For a Kinder, Gentler Society
Building the Great Pyramid in a Year
An Engineer's Report
  • Gerard C. A. Fonte
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Building the Great Pyramid in a Year .  An Engineer's Report
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Most archaeologists feel that 25,000 workers spent 20 years building the Great Pyramid (Khufu’s Pyramid) at Giza in Egypt over 4000 years ago. However, by closely examining the clues and artifacts left behind, and by assuming that the Egyptians were clever and intelligent, it is found (conservatively) that 10,000 workers could have built the Great Pyramid in about 385 days. Even at a more realistic, relaxed building schedule, the project could have been completed easily within four to six years by just 4000 workers.
Dr. Mark Lehner’s “The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries” (1998 Thames and Hudson) has only 35 pages on pyramid construction. In “How the Great Pyramid was Built” by Dr. Craig Smith (2004, Smithsonian Books), an executive-level approach is used with only chapters 6-9 actually addressing the construction techniques. Neither book acknowledges Egyptian creativity or intelligence. Both books ignore critical artifacts and contrary evidence. Neither book looks at the consequences of the suggested building methods which regularly lead to untenable situations. “Building the Great Pyramid in About a Year” focuses on practical and plausible techniques that derive from examining the tools and clues left by the builders and by accepting that the Egyptians were brilliant and creative builders.

About the Author

Gerard C. A. Fonte, currently the Principal Engineer of The PAK Engineers, has nearly 30 years of varied hands-on engineering experience ranging from commercial products to state-of-theart military designs including: missile guidance systems, gravity navigation, electronic warfare and projects that "don't exist".
He has over 50 publications ranging from magazine articles to peer-reviewed papers. Fonte was awarded the 2006 Outstanding Engineering Merit Award by the San Fernando Valley (CA) Engineers’ Council for his research on early Egyptian constructions.
He holds a BA degree in Psychology and a MS degree in Natural Science.

About the Book
"Work smarter, not harder."
Gerard Fonte presents the construction of the Great Pyramid as a wonder indeed, while challenging our cherished notions of the arduous labor and extreme human costs required for the project. Starting with...
"Work smarter, not harder."
Gerard Fonte presents the construction of the Great Pyramid as a wonder indeed, while challenging our cherished notions of the arduous labor and extreme human costs required for the project. Starting with his knowledge of project management, the properties of basic materials, and common sense, and giving the Egyptians credit as a sophisticated and well-run society, he shows step by step how they may have built great edifices and enhanced social cohesion at the same time. He posits that some of the implements found at archeological sites were clever labor-saving devices, and using experiments, models and tests he illustrates some ingenius techniques that were well within the scope of Egyptians' technical knowledge. Photographs and diagrams support his theory.
This research covers all major aspects of pyramid building: quarrying, moving, placing, lifting, fitting the blocks, finishing the outer casing blocks, placing the top-most blocks, tool specifications, wood requirements and machine design. It examines Egyptian pyramids in general, general pyramid geometry, common pyramid fallacies, available worker population, social effects of large works and scale factors in engineering. It is important to emphasize that everything is based on archaeological remains, forensic evidence, engineering principles, common sense and creativity. Additionally, it presumes that the Egyptian builders were intelligent and innovative and would use the best available techniques.
In particular, two “mysterious” tools that have been found at the pyramid site are examined and found to instrumental for moving and lifting the blocks. The first is the wooden “quarter circle” or “rocker” which is made from imported cedar. The author built replicas of these tools and was able to move a 4200 pound concrete “pyramid” block 15 feet in less than 10 seconds by himself and from a stationary starting position. (The author was 52 years old and weighed 135 pounds at the time.) A forensic examination of the second tool, a “proto-pulley”, reveals that the Egyptians used a particular type of lever to lift the blocks. A time-motion examination showed that three men could lift a block a full course in just three minutes with this lever.
The conventional approaches of using ramps to lift blocks and sledges to move blocks are examined are shown to be flawed. The consequences of employing these methods lead to untenable situations, like a quarry that must supply twice as much rock than it can possibly hold.

This book represents a forensic-engineering exploration of the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Most archaeologists believe that about 25,000 workers spent about 20 years to build the Great Pyramid (or Khufu’s Pyramid) at Giza in Egypt over 4,500 years ago (Lehner, 224). But, by closely examining the clues and relics...

This book represents a forensic-engineering exploration of the construction of the Egyptian pyramids. Most archaeologists believe that about 25,000 workers spent about 20 years to build the Great Pyramid (or Khufu’s Pyramid) at Giza in Egypt over 4,500 years ago (Lehner, 224). But, by closely examining the clues and relics left behind, and by assuming that the Egyptians were intelligent and creative, it is found (conservatively) that about 10,000 workers could have built the Great Pyramid in about 346 days. However, there is evidence that 4,000 workers were used (Lehner, 225). And by using a relaxed production schedule, a value of four to six calendar years is probably a more reasonable estimate.
These values are based entirely upon archaeological evidence, logic, common sense, and scientific and engineering principles. Every aspect of pyramid building will be examined in detail. This includes quarrying the blocks, moving the blocks, lifting the blocks, fitting the blocks, placing the top-most blocks and finishing the outer casing blocks. It will be shown that each of these challenges can be successfully addressed using the materials and crafts that the Egyptians are known to have possessed. Additionally, tool specifications, wood requirements and machine designs will be appraised. Surprisingly, such an analysis has not been done before.
Not all of the important factors that allowed the pyramids to be built are directly related to these construction procedures. General pyramid geometry, available worker population, the social effects of large works, and scale factors in engineering are critically important as well. Lastly, there is the concept of “Energy Management“ or, more simply: work smarter — not harder.

Other Books

There are many, many books and papers about the pyramids. Generally these can be broken into three main classes: picture books, specialized approaches, and archaeological works. Interested readers most often turn to picture books. They provide a general history of the pyramids with many beautiful pictures of Egyptian constructions and antiquities. And without any doubt, Egyptian artifacts can be exquisitely beautiful. Most often these books only briefly discuss the mystery of how the pyramids were built. Typically they provide a few pages of speculations that are based on the generally accepted view that it took 25,000 workers about 20 years. Little original work is found here.
The “specialized approaches” usually examine one aspect of pyramid building, often without regard to the archaeological evidence. These writers often have a specific idea that they believe could be applied for moving blocks, or lifting blocks, etc. These works have a very focused approach, typically with application to a single aspect of pyramid building. Unfortunately, while the work is often very imaginative and original, it doesn’t match what has been found in Egypt. Nor are these approaches applicable at the massive engineering scale necessary for the Great Pyramid. Some of these will be examined in more detail later.

The archaeological works are where the important information comes from. But archaeologists are not engineers. They cannot be expected to recognize important engineering functions of various artifacts or specialized tools. Generally, their works are descriptive. They offer drawings and photographs of things found at the pyramid sites. Of course, since their interest is in archaeology, they tend to focus their effort on items that relate to ancient Egyptian society. Tools that have no obvious function are, naturally, only mentioned in passing. One very important archaeological work is J. P. Lepre’s The Egyptian Pyramids (1990, McFarland & Company). This is an extremely detailed compilation of information from all of the Egyptian pyramids. Lepre is also extremely precise in his descriptions and drawings. For these reasons his book will be referenced with regularity in the following pages. Note that there are many variations in the spelling of Egyptian names and places. Unless otherwise noted, the spelling that Lepre uses will be incorporated here. It is also important to note that Lepre is an archaeologist, not an engineer or mathematician. As such, there are a number of mathematical errors in his book.
Currently there seems to be increasing interest in the building techniques employed for the Great Pyramid. In particular, Dr. Mark Lehner, in association with the NOVA television program, went to Giza and actually built a small pyramid using the “standard methods” of sledges and ramps. This work is documented in his book The Complete Pyramids (1997, Thames and Hudson) and of course, the television program, “This Old Pyramid.” This experiment provides some useful benchmark information that will be examined closely. Additionally, Dr. Lehner is arguably the foremost archaeological authority on pyramid construction today. For that reason, his book is also an important reference.
Lastly, there is the very recent book by Dr. Craig Smith, How the Great Pyramid was Built (2004, Smithsonian Books). Dr. Smith is an engineer with experience as a construction executive for public works projects. His book is written from a program manager’s perspective, or “top-down” approach, and is oriented to the high-level planning and construction of the Great Pyramid. He relies heavily on Dr. Lehner’s work as well as that of Dr. Zahi Hawass (secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Director of Excavations at Giza and Bahariya Oasis). Dr. Hawass is generally considered to be a leading archaeological authority on the Giza plateau constructions. It is clearly necessary to address the approaches that are presented in Smith’s book. This will be done, in detail, in a later chapter and it will be shown that the standard methods are simply not feasible.
For convenience, book references will provide the author and a page number so that the reader will be able to locate the appropriate passage easily. Non-book references will provide an author or internet source and the date. All book and non-book references are fully listed at the end.
The approach taken here is different from these other works. Instead of using the standard methods of dragging blocks with sledges and lifting blocks with ramps, new strategies will be developed that will be based on evidence and creativity. There is no doubt that the Egyptian builders were brilliant. The simple fact that their some of their creations have lasted nearly 5,000 years is a testament to their ingenuity and intellect. If we assume from the start that the Egyptians were intelligent, organized and resourceful, the task becomes one of deciphering the clues that they left behind in order to determine the methods they used. It will be found that critical clues have been overlooked or ignored that offer clear and direct insight into the Egyptian construction techniques.

Table of Contents
Chapter 1. The Egyptian Pyramids Introduction Other Books The Great Pyramid Evolution of the Pyramid Pyramid Construction Th
Chapter 1. The Egyptian Pyramids
Other Books
The Great Pyramid
Evolution of the Pyramid
Pyramid Construction
The Pyramid at Maidum
Great Pyramid Construction Clues
General Pyramid Geometry
Chapter 2. Pyramid Fallacies
Pyramid Blocks
Passageways and Chambers
Secret Passages
Still Secret Passages
The Great Pyramid and Pi
The Nose of the Sphinx
Chapter 3. Scale Factors in Construction and Engineering
Order of Magnitude
Size versus Strength
Energy Management
Energy Management Cost
Scale Factors and the Pyramids
Energy Management and the Pyramids
Chapter 4. Moving Blocks
Why Things Roll
Quarter Circles
Quarter Circle Track
Block Size
Quarter Circle Shape
Egyptian Quarter Circles versus Catenaries
Time Estimate
Chapter 5. Rolling Block Experiment
Manually Moving Heavy Objects
Creating the Curve
Preliminary Quarter-Circle Evaluation
Fabricating a Block
Block Specifications
Building the Quarter Circles
First Tests
Second Tests
Public Demonstration
Block Moving Scenario
Gross Movements
Fine Movement
Chapter 6. Lifting Blocks
Ramp Principles
A Practical Ramp
Simple Lifting Machines
Designing a Practical Raised Fulcrum Lifting Machine
Lever Details
Supporting Evidence
Forensic Analysis of the Mystery Tool
Miscellaneous Points
Time Estimate
Chapter 7. Quarrying Blocks
Practical Limestone Information
Available Tools
Quarrying Blocks Using the Standard Methods
Alternative Quarrying Methods
Spear-Chisel Performance
Removing the Block
Miscellaneous Notes
First-Order Time Estimate to Build the Great Pyramid
Chapter 8. Additional Construction Details
The Great Pyramid’s Internal Design
Finishing the Casing Stones
Machining the Blocks
Squaring the Sides
Positioning the Top-Most Blocks
Order of Assembly
Wooden Tool Quantity
Available Wood
Additional Time Required for Minor Tasks
Second-Order Time Estimate to Build the Great Pyramid
Realistic Schedule
Chapter 9. Social Considerations
Egyptian Psychology
Available Population Problem
Volunteer Workers
The Big Picture
A Question of Timing
Chapter 10. Other Approaches
Cast In Place Concrete
Davidovits versus the Evidence
The Standard Theories: Lehner
The Standard Theories: Smith
Chapter 11. Conclusion
The Approach
The Archaeological Evidence
Circumstantial Evidence
Other Ideas
Goals and Objectives
Numbers and Engineering
Appendix 1. Table of 100 Egyptian Pyramids
Appendix 2. Course by Course Layout of an Ideal Great Pyramid Built with Identical Blocks (1)
Appendix 3: Time/Motion Analysis for Lifting a Block
3-Person, 2-Stroke Lever Analysis
2-Person Considerations (refer to Chapter 6 for ergonomic discussion)
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Pages 196
Year: 2007
LC Classification: DT63.F66
Dewey code: 932--dc22
BISAC: HIS002030
Soft Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-521-8
Price: USD 22.95
Hard Cover
ISBN: 978-0-87586-522-5
Price: USD 32.95
ISBN: 978-0-87586-523-2
Price: USD 22.95
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