It’s another Great Pyramid “This could explain everything!” moment. Researchers digging at an alabaster quarry where the Egyptians carved out the stones used for the massive construction project have uncovered the remains of what appears to be a ramp, stairs and pole holes that helped workers move the huge stones to the surface where they were then transported to the pyramid site at Giza. While similar systems have been found at limestone quarries, this is the first in an alabaster mine and shows that this primitive yet effective technology dates back to Cheops.
“The mission successfully discovered a unique system to pull and transfer the stone blocks from the bottom of the quarry after removing the debris used to cover it which can be dated to the reign of King Khufu of the 4th Dynasty. The moving system consists of the central ramp surrounded by two set of stairs contain poles holes which help lifting the alabaster stone block through at least 20% coarse ramp.”
Dr. Yannis Gourdon of the Institut Français d'Archéologie orientale is the co-director, with Dr. Roland Enmarch ot the University of Liverpool), of the Hatnub Epigraphic Project whose purpose is “recording texts commemorating pharaonic expeditions to the Egyptian alabaster quarries at Hatnub (in the desert c. 18km south-east of Amarna).” He revealed the new discovery there in the Luxor Times (including photos) and explains in LiveScience that the stones were first placed on a sled before being pulled out at a 20-degree angle. In addition to the ramp system, the researchers also found inscriptions and drawings linking the quarry to Cheops/Khufu.
“There are at least 100 inscriptions discovered commemorating pharaonic expeditions to the alabaster quarries at Hatnub from the Old Kingdom to the New Kingdom. Studying the inscriptions on the detected construction devices, we came to the conclusion that this ramp belongs, at a minimum, to the reign of Pharaoh Cheops, who ordered the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza. This means that even in the times of Cheops, the ancient Egyptians knew how to move huge stone blocks even on very steep slopes.”
While the outside of the Great Pyramid is made of 2.3 metric ton limestone blocks, some alabaster was also used on the exterior but its primary use was for flooring, statues and coffins. Mustafa Waziri, Secretary-General of the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities, confirms that this is the first evidence that shows how heavy blocks were lifted and moved from quarries.
Unfortunately, the discovery is tempered by bad news. The Institut Français d'Archéologie Orientale web site points out that the quarry is now known to the general public and is in danger of being turned into a working operation again, eventually destroying this and other evidence of how the pyramids were built. It’s hoped that this can at least be delayed until researchers learn how this ramp system was used to build the Great Pyramid … not to mention what happened in between to get the stones from one location to the other.
As always, money talks louder than preservation.