullises and chiseled off enough of the granite over the entrance to the burial chamber to be able to enter.
The manner how those heavy portcullis slabs were suspended uses the same principle as the rope roll. Ropes were slung over a round longitudinal support (= roll) and then tied to a cross beam. The rope glided over the beams and the huge weights moved, but there was no wheel or axle involved. The slabs were probably held in position by wooden supports . The same principle was used to lower other portcullises and stone plugs into corridors and shafts - putlog holes for the wooden beams were found in several tombs. The Egyptologist D. Arnold also writes: "The revolving beams inserted into the side walls of the portcullis chamber of the Cheops Pyramid suggest, however, that the engineers of the Forth Dynasty already had some basic knowledge of changing the direction of pull and reducing the tractive force." [1 page 71]
The round cross beams were resting on specially shaped stones, which had a semicircular cut on top. Franz Löhner thinks, that the tracks he suggests for the sledges were also anchored to the pyramid flank on similar looking Tura stones (see illustration)
We also know, that the ancient Egyptians used stringed instrument such as harps, with pegs for tuning the cords. The pegs were rotated inside holes to coil the cord up. This is the same principle used with a rope roll.
That doesn't surprise, since the rope roll is such a mundane and simple apparatus. Maybe - but those are speculations - there is an illustration of a rope roll, but its significance hasn't been recognized.
On the other side all kinds of hoist and lifting devices have been suggested
in the place of ramps, very often either using techniques or materials
that the Egyptians didn't yet know at the time of the construction of
F. Löhner's answer:
F. Löhner's answer:
F. Löhner's answer:
These methods for building the pyramids were first published 1993 in the book "Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide" by Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner.
 D. Arnold Building in Egypt
www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler