So, here’s the premise: You are a dot com billionaire, or the inventor of a flavour of social media software app, or maybe you just got left pots of money by your rich old uncle, and your BFF pussycat has just lost all it’s nine lives by carelessly stepping out in front of an 18-wheeler.
What should you do?

That moggy meant everything to you, you can’t just scrape him off the asphalt, shove him in a sack and chuck him in land-fill.

A hole in your garden seems unworthy, and as for pet cremation… no way your boy’s going to suffer that indignity.

No. So as money is no object and you have an enormous garden to play with, you decide to do something fitting, and spectacular.

You’re going to build a copy of the Great Pyramid!

Step 1: Current Theories

But how do you go about such a project? Obviously research is important, and sketching out a methodology is crucial. You’re going to have to explain all of this to your local builder chap.
Right from the beginning it’s important to understand how these structures were built, so let’s look into that first.

In order to help you visualise the theoretical methods of building pyramids, I have drawn some sketches using Adobe Illustrator CS4 (I can’t afford to update,) and then, for an animation, I have built a sequential progressive pyramid build in Flash CS4, and output the animation to an SWF file.

What you will see in the following work is an explanation of a brand new theory of how the pyramids were built (to the best of my knowledge.) If I have inadvertently pinched someone else’s seminal work, I humbly apologise, and can only say that if you got there before me, you are indeed a genius.

So, with no more delay, let’s advance the cause of science, let’s broaden our horizons, and let’s open up this Pandora’s box of ingenuity!

Picture 1 is a sketch of the monument we are planning. It has no scale, and is drawn to show the approximate structure rather than being a precision plan, so far. The drawing goes so far as to show the building elements, and also the shape of the ‘finishing’ outer stones it is believed once formed the smooth outer layer of the original structures.

No scale is inferred by the block size. These could be 1 metre square, or 10 metres square - that is not the important factor. The important thing is the methodology.

Virtually all theories around the building of pyramids suggest that they were built in layers, starting with a large square pad, laid horizontally and level, as in picture 2. The Great Pyramid has a base of around 230 metres in each direction, so if it were built of 1 metre cubes, arranged very close together, it would take around 52,900 blocks just for the base layer.

Step 2: Ramps and Such

Most theories suggest that once the base layer is built, height is gained by the structure through the placement of further horizontal layers, one upon the other. In order to achieve this, it is thought that an earth ramp may have been used to gain access the the higher parts of the pyramid as in picture 3. These ramps would have been rammed earth, and they would have allowed workers with oxen and sleighs to pull stones up the the higher levels of the structure.

Step 3: More Ramps

The big trouble with this theory is that as the pyramid structure, the ramp has to get proportionally more massive, as in pictures 4 and 5.
I know I said you have a big garden, but picture 5 shows the pyramid is only about 2/3 of it’s final height and the ramp is enormous.

As I say, most theories suggest horizontal planes as the most likely approach - though there are differences. There is a theory that water channels were used to float the stones up from a surrounding ‘moat’ up through covered conduits to ‘lakes’ on the higher levels, before they were finally located in their final position. I find this to be a wonderfully elegant solution - whether it would have occurred to the ancient Egyptians, I don’t know. Another theory is that a spiral path was built within the structure ‘volume,’ and the pyramid was built almost from the inside out.

Another theory is that ramps were built on each of the 4 sides, which worked like spirals this time going around the outside of the structure, and the pyramid was built in such a way that the laid stones formed the ramp as the structure was built on inclined plains. Again, this is a very elegant solution.

Step 4: No Ramps Here

I have been mulling over this problem for a while, and I believe I have formulated a design which is different to all the others ( as far as I can tell from the research I have done.)
My design requires no ramps, and only involves the movement of stones by small increments, allowing the use of simple pulleys and other lifting devices well known to the ancient Egyptians.

I suppose, if I had to describe my theory in it’s most simple terms, I would have to say it’s a way of building an enormous pyramid by first building a small pyramid and adding to it in simple, small, progressive steps. Instead of growing horizontally upwards, it grows simultaneously across 2 adjacent inclined planes in a random way, but according to the simple rule of: ‘no stone is ever raised by more than one stone height, at a time.’

All of the following drawings are there purely to illustrate the methodology. I am well aware that the blocks of stone in the actual pyramids were of various sizes and shapes, and that the builders may have employed some sort of ‘bond’ system where blocks partially overlap, rather than simply stack, etc. The pyramids were not built of perfectly cubic stones of standard size. I know this, and I hope you will accept my diagrams purely as an explanation of a theory and method, rather than purporting to be an architectural drawing.

The key to the method is shown beginning in picture 6.

Picture 6, part A shows a small corner of a pyramid being constructed. In part B a new stone is added at place X. In part C the stone at position X has been elevated to position Y, and a new stone has been placed into the evolving structure at Z.

Step 5: Still No Ramps

Picture 7, part A shows a new stone placed at position U, part B shows a new stone placed at position V, and part C shows the stone from position V, has been lifted into position W.

From this point on, the pattern is repeated, though not in any formulaic way. The new stones can be placed in many places, and many can be placed at any time. Each stone when placed onto the bottom layer, adjacent to any other base layer stones, can be lifted by the height of one stone, to occupy a position at one level above the base. That stone can again be lifted to the third layer, as long as there is a vacant place for it to move into by simple lifting of the stone by the height of one layer of stones.

Step 6: Picture 8

Picture 8 simply shows the progression over the next short sequence. The arrangement from A to C showing the addition of stones, and their migration upwards.

Pictures 9, 10, 11, and 12 all show a similar story. Stones are added at the base level, and migrate upwards. Some travel just up one layer, other leap-frog over their cousins and end up at the top.

Obviously, as the pyramid grows the stones are not being added one-at-a-time, they are added in numerous locations, and move upwards as long as there is room.

Step 7: Picture 9

Step 8: Picture 10

Step 9: Picture 11

Step 10: Picture 12

Step 11:

Picture 13 shows a situation in one diagram, at one snap-shot in time, where 3 stones are moving at the same time. Two stones come in at base level and go up to the second level, while one stone which was placed on level 3 earlier, is slid along into it’s final location.

This systematic migration of stones is happening all the time across the whole structure, which grows organically, but by the upward movement of stones just one level at a time.

I enclose a short animation where I have continued the progressive method for a much greater number of sequences.

For most of the animation I add or move just one stone at a time, but towards the end of the animation I also show how multiple stones could move at the same time, following the rules, of course.

Step 12: Conclusion

It is very easy to see that once you get going on this method of pyramid building, there is absolutely no limit to how broad a base you end up with, or how many layers you can eventually construct. At any time in the construction a new row of stones can be added to the base layer, on each of the 2 growing sides, which then allows the placement and subsequent lifting of following stones up the structure.

It would have also been very simple for the builders to place ‘finishing stones’ on the adjacent faces at the ‘back’ of the pyramid, which is growing only vertically, whereas the ‘front’ 2 adjacent sides are achieving elevation through growth ‘outwards.’ It is then a simple matter, when a final decision is made that the ground-level is of an adequate size, to begin adding facing stones to the parts of the pyramid which are no longer subject to change.

The entire project is constructed moving stones no more than one level at a time, so I reckon this is a new notion, in the pantheon of theories of pyramid building.

Obviously, you cat doesn’t care how high his mausoleum becomes, be he was your BFF pussycat, so it behooves you to build a very large structure. Send me photos when you’ve finished, and put a build story here in Instructables.

Mind for Design

Participated in the
Mind for Design