An overview: How was Khufu's pyramid built?
Building the pyramids step by step
A new method by Franz Löhner
Which steps were necessary from quarrying the stones to transporting
them to the Giza plateau? How can the stones be transported up the flank
of the pyramid and when was the building project completed with placing
the pyramidion on the top of the pyramid?
Stone quarries and transport down the Nile - Transport
on land - The pyramid building yard - Planning
the construction project - Construction steps
- Workers needed - Sources
Stone quarries and transport with boats on the Nile
The main bulk of the stones used for the pyramid was quarried on the
Giza plateau itself. White limestone for the casing was brought with barges
on the Nile from Tura further southeast and the heavy granite beams for
the Kings chamber and the Grand Gallery were brought from the Aswan quarries
934 km on the river to the south.
Shipping the stone blocks down the Nile to
Quarrying stones for the pyramid
Since Khufu's pyramid was the first where a lot of granite was used,
Franz Löhner thinks, that iron tools were used,
not as the accepted doctrine suggests copper tools. Copper tools can be
used for limestones for certain purposes, but they wear down much to quickly
to be of any use with the hard granite.
Cutting granite with iron tools
Transport on land with sledges on tracks and the rope roll
Stones had to be transported from the harbor and from the adjacent quarries
to the building yard which was situated close to the pyramid. The ancient
Egyptians didn't know the horse or the wheel yet and used sledges to transport
stones. Franz Löhner thinks, that they build wooden tracks
for the sledges, since that is much easier than hauling the sledges on
bare rock, mud bricks or gravel.
Transporting the stone blocks using a sledge
For transporting materials on a slope of an angle of inclination of
5° or more it is expedient to use Löhner's rope roll.
This device is made of wood and was installed every 75m or so on the auxiliary
ramp that leads from the harbor to the building yard. Ropes were attached
to the sledge, brought up to the rope roll, slung over the cross-piece
of the rope roll and back. Two hauler teams (11 men each for a slope of
5°) don't walk up the slope - on the contrary, they walk downwards,
pulling the rope which is turned round through the rope roll. In such
a way they can add their own weight to their strength
to pull the stone up.
Starting page English: Franz Löhner's
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient
of friction necessary
The pyramid building yard
The construction project had to be planned methodically from quarrying
the right kind and size of stone to transporting them to Giza at the right
time. The building yard is the center of the whole pyramid construction
project, all assignments are planned and coordinated here, all the important
decisions made and the assignments given to the appropriate work gang.
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!
The pyramid building yard - the center of
the construction project
Planning the construction project
First the form, size and exact alignment of the pyramid
had to be planned and it was also very important, to choose the right
building ground. Of course it was also imperative to choose a
place as close as possible to the harbor at the Nile
channel and to the quarries on the Giza
plateau, so it was not necessaryto transport the stones too far. Then
the builders of Khufu's pyramid also took advantage of a rock outcropping
to both increase the stability of its core, as well as to reduce the amount
of building materials needed for its construction. Egyptologists calculate,
that 2'583'283m³  to 2'326'501m³ 
of limestone were used (volume of the pyramid including the rock core
The pyramid building yard - the center of
the construction project
Alignment of the pyramids and controlling
the shape of the pyramid
Probable construction steps
Construction activity starts on the Giza plateau: Preparation
of the building yard
- Planning the pyramid construction project
- Choosing the building ground. This was very important, because major
problems had developed while building other pyramids because the ground
was too soft and yielded
- Alignment of the pyramid
(perhaps the satellite pyramid G1d is built to help aligning Khufu's
pyramid exactly to the north)
- The base area and the outer fundament are leveled,
the pyramid corners and the edges measured. For the corner stones a
special bed is cut, so they can support and absorb the enormous weight
of the pyramid that presses down and sidewards. The fundament is layed
down with a slight gradient of 2-3° inwards .
- Crevices or cracks on the plateau are filled and if necessary blocked
up with large stones, so the basalt pavement could later be layed on
a level surface.
- In the center, the rock is left standing but is terraced, so a rock
outcropping with steps is left in the middle .
This is important, because the rock core has a different coefficient
of shrinkage than the stone blocks that are used for the pyramid
body. If you don't consider this fact, the structure will develop displacements
and fissures. To avoid this you have to interlock the building stones
with the bedrock. So called headers
are used, which are long stones reaching into the rock and tying them
- The building yard (stone masons workshop, stone storage, repository,
building sheds) and quarters for 4240 pyramid workers (see calculations)
- Auxiliary ramps with tracks
are built from the quarries and from the harbor to the foot of the pyramid.
If the gradient is more than 5° it was worth using Löhner's
rope rolls (Calculating the force and
kinetic coefficient of friction necessary).
- Egyptologists think, that first the underground passages and chambers
were built before the construction of the actual pyramid was started
Up to 7 meters height:
The blocks of the lowest 10 layers are the largest - 1m
by 2.5m and 1-1.5m high, weighting 6.5 - 10 tons .
They were build up around the rock outcropping until at least 7
building the first 7 meters it is not yet possible to anchor tracks
for the sledges on the pyramid flank, because the sledges are too
long to position them when starting. This necessitates an auxiliary
ramp at the foot of each track. This ramp can be much steeper than
is usually suggested for transportation ramps - for example with
an inclination of 30° and a length of 12 meters - because gradients
of more than 10° can easily surmounted with the help of Löhner's
Up to 10 meters height:
Franz Löhner thinks, that at the latest when building
the 7th or 8th stone layer (height ≈ 8-9m) it would be worthwhile
to dismantle those auxiliary ramps and haul the
sledge directly up the pyramid flank. At the foot of the pyramid
the abrupt change from plane
ground to the 52° inclination had to be well planned.
At the beginning, when the largest volume of stones (30% of the
total volume in the first 15 meters )
and very massive stones have to be transported, it is economical
to work on all 4 sides of the pyramid (as shown on illustration).
But even with only 5 tracks with the help of Löhner's rop rolls
up the pyramid it is possible to build the pyramid in less than
The outer stones were were bevelled
to the right shape (with a 52° angle) already at the Tura quarry,
then transported up the pyramid and always polished just after they
were layed down on that particular stone course.
Up to 35 meters height:
The construction of the first 30 meters of the pyramid
is the most labor-intensive time, because over 50% of the total
volume  was built, over 3 million tons
of stone were used. On the southern side of the pyramid 5 tracks
go up the pyramid flank (better even 5 tracks on each side of the
pyramid). At each track 2 double teams work, they are hauling mostly
large stone blocks . Most of these blocks
weight 2.5 to 3 tons .
The entrance is built and the construction of the Grand
Gallery has started and at the same time the outer
casing stones are polished. For the huge granite beams which
weight up to 50 tons, a special track system is installed at the
east or north of the pyramid - a heavy
duty track system with stone blocks serving as counter weights.
This special track goes all the way from the harbor to the pyramid
foot and then up the flank.
Specially during this first phase of construction it would
economical to work on all four sides of the pyramid (=
20 tracks), because like that the building will be finished much
faster and earlier, in 10 to 15 years instead of 20 years.
Finishing the King's chamber:
On this height much less workers are necessary, so the
track systems are reduced to 3 pieces. Each track system has a rope
roll station every 30-37m and another one up at the very edge of
the pyramid plateau.
On 50m already 82% of the total volume is built .
The King's chamber
and the Grand Gallery are nearly finished (the floor of the chamber
lies on 43.03m ).
On 70m the stress-relieving
chambers are finished and the last granite beam is brought up.
Now the heavy duty track system
can be dismantled.
On 100 meters height:
Now the construction of the temple and the causeway can
begin and also probably the building of the satellite
pyramids. On 100m already 97% of the total volume is built .
Now smaller and lighter stone blocks are used, about 1m by 1m and
0.5m high and weighting about 1.3 tons .
On about 70m height the track systems are reduced to one track
which is 89m long. There are still rope roll stations every 30-37m
where the rope rolls are anchored to protruding outer stones and
there is one more station up on the edge of the pyramid plateau.
Constructing the last meters of Khufu's
On 130m there is only one track system in operation, it
consists of a series of 4 rope roll stations with tracks between.
It is important, that each time when the sledge passes a intermediate
rope roll station the changing of ropes is done smoothly and while
the sledge is still moving. Only in such a way the sledge doesn't
have to be stopped and restarted every time (overcoming each time
the static friction between sledge and tracks).
At the same time the construction of the temples and causeway is
now pressed ahead, so they will be finished at the same time as
The apex (tip) of Khufu's pyramid:
last meters can be build with no extra problems, thanks to the rope rolls.
For the last few stone courses the corner stones have to be cut with utmost
precision and all stones have to be interlocked with care. Perhaps the
last 10 meters of the pyramid was build entirely of white Tura-stones
To be able to place the pyramidion
on top of the pyramid the plateau has to be completely vacated
and a meter below a wooden working platform is installed. The rope rolls
are installed on the edge but somewhat off set to the side on Tura stone
which have a special form. This rope roll station is the last of a series
of stations installed on the flank very 30-37m height.
The pyramidion now can be brought up on the tracks on the pyramid flank
in one continuous movement - over a distance of 186m. Then the pyramidion
is set on the top of the pyramid. The polishing of the outer casing stones
is also already finished, because this was done continuously during the
whole construction process. Now only the working platform and the tracks
have to be dismantled and then the protruding stones, that were used for
anchoring the rope roll stations have to be removed.
Using Franz Löhner's methods the pyramid is finished once the pyramidion
is put on top and no further construction steps are necessary!
We think it is possible,
that the workers finished polishing all outer stones and then the
pyramidion was pulled up the pyramid during a religious ceremony
signaling the successful completion of the pyramid construction.
Using Löhner's rope roll you don't need the huge number of workers
most Egyptologists suggest. Franz Löhner calculates a total
number of 6'700 workers, which were necessary to build Khufu's pyramid
(including preparation and planning, quarry work, transportation
by ship and on land and building the pyramid). Most of those were highly
skilled craftsmen and artisans, not unskilled workers or even slaves.
This is a rough estimate but it is based on relatively
accurate approximations by Franz Löhner. The calculations are based
on the minimum of workers necessary to finish the pyramid in 20 years
Detailed calculations how many workers
were necessary to build the pyramid
These methods for building the pyramids were first published 1993 in
the book "Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide" by Heribert
Illig and Franz Löhner.
 R. Stadelmann Die grossen
Pyramiden von Giza / Die Ägyptischen Pyramiden
 D. Arnold Building in Egypt
Average size of the stone blocks was 127 x 127 x 71cm, so the weighted
about 2.9 tons. More information
 D. Arnold Lexikon der Ägyptischen
 P. Janosi Die Pyramidenanlagen
 G. Goyon Die Cheops-Pyramide
 V. Maragioglio und C. Rinaldi
Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite. Le grande piramide di Cheope
 M. Lehner The Complete Pyramids
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