May 02, 2014 10:35 AM EDT
Pyramids of Egypt Aliens Theory Debunked? Scientists Say Building Technique Was Quite Simple
The truth behind how the Pyramids of Egypt were built may be far simpler than the conspiracy theorists might suggest.
According to the Washington Post, in a new study, researchers say the builders slid the giant blocks on wooden sleds across wet sand built the pyramids. The pyramids lay nowhere near the source of the giants blocks, so the more outlandish theories claim aliens transported the giant blocks for man.
Published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the study authors from the University of Amsterdam say pulling the blocks across dry, hot sand would be impossible. However, wet sand nearly eliminates the friction by gluing the individual grains together and making them slick.
"Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet," reads the school's press release. "Experiments have demonstrated that the correct amount of dampness in the sand halves the pulling force required."
Professor Daniel Bonn, the study's lead researcher, said the pyramid builders would have figured out quickly that dragging a heavy load over dry sand cannot be done.
"[It] was perhaps observed by the Egyptians that in [a] dry case, a heap of sand forms in front of the sled before it can really start to move," he told the WP.
For their study, the research team recreated the conditions in a laboratory.
"Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportional to the stiffness of the sand," reads the release. "Capillary bridges arise when water is added to the sand. These are small water droplets that bind the sand grains together. In the presence of the correct quantity of water, wet desert sand is about twice as stiff as dry sand. A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand."
Bonn said, "the Egyptians were probably aware of this handy trick" and told of the answer to the pyramids' construction all along. On the wall of the tomb of Djehutihotep, paintings seem to depict the builders dragging a sled with a person in front pouring water on the sand.
"This was the question," Bonn told the WP. "In fact, Egyptologists had been interpreting the water as part of a purification ritual, and had never sought a scientific explanation. And friction is a terribly complicated problem; even if you realize that wet sand is harder - as in a sandcastle, you cannot build on dry sand - the consequences of that for friction are hard to predict."
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