Advanced Machining

in

Ancient Egypt

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In August, 1984, Analog magazine published my article "Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt?" It was a study of "Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh," written by Sir. William Flinders Petrie. Since the article’s publication, I have visited Egypt twice, and with each visit I leave with more respect for the ancient pyramid builders. While in Egypt in 1986, I visited the Cairo museum and gave a copy of my article, along with a business card, to the director of the museum. He thanked me kindly, threw it in a drawer to join other sundry material, and turned away. Another Egyptologist led me to the "tool room" to educate me in the methods of the ancient masons by showing me a few cases that housed primitive copper tools. I asked my host about the cutting of granite, for this was the focus of my article. He explained that the ancient Egyptians cut a slot in the granite, inserted wooden wedges, and then soaked them with water. The wood swelled creating pressure that split the rock. Splitting rock is vastly different than machining it and he did not explain how copper implements were able to cut granite, but he was so enthusiastic with his dissertation that I did not interrupt. To prove his argument, he walked me over to a nearby travel agent encouraging me to buy airplane tickets to Aswan, where, he said, the evidence is clear. I must, he insisted, see the quarry marks there, as well as the unfinished obelisk.

Dutifully, I bought the tickets and arrived at Aswan the next day. After learning some of the Egyptian customs, I got the impression that this was not the first time that my Egyptologist friend had made that trip to the travel agent. The quarry marks I saw there did not satisfy me that the methods described were the only means by which the pyramid builders quarried their rock. There is a large round hole drilled into the bedrock hillside, that measures approximately 12 inches in diameter and 3 feet deep that is located in the channel, which runs the length of the estimated 3,000 ton obelisk,. The hole was drilled at an angle with the top intruding into the channel space. The ancients may have used drills to remove material from the perimeter of the obelisk, knocked out the webs between the holes, and then removed the cusps.

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Quarry Marks at Aswan                                                                                                   Drill Hole at Aswan

The Aswan quarries were educational, though after returning to Cairo the following day and while strolling around the Giza Plateau later in the week, I started to question the quarry marks at Aswan even more. South of the second pyramid I found an abundance of quarry marks of similar nature. The granite casing stones that had sheathed the second pyramid were stripped off and lying around the base in various stages of destruction. Some of the stones were still in place, though sections had been split away from them, and there I found the same quarry marks that I had seen earlier in the week at Aswan. This was puzzling to me. Disregarding the impossibility of Egyptologists’ theories on the ancient pyramid builders’ quarrying methods, are they really valid even from a non-technical, logical viewpoint? If these quarry marks distinctively identify the people who created the pyramids, why would they engage in such a tremendous amount of extremely difficult work only to destroy their work after having completed it? It seems to me that the quarry marks found at Aswan and on the Giza Plateau were from a later period of time, and they were created by people who were interested only in obtaining granite without caring about the source from where it came.

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Quarry Marks at Giza

Archaeology is largely the study of history’s toolmakers, and archaeologists understand a society’s level of advancement with tools and artifacts. The hammer was probably the first tool ever invented, and hammers have forged some elegant and beautiful artifacts. Ever since man first learned that he could effect profound changes in his environment by applying force with a reasonable degree of accuracy, the development of tools has been a continuous and fascinating aspect of human endeavor. The Great Pyramid leads a long list of artifacts that have been misunderstood and misinterpreted by archaeologists, who have promoted theories and methods that are based on a collection of tools that they struggle with to replicate the most simple aspects of the work.

"Quarrymen of the Pyramid age would have accused Greek historian Strabo of understatement as they hacked at the stubborn granite of Aswan. Their axes and chisels were made of copper hardened by hammering."

Dr. IES Edwards~Egyptologist

For the most part, primitive tools that are discovered are considered contemporaneous with the artifacts of the same period. Yet during this period in Egyptian history, artifacts were produced in prolific number with no tools surviving to explain their creation. The ancient Egyptians created artifacts that cannot be explained in simple terms. These tools do not fully represent the "state of the art" that is evident in the artifacts. There are some intriguing objects that survived after this civilization, and in spite of its most visible and impressive monuments, we have only a sketchy understanding of the full scope of its technology. The tools displayed by Egyptologists as instruments for the creation of many of these incredible artifacts are physically incapable of reproducing them. After standing in awe before these engineering marvels, and then being shown a paltry collection of copper implements in the tool case at the Cairo Museum, one comes away bemused and frustrated.

British Egyptologist, Sir. William Flinders Petrie, recognized that these tools were insufficient. He explored this anomaly thoroughly in "Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh," and expressed amazement about the methods the ancient Egyptians used to cut hard igneous rocks. He credited them with methods that "......we are only now coming to understand." So why do modern mainstream Egyptologists insist that this work was accomplished with a few primitive copper instruments?

I'm not an Egyptologist, I'm a technologist. I do not have much interest in who died when, whom they may have taken with them and where they went to. No lack of respect is intended for the mountain of work and the millions of hours of study conducted on this subject by intelligent scholars (professional and amateur), but my interest, thus my focus, is elsewhere. When I look at an artifact to investigate how it was manufactured, I am not concerned about its history or chronology. Having spent most of my career working with the machinery that actually creates modern artifacts, such as jet-engine components, I am able to analyze and determine how an artifact was created. I have also had training and experience in some non-conventional manufacturing methods, such as laser processing and electrical discharge machining. Having said that, I should state that contrary to some popular speculations, I have not seen evidence of laser for cutting on the Egyptian rocks. Still, there is evidence for other non-conventional machining methods, as well as more sophisticated, conventional type sawing, lathe and milling practices. Undoubtedly, some of the artifacts that Petrie was studying were produced using lathes. There is also evidence of clearly defined lathe tool marks on some "sarcophagi" lids. The Cairo Museum contains enough evidence that will prove that the ancient Egyptians used highly sophisticated manufacturing methods once its properly analyzed. For generations the focus has centered on the nature of the cutting tools used by the ancient Egyptians. While in Egypt in February 1995, I discovered evidence that raises the  question, "What guided the cutting tool?"

A variety of people have speculated that to erect a building as perfect as the Great Pyramid, the builders must have possessed supernatural powers. Some even speculate that the builders used lasers to cut the masonry and then levitated the stones into place in the pyramid. While I cannot speak authoritatively regarding the builders’ powers of levitation, whether the implementation of those powers was through the use of the mind or through the use of technology, I can say with reasonable confidence that no lasers were used in cutting the materials which went into building the Great Pyramid. Although the laser is a wonderful tool with many uses, its function as a cutting tool is limited to economically viable applications, such as cutting small holes in thin pieces of metal and refractory material. As a general purpose cutting tool, it cannot compete with the machining methods that were available before its inception.

 

The methods used to cut the masonry for the Great Pyramid can be deduced from the marks they left behind on the stone. The bulk of the Great Pyramid was constructed with limestone blocks weighing an average of 2 1/2 tons each. While there are some interesting points to be made concerning the limestone that encased the pyramid, and they will be addressed later, these stones do not offer the same information about the methods that were used to produce them as the thousands of tons of granite. At the expense of considerable time and effort by the original creators, the granite artifacts found in the Great Pyramid and at other sites in Egypt offer the clues we are looking for.

Before we investigate the granite that was included in the Giza pyramids, there are several artifacts that indicate machinery power being used by the pyramid builders. These artifacts, scrutinized by William Flinders Petrie, are all fragments of extremely hard igneous rock. These pieces of granite and diorite exhibit marks that are the same as those resulting from cutting hard igneous rock with modern machinery. It is surprising that Petrie’s studies of these fragments have not attracted greater attention, for there is unmistakable evidence of machine tooling methods. It will probably surprise many people to know that evidence proving that the ancient Egyptians used tools such as straight saws, circular saws, and even lathes has been recognized for over a century. The lathe is the father of all machine tools in existence, and Petrie submits evidence showing that not only were lathes used by the ancient Egyptians, but they performed tasks which would, by today’s standards, be considered impossible without highly developed specialized techniques, such as cutting concave and convex sperical radii without splintering the material.

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Petrie's Samples of Machining

While digging through the ruins of ancient civilizations, would archeologists instantly recognize the work of machine tools by the kind of marks made on the material or the configuration of the piece at which they were looking? Fortunately, one archeologist had the perception and knowledge to recognize such marks, and, although at the time Petrie’s findings were published the machining industry was in its infancy, the growth in the industry since then warrants a new look at his findings. Read more about Petrie's findings in "The Giza Power Plant: Technologies of Ancient Egypt" and at The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh Online

One can gather by reading Petrie’s work that he involved himself in some extensive research regarding the tools that were employed in cutting hard stone. Even so, there is a persisting belief among some Egyptologists that the granite used in the Great Pyramid was cut using copper chisels.

Having worked with copper on numerous occasions, and having hardened it in the manner suggested above, this statement struck me as being entirely ridiculous. You can certainly work-harden copper by striking it repeatedly or even by bending it. However, after a specific hardness has been reached, the copper will begin to split and break apart. This is why, when working with copper to any great extent, it has to be periodically annealed, or softened, if you want to keep it in one piece. Even after hardening in such a way, the copper will not be able to cut granite. The hardest copper alloy in existence today is beryllium copper. There is no evidence to suggest that the ancient Egyptians possessed this alloy, but even if they did, this alloy is not hard enough to cut granite. Copper has predominantly been described as the only metal available at the time the Great Pyramid was built. Consequently, it would follow that all work must have sprung from the able use of this basic metallic element. We may be entirely wrong, however, even in the basic assumption that copper was the only metal available to the ancient Egyptians. For another little known fact about the pyramid builders is that they were iron makers as well. Hidden chambers and Metal plate          CARBON-14 DATING THE GIZA PYRAMIDS? The Small Relics Found Inside The Pyramids - DE49

In proposing more primitive methods of manufacture, it has been demonstrated that copper charged with quartz sand can also be used to wear away the granite. Also, small balls made of dolorite, a stone that is harder than granite, have been found in the granite quarries which have led Egyptologists to suggest that granite artifacts were created by bashing the material.

Unforbidden Geology explores the more simple approach to working granite.

While there may be some who are satisfied with believing that these simplistic methods were adequate in creating the artifacts I have seen and measured, I am not. This is because they do not explain the full scope of the work.

Without going back in time and interviewing the craftsmen who worked on the pyramids, we will probably never know for sure what materials their tools were made of. Any debate of the subject would be futile, for until the proof is at hand, no satisfactory conclusion can be reached. However, the manner in which the masons used their tools can be discussed, and, perhaps if we compare current methods of cutting granite with the finished product (i.e. the granite coffers), there may be some basis on which to draw a parallel.

Today's granite cutting methods includes the use of wire-saws and an abrasive, usually silicon-carbide which slices through granite with ease. The wire is a continuous loop that is held by two wheels, one of the wheels being the driver. Between the wheels, which can vary in distance depending on the size of the machine, the granite is cut by being pushed against the wire or by being held firmly and allowing the wire to feed through it. The wire does not cut the granite, but is designed to effectively hold the silicon carbide grit that does the actual cutting.

By looking at the shapes of the cuts that were made in the basalt items 3b, and 5b, one could certainly speculate that a wire saw had been used and left its imprint in the rock. The full radius at the bottom of the cut is exactly the shape that would be left by such a saw.

Mr. John Barta, of the John Barta Company informed me, that the wire saws used in quarry mills today cut through granite with great rapidity. Mr. Barta told me that the wire saws with silicon-carbide cut through the granite like it is butter. Out of interest, I asked Mr. Barta what he thought of the copper chisel theory. Mr. Barta, possessing an excellent sense of humor, came forth with some jocular remarks regarding the practicality of such an idea.

If the ancient Egyptians had indeed used wire saws for cutting hard rock, were these saws powered by hand or machine? With my experience in machine shops and the countless number of times I have had to use a saw (both handsaws and power saws), there appears to be strong evidence that, in at least some instances, the latter method was used.

Once again, Petrie provides a clue:

"On the N. end (of the coffer) is a place, near the west side, where the saw was run too deep into the granite, and was backed out again by the masons; but this fresh start they made still too deep, and two inches lower they backed out a second time, having cut out more than .10 inch deeper than they had intended..."

The above was Petrie’s notes on the coffer inside the King's Chamber in the Great Pyramid. The following concerns the coffer inside the Second Pyramid:

"The coffer is well polished, not only inside but all over the outside; even though it was nearly all bedded into the floor, with the blocks plastered against it. The bottom is left rough, and shows that it was sawn and afterwards dressed down to the intended height; but in sawing it the saw was run too deep and then backed out; it was, therefore, not dressed down all over the bottom, the worst part of the sawing being cut .20 inch deeper than the dressed part. This is the only error of workmanship in the whole of it; it is polished all over the sides in and out, and is not left with the saw lines visible on it like the Great Pyramid coffer."

Petrie estimated that a pressure of one to two tons on jeweled tipped bronze saws would have been necessary to cut through the extremely hard granite. If we agree with these estimates as well as with the methods proposed by Egyptologists regarding the construction of the pyramids, then a severe inequity can be discerned between the two.

So far, Egyptologists have not given credence to any speculation that suggests that the builders of the pyramid might have used machines instead of manpower in this massive construction project. In fact, they do not give the pyramid builders the intelligence to have developed and used the simple wheel. It is quite remarkable that a culture, which possessed sufficient technical ability to make a lathe and progressed from there to develop a technique that enabled them to machine radii in hard diorite, would not have thought of the wheel before this.

Petrie logically assumes that the granite coffers found in the Giza Pyramids were marked prior to being cut. The workmen were given a guideline with which to work. The accuracy exhibited in the dimensions of the coffers confirms this, plus the fact that guidelines of some sort would have been necessary to alert the masons of their error.

While no one can say with certainty how the granite coffers were cut, the saw marks in the granite have certain characteristics, which suggests that they were not the result of hand sawing. If there was not evidence to the contrary, I might agree that the manufacturing of the granite coffers in the Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid could quite possibly have been achieved using pure manpower, and a tremendous amount of time.

It is extremely unlikely that a team of masons operating a 9-foot handsaw would be cutting through hard granite fast enough that they would pass their guideline before noticing the error. To then back the saw out and repeat the same error, as they did on the coffer in the King's Chamber, does nothing to confirm the speculation that this object was the result of hand work.

When I read Petrie’s passage concerning these deviations, a flood of memories came to me of my own history with saws, both power and manual driven. With these experiences, plus those observed in others, it seems inconceivable to me that manpower was the motivating force behind the saw which cut the granite coffers. While cutting steel with handsaws, an object that has a long workface, and certainly one with such dimensions as the coffers, would not be cut with great rapidity, and the direction the saw may turn can be seen well in advance of a serious mistake being made; the smaller the workpiece, naturally, the faster the blade would cut through it.

On the other hand, if the saw is mechanized and is cutting rapidly through the workpiece, the saw could "wander" from its intended course and cut through the guideline at a certain point at such a speed that the error is made before the condition can be corrected. This is not uncommon.

This does not mean that a manually operated saw cannot "wander," but that the speed of the operation would determine the efficiency in discovering any deviation that the saw may have from its intended course.

Another interesting point to consider is that the saw was run too deeply, backed out, and then proceeded to cut again. Anyone who has been faced with the problem of drawing a saw-blade out of a cut and then making a restart on only one side of the cut, which is essentially what was done with the granite, knows that excessive pressure on the saw-blade would force it back into the original cut. To make a restart of this type it is necessary that very little pressure is put on the blade. With these considerations, it is doubtful that Petrie’s deductions of two to three tons pressure being necessary to cut the granite can be verified.

Making a restart in the middle of a cut, especially one of such dimensions as the granite coffer, would be more easily accomplished with machine sawing than it would be with hand sawing. With hand sawing there is little control over the blade in a situation like this, and it would be difficult to accurately gauge the amount of pressure needed. Also, the blade of the handsaw would be moving quite slowly; a fact that would question further the suggestion of a handsaw being used. At such a slow speed and with very little pressure, accomplishment of such a feat would be almost, if not completely, impossible.

With the power driven saw, on the other hand, the blade moves rapidly, and control of the blade is possible. The blade can be held in a fixed position, with uniform pressure over the entire length of the blade, and in the direction necessary to restart. This front and side pressure can be accurately maintained until sufficient material has been removed from the workpiece to allow a continuation of normal cutting speed.

The fact that a normal cutting rate was attained shortly after rectifying the mistake can be deduced by noting that in the Great Pyramid’s coffer, the mistake was repeated two inches further along. This is another example of the blade cutting through the granite at the wrong place faster than the men were able to detect and stop it.

Another method of correcting a mistake while using a handsaw, if the error was only in a small area of the cut, would be to tilt the blade and continue cutting in the unspoiled area, so that when the blade reached the area which needed correcting, the blade would be supported by the fresh tilted cut and would have sufficient strength to combat any tendencies to follow the original straight cut.

If the granite coffers had been cut with handsaws, it is conceivable that this method could be used in correcting the errors on the granite coffers. However, it has probably become apparent by now that William Flinders Petrie had the eye of a hawk and documented just about anything which came in sight. At the same time he was studying the cutting mistakes in the granite, he was also noticing other features:

"It is not finely wrought, and cannot in this respect rival the coffer in the Second Pyramid. On the outer sides the lines of sawing may be plainly seen: horizontal on the N., a small patch horizontal on the E., vertical on the S., and nearly horizontal on the W.; showing that the masons did not hesitate at cutting a slice of granite 90 inches long, and that the jeweled bronze saw must have been probably about 9 feet long."

If the operators of the saw, in an attempt to correct a mistake, had tilted their blade in the manner described above, the saw lines would show a difference with the pre-error saw lines, because they would be at an angle. The mistakes in the granite were found on the north side of the coffer, and Petrie observed that the saw lines on this side were horizontal. Following Petrie’s footsteps in 1986, I was able to verify his observations of the coffer in the Great Pyramid. The saw lines on the side where the mistakes were made are all horizontal. Any argument proposing that the mistake was overcome by tilting the blade, which is probably the only method that would be successful using a hand-saw, is invalidated. This evidence points to the distinct probability that the pyramid builders possessed motorized machinery when they cut the granite found inside the Great Pyramid and the Second Pyramid.

Today these saw marks would reflect either the differences in the aggregate dimensions of a wire bandsaw with the abrasive, or the side-to-side movement of the wire, or the wheels that drive the wire. The result of either of these conditions is a series of slight grooves. The feed-rate and either the distance between the variation in length of the saw or the diameter of the wheels determine the distance between the grooves. The distance between the grooves on the coffer inside the King's Chamber is approximately .050 inch.

Along with the evidence on the outside further evidence of the use of high speed machine tools can be found on the inside of the granite coffer in the King's Chamber. The methods that were evidently used by the pyramid builders to hollow out the inside of the granite coffers are similar to the methods which would be used to machine out the inside of components today.

Tool marks on the inside of the granite coffer in the King's Chamber indicate that when the granite was hollowed out, preliminary roughing cuts were made by drilling holes into the granite around the area which was to be removed. According to Petrie, these drill holes were made with tube-drills, which left a central core that had to be knocked away after the hole had been cut. After all the holes had been drilled, and all the cores removed, Petrie surmises that the coffer was then handworked to its desired dimension. The machinists on this particular piece of granite once again let their tools get the better of them, and the resulting errors are still to be found on the inside of the coffer in the King's Chamber:

"On the E. inside is a portion of a tube-drill hole remaining, where they had tilted the drill over into the side by not working it vertically. They tried hard to polish away all that part, and took of about 1/10 inch thickness all around it; but still they had to leave the side of the hole 1/10 deep, 3 long, and 1.3 wide; the bottom of it is 8 or 9 below the original top of the coffer. They made a similar error on the N. inside, but of a much less extent. There are traces of horizontal grinding lines on the W. inside."

The errors noted by Petrie are not uncommon in modern machine shops, and I must confess to having made them myself on occasion. Several factors could be involved in creating this condition, although I cannot visualize any one of them being a hand operation. Once again, while working their drill into the granite, the machinists had made a mistake before they had time to correct it.

Let us speculate for a moment that the drill was being worked by hand. How far into the granite would they be able to cut before the drill had to be removed to permit cleaning the waste out of the hole? Would they be able to drill 8 or 9 inches into the granite without having to remove their drill? It is inconceivable to me that such a depth could be achieved with a hand-operated drill without the frequent withdrawal of the drill to clean out the hole, or provisions being made for the removal of the waste while the drill was still cutting. It is possible, therefore, that frequent withdrawals of the drill would expose their error, and that they would have noticed the direction their drill was taking before it had cut a .200 inch gouge into the side of the coffer, and before it had reached a depth of 8 or 9 inches. Can’t we see the same situation with the drill as with the saw? Here we have two high speed operations where errors are made before the operators have time to correct them.

Although the ancient Egyptians are not given credit for having a simple wheel, the evidence proves that they not only had the wheel, they had a more sophisticated use for it. The evidence of lathe work is markedly distinct on some of the artifacts housed in the Cairo Museum, as well as those that were studied by Petrie. Two pieces of diorite in Petrie’s collection he identified as being the result of true turning on a lathe.

It is true that intricate objects can be created without the aid of machinery, simply by rubbing the material with an abrasive such as sand, using a piece of bone or wood to apply pressure. The relics Petrie was looking at, however, in his words, "could not be produced by any grinding or rubbing process which pressed on the surface."

The object Petrie was studying would hardly be considered remarkable to the inexperienced eye. It was a simple rock bowl. Studying the bowl closely, however, Petrie found that the spherical concave radius, forming the dish, had an unusual feel to it. Closer examination revealed a sharp cusp where two radii intersected. This indicates that the radii were cut on two separate axes of rotation.

I have witnessed the same condition when a component has been removed from a lathe and then worked on again without being recentered properly. On examining other pieces from Giza, Petrie found another bowl shard that had the marks of true lathe turning. This time, though, instead of shifting the workpiece’s axis of rotation, a second radius was cut by shifting the pivot point of the tool. With this radius, they machined just short of the perimeter of the dish, leaving a small lip. Again, a sharp cusp defined the intersection of the two radii. While browsing through the Cairo Museum, I found evidence of lathe turning on a large scale. A sarcophagus lid had distinct lathe turning marks. The radius of the lid terminated with a blend radius at shoulders on both ends. The tool marks near these corner radii are the same as those I have observed when turning an object with an intermittent cut. The tool is deflected under pressure from the cut. It then relaxes when the section of cut is finished. When the workpiece comes round again to the tool, the initial pressure causes the tool to dig in. As the cut progresses, the amount of "dig in" is diminished. On the sarcophagus lid in the Cairo Museum, tool marks indicating these conditions are exactly where one would expect to find them.

Egyptian artifacts representing tubular drilling are clearly the most astounding and conclusive evidence yet presented to indicate the extent to which knowledge and technology was practiced in pre-history. The ancient pyramid builders used a technique for drilling holes that is commonly known as "trepanning." This technique leaves a central core and is an efficient means of hole making. For holes that didn’t go all the way through the material, they reached a desired depth and then broke the core out of the hole. It was not only evident in the holes that Petrie was studying, but on the cores cast aside by the masons who had done the trepanning. Regarding tool marks that left a spiral groove on a core taken out of a hole drilled into a piece of granite, he wrote, "the spiral of the cut sinks .100 inch in the circumference of 6 inches, or 1 in 60, a rate of ploughing out of the quartz and feldspar which is astonishing." After reading this, I had to agree with Petrie. This was an incredible feedrate (distance traveled per revolution of the drill) for drilling into any material, let alone granite. I was completely confounded as to how a drill could achieve this feedrate. Petrie was so astounded by these artifacts that he attempted to explain them at three different points in one chapter. To an engineer in the 1880’s, what Petrie was looking at was an anomaly. The characteristics of the holes, the cores that came out of them, and the tool marks indicated an impossibility. Three distinct characteristics of the hole and core, as illustrated, make the artifacts extremely remarkable. They are:

  • A taper on both the hole and the core.
  • A symmetrical helical groove following these tapers showing that the drill advanced into the granite at a feed rate of .100 inch per revolution of the drill.
  • The confounding fact that the spiral groove cut deeper through the quartz than through the softer feldspar.

In conventional machining the reverse would be the case. In 1983, Mr. Donald Rahn of Rahn Granite Surface Plate Co., Dayton, Ohio, told me that in drilling granite, diamond drills, rotating at 900 revolutions per minute, penetrate at the rate of 1 inch in 5 minutes. In 1996, Eric Leither of Trustone Corp, told me that these parameters haven't changed since then. The feedrate of modern drills, therefore, calculates to be .0002 inch per revolution, indicating that the ancient Egyptians were able to cut their granite with a feed rate that was 500 times greater or deeper per revolution of the drill than modern drills. The other characteristics also create a problem for modern drills. They cut a tapered hole with a spiral groove that was cut deeper through the harder constituent of the granite. If conventional machining methods cannot answer just one of these questions, how do we answer all three?

In the Fall 2000 issue of the magazine, "Egypt Revealed," Dr. Mark Lehner, probably the most vocal and visible Egyptologist to apply his knowledge of manufacturing in analyzing the technology of the ancient Egyptians, postulated the existence of a copper shop in the newly discovered "worker's village." He stated that it was used "...to fashion thousands of copper chisels each probably no wider than your thumbnail for dressing the acres of limestone casing for the pyramids." In his documentary Obelisk I, Lehner passionately states that he is convinced that hieroglyphs and reliefs, the attributes of which Petrie marveled at because of their fine cross sections, measuring a mere .100 inch, indicating that the tool that created them had to have ploughed through the granite in a single pass, were actually created by bashing the granite with dolerite pounders.

One can gather by reading Petrie’s work that he involved himself in some extensive research regarding the tools that were employed in cutting hard stone. Even so, there is a persisting belief among some Egyptologists that the granite used in the Great Pyramid was cut using copper chisels. I.E.S. Edwards, British Egyptologist and the world's foremost expert on pyramids, makes the following statement.

“Quarrymen of the Pyramid age would have accused Greek historian Strabo of understatement as they hacked at the stubborn granite of Aswan. Their axes and chisels were made of copper hardened by hammering.” (Edwards, I.E.S. Ancient Egypt, Page 89. (1978 - National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.)

Hopefully, besides mainstream Egyptologists, such as Mark Lehner and IES Edwards, (RIP) other Egyptologists do not suggest that the copper chisels, that can now be found in the Cairo Museum, were representative of the tools used to build the pyramids. If they were I would strongly suggest that they make an effort to learn about the materials and processes that they are proposing by actually creating one of these artifacts. To identify copper as the metal used for cutting granite is like saying that aluminum could be cut using a chisel fashioned out of butter. What follows is a more feasible and logical method, and it provides an answer to the question of techniques used by the ancient Egyptians in drilling into granite.

The fact that the feedrate spiral is symmetrical is quite remarkable considering the proposed method of cutting. The taper indicates an increase in the cutting surface area of the drill as it cut deeper, hence an increase in the resistance. A uniform feed under these conditions, using manpower, would be impossible. Petrie theorized that a ton or two of pressure was applied to a tubular drill consisting of bronze inset with jewels. However, this doesn’t take into consideration that under several thousand pounds pressure the jewels would undoubtedly work their way into the softer substance, leaving the granite relatively unscathed after the attack. Nor does this method explain the groove being deeper through the quartz.

It should be noted that Petrie did not identify the means by which he inspected the core, whether he used metrology instruments, a microscope or the naked eye. It should also be noted that all Egyptologists do not universally accept his conclusions. In "Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries," Lucas takes issue with Petrie's conclusion that the grooves were the result of fixed jewel points. He states:

"In my opinion, to suppose the knowledge of cutting these gem stones to form teeth and of setting them in the metal in such a manner that they would bear the strain of hard use, and to do this at the early period assigned to them, would present greater difficulties than those explained by the assumption of their employment. But were there indeed teeth such as postulated by Petrie? The evidence to prove their presence is as follows.

(a) A cylindrical core of granite grooved round and round by a graving point, the grooves being continuous and forming a spiral, with in one part a single groove that may be traced five rotation round the core.

(b) Part of a drill hole in diorite with seventeen equidistant grooves due to the successive rotation of the same cutting point.

(c) Another piece of diorite with a series of grooves ploughed out to a depth of over one-hundredth of an inch at a single cut.

(d) Other pieces of diorite showing the regular equidistant grooves of a saw.

(e) Two pieces of diorite bowls with hieroglyphs incised with a very free-cutting point and neither scraped nor ground out.

But if an abrasive powder had been used with soft copper saws and drills, it is highly probable that pieces of the abrasive would have been forced into the metal, where they might have remained for some time, and any such accidental and temporary teeth would have produced the same effect as intentional and permanent ones…"

Lucas goes on to speculate that withdrawing the tube-drill in order to remove waste and insert fresh grit into the hole created the grooves. There are problems with this theory. It is doubtful that a simple tool that is being turned by hand will remain turning while the artisans draw it out of the hole. Likewise, placing the tool back into a clean hole with fresh grit would not require that the tool rotate until it was at the workface. There is also the question of the taper on both the hole and the core. Both would effectively provide clearance between the tool and the granite, thereby making sufficient contact to create the grooves impossible under these conditions.

The method I propose explains how the holes and cores found at Giza could have been cut. It is capable of creating all the details that Petrie and myself puzzled over. Unfortunately for Petrie, the method was unknown at the time he made his studies, so it is not surprising that he could not find any satisfactory answers.

The application of ultrasonic machining is the only method that completely satisfies logic, from a technical viewpoint, and explains all noted phenomena. Ultrasonic machining is the oscillatory motion of a tool that chips away material, like a jackhammer chipping away at a piece of concrete pavement, except much faster and not as measurable in its reciprocation. The ultrasonic tool-bit, vibrating at 19,000 to 25,000 cycles per second (Hertz) has found unique application in the precision machining of odd-shaped holes in hard, brittle material such as hardened steels, carbides, ceramics and semiconductors. An abrasive slurry or paste is used to accelerate the cutting action.

The most significant detail of the drilled holes and cores studied by Petrie is that the groove is cut deeper through the quartz than the feldspar. Quartz crystals are employed in the production of ultrasonic sound and, conversely, are responsive to the influence of vibration in the ultrasonic ranges and can be induced to vibrate at high frequency. In machining granite, using ultrasonics, the harder material (quartz) would not necessarily offer more resistance, as it would during conventional machining practices. An ultrasonically vibrating tool-bit would find numerous sympathetic partners while cutting through granite, embedded right in the granite itself! Instead of resisting the cutting action, the quartz would be induced to respond and vibrate in sympathy with the high frequency waves and amplify the abrasive action as the tool cut through it.

The fact that there is a groove may be explained several ways. An uneven flow of energy may have caused the tool to oscillate more on one side than the other. The tool may have been improperly mounted. A buildup of abrasive on one side of the tool may have cut the groove as the tool spiraled into the granite.

The tapering sides of the hole and the core are perfectly normal when we consider the basic requirements for all types of cutting tools. This requirement is that clearance be provided between the tool’s non-machining surfaces and the workpiece. Instead of having a straight tube, therefore, we would have a tube with a wall thickness that gradually became thinner along its length. The outside diameter getting gradually smaller, creating clearance between the tool and the hole, and the inside diameter getting larger, creating clearance between the tool and the central core. This would allow a free flow of abrasive slurry to reach the cutting area.

A tube drill of this design would also explain the tapering of the sides of the hole and the core. By using a tube-drill made of softer material than the abrasive, the cutting edge would gradually wear away. The dimensions of the hole, therefore, would correspond to the dimensions of the tool at the cutting edge. As the tool became worn, the hole and the core would reflect this wear in the form of a taper.

Ultrasonic drilling.JPG (76130 bytes)

Ultrasonic Machining the Granite Hole & Core

With ultrasonic machining, the tool can plunge straight down into the workpiece. It can also be screwed into the workpiece. The spiral groove can be explained if we consider one of the methods that is predominantly used to uniformly advance machine components. The rotational speed of the drill is not factor in this cutting method. The rotation of the drill is merely a means to advance the drill into the workpiece. Using a screw and nut method the tube drill could be efficiently advanced into the workpiece by turning in a clockwise direction. The screw would gradually thread through the nut, forcing the oscillating drill into the granite. It would be the ultrasonically induced motion of the drill that would do the cutting and not the rotation. The latter would only be needed to sustain a cutting action at the workface. By definition, the process is not a drilling process, by conventional standards, but a grinding process in which abrasives are caused to impact the material in such a way that a controlled amount of material is removed.

Another method by which the grooves could have been created is through the use of a spinning trepanning tool that has been mounted off-centered to its rotational axis. Clyde Treadwell of Sonic Mill Inc., Albuquerque, NM, explained to me that when an off-centered drill rotated into the granite, it would gradually be forced into alignment with the rotational axis of the drilling machines axis. The grooves, he claims, could be created as the drill was rapidly withdrawn from the hole.

If Treadwell's theory is the correct one, it still requires a level of technology that is far more developed and sophisticated than what the ancient pyramid builders are given credit for. This method may be a valid alternative to the theory of ultrasonic machining, even though ultrasonics resolves all the unanswered questions where other theories have fallen short. Methods may have been proposed that might cover a singular aspect of the machine marks and not progress to the method described here. It is when we search for a single method that provides an answer for all data that we move away from primitive, and even conventional machining, and are forced to consider methods that are somewhat anomalous for that period in history.

Further studies need to be made of the cores; indeed it has been suggested that replication of the cores using the methods I propose and those proposed by some Egyptologists using primitive methods. Following such a replication, a comparison should be taken of the cores using metrology equipment and a scanning electron microscope. Microscopic changes in the structure of the granite can occur due to pressure and heat while it is being worked. It is doubtful that Egyptologists will share my conclusions regarding the pyramid builders' drilling methods, and it would be beneficial to perform these tests in order to prove conclusively the true methods used by the pyramid builders for cutting stone.

Amazing Discovery at Giza

In February 1995 I joined Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval in Cairo to participate in a documentary. While there, I came across and measured some artifacts produced by the ancient pyramid builders, which prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that highly advanced and sophisticated tools and methods were employed by this ancient civilization. Two of the artifacts in question are well known; another is not, but it is more accessible, since it is laying out in the open, partly buried in the sand of the Giza plateau. For this trip to Egypt I had brought along some instruments with which I had planned to inspect features I had identified during my trip in 1986. The instruments were:

  • A "parallel": A flat ground piece of steel about 6 inches long and 1/4 inch thick. The edges are ground flat within .0002 inch.
  • An Interapid indicator. (Known as a clock gauge by my British compatriots.)
  • A wire contour gage. A device once used by diesinkers to form around shapes.
  • Hard forming wax.

I had brought along the contour gage to check the inside of the mouth of the southern shaft inside the King's Chamber, for reasons to be discussed in a forthcoming chapter. Unfortunately, I found out after getting there that things had changed since my last visit. In 1993, a German robotics engineer named Rudolph Gantenbrink installed a fan inside this opening and, therefore, it was inaccessible to me and I was unable to check it. I had taken along the parallel for quick checking the surface of granite artifacts to determine their precision. The indicator was to be attached to the parallel for further inspection of suitable artifacts. Though the indicator didn’t survive the rigors of international travel, the instruments with which I was left were adequate for me to form a conclusion about the precision to which the ancient Egyptians were working. The first object I inspected was the sarcophagus inside the second (Khafra’s) pyramid on the Giza Plateau. I climbed inside the box and, with a flashlight and the parallel, was astounded to find the surface on the inside of the box perfectly smooth and perfectly flat. Placing the edge of the parallel against the surface I shone my flashlight behind it. No light came through the interface. No matter where I moved the parallel, vertically, horizontally, sliding it along as one would a gage on a precision surface plate I couldn’t detect any deviation from a perfectly flat surface.

A group of Spanish tourists found it extremely interesting, too, and gathered around me as I animatedly exclaimed into my tape recorder, "Space-age precision!" The tour guides were becoming quite animated, too. I sensed that they probably didn’t think it was appropriate for a live foreigner to be where they believed a dead Egyptian should go, so I respectfully removed myself from the sarcophagus and continued my examination outside.

There were more features of this artifact that I wanted to inspect, of course, but I didn’t have the freedom to do so. The corner radii on the inside appeared to be uniform all around with no variation of precision of the surface to the tangency point. I was tempted to take a wax impression, but the hovering guides expecting bribes (baksheesh) inhibited this activity. (I was on a very tight budget.)

My mind was racing as I lowered myself into the narrow confines of the entrance shaft and climbed to the outside. The inside of a huge granite box finished off to an accuracy that we reserve for precision surface plates? How did they do this? And why did they do it? Why did they find this piece so important that they would go to such trouble? It would be impossible to do this kind of work on the inside of an object by hand. Even with modern machinery it would be a very difficult and complicated task!

Petrie gives the dimensions of this coffer, in inches, as: outside, length 103.68, width 41.97, height 38.12; inside, length 84.73, width 26.69, depth 29.59. He stated that the mean variation of the piece was .04 inch. Not knowing where the variation he measured was, I’m not going to make any strong assertions except to say that it’s possible to have an object with geometry that varies in length, width and height and still maintain perfectly flat surfaces. Surface plates are ground and lapped to within .0001-0003 inch, depending on the grade of the specific surface plate; however the thickness may vary more than the .04 inch that Petrie noted on this sarcophagus. A surface plate, though, is a single surface and would represent only one outside surface of a box. Moreover, the equipment used to finish the inside of a box would be vastly different than that used to finish the outside. The task would be much more problematic to grind and lap the inside of a box to the accuracy I had observed, which would result in a precise and flat surface to the point where the flat surface meets the corner radius. There are physical and technical problems associated with a task like this that are not easy to solve. One could use drills to rough the inside out, but when it came to finishing a box of this size with an inside depth of 29.59 inches while maintaining a corner radius of less than 1/2 inch, there are some significant challenges to overcome.

While being extremely impressed with this artifact, I was even more impressed with other artifacts found at another site in the rock tunnels at the temple of Serapeum at Saqqarra, the site of the step pyramid and Zoser’s tomb. I had followed Hancock and Bauval on their trip to this site for a filming on Feb. 24, 1995. We were in the stifling atmosphere of the tunnels, where the dust kicked up by tourists lay heavily in the still air. These tunnels contain 21 huge granite boxes. Each box weighs an estimated 65 tons, and, together with the huge lid that sits on top of them, the total weight of the assembly is around 100 tons. Just inside the entrance of the tunnels there is a lid that had not been finished and beyond this lid, barely fitting within the confines of one of the tunnels, is a granite box that had also been rough hewn.

The granite boxes are approximately 13 ft. long, 7 1/2 ft. wide and 11 ft. high. They are installed in "crypts" that were cut out of the limestone bedrock at staggered intervals along the tunnels. The floors of the crypts were about 4 ft. below the tunnel floor, and the boxes were set into a recess in the center. Bauval was addressing the engineering aspects of installing such huge boxes within a confined space where the last crypt was located near the end of the tunnel. With no room for the hundreds of slaves pulling on ropes to position these boxes, how were they moved into place?

While Hancock and Bauval were filming, I jumped down into a crypt and placed my parallel against the outside surface of the box. It was perfectly flat. I shone the flashlight and found no deviation from a perfectly flat surface. I clambered through a broken out edge into the inside of another giant box and again, I was astonished to find it astoundedly flat. I looked for errors and couldn’t find any. I wished at that time that I had the proper equipment to scan the entire surface and ascertain the full scope of the work. Nonetheless, I was perfectly happy to use my flashlight and straight edge and stand in awe of this incredibly precise and incredibly huge artifact. Checking the lid and the surface on which it sat, I found them both to be perfectly flat. It occurred to me that this gave the manufacturers of this piece a perfect seal. Two perfectly flat surfaces pressed together, with the weight of one pushing out the air between the two surfaces. The technical difficulties in finishing the inside of this piece made the sarcophagus in Khafra’s pyramid seem simple in comparison. Canadian researcher Robert McKenty accompanied me at this time. He saw the significance of the discovery and was filming with his camera. At that moment I knew how Howard Carter must have felt when he discovered Tutenkahmen's tomb.

The dust-filled atmosphere in the tunnels made breathing uncomfortable. I could only imagine what it would be like if I was finishing off a piece of granite, regardless of the method used, how unhealthy it would be. Surely it would have been better to finish the work in the open air? I was so astonished by this find that it didn’t occur to me until later that the builders of these relics, for some esoteric reason, intended for them to be ultra precise. They had taken the trouble to bring into the tunnel the unfinished product and finish it underground for a good reason! It is the logical thing to do if you require a high degree of precision in the piece that you are working. To finish it with such precision at a site that maintained a different atmosphere and a different temperature, such as in the open under the hot sun, would mean that when it was finally installed in the cool, cave-like temperatures of the tunnel, you would lose that precision. The granite would change its shape through thermal expansion and contraction. The solution then as it is now, of course, is to prepare precision surfaces in the location in which they were going to be housed.

This discovery, and the realization of its critical importance to the artisans that built it, went beyond my wildest dreams of discoveries to be made in Egypt. For a man of my inclination, this was better than King Tut’s tomb. The Egyptians’ intentions with respect to precision are perfectly clear, but to what end? I would suggest that further studies of these artifacts be made and, where applicable, should include thorough mapping and inspection with the following tools.

  • A laser alignment tool with retroreflector surface flatness checking capabilities
  • An ultrasonic thickness gage to check the thickness of the walls to determine their consistency to uniform thickness.
  • Inside micrometers to accurately measure the distance between the inside walls.
  • An optical flat with monochromatic light source. Are the surfaces really finished to optical precision? (Though a question remains as to whether there would be sufficient reflection from the surface.)

 

Granite box.JPG (118930 bytes)

Granite Box in the Rock Tunnels at the temple of the Serapeum at Saqqara.

 

For an update on the precision of these boxes, see ../Precision.htm

I have contacted four precision granite manufacturers in the US and haven’t been able to find one who can do this kind of work. With Eric Leither of Tru-Stone Corp, I discussed in a letter the technical feasibility of creating several Egyptian artifacts, including the giant granite boxes found in the bedrock tunnels the temple of Serapeum at Saqqarra. He responded as follows:

"Dear Christopher,

First I would like to thank you for providing me with all the fascinating information. Most people never get the opportunity to take part in something like this. You mentioned to me that the box was derived from one solid block of granite. A piece of granite of that size is estimated to weigh 200,000 pounds if it was Sierra White granite which weighs approximately 175 lb. per cubic foot. If a piece of that size was available, the cost would be enormous. Just the raw piece of rock would cost somewhere in the area of $115,000.00. This price does not include cutting the block to size or any freight charges. The next obvious problem would be the transportation. There would be many special permits issued by the D.O.T. and would cost thousands of dollars. From the information that I gathered from your fax, the Egyptians moved this piece of granite nearly 500 miles. That is an incredible achievement for a society that existed hundreds of years ago."

Eric went on to say that his company did not have the equipment or capabilities to produce the boxes in this manner. He said that his company would create the boxes in 5 pieces, ship them to the customer and bolt them together on site.

Another artifact I inspected was a piece of granite that I, quite literally, stumbled across while strolling around the Giza Plateau later that day. I concluded, after doing a preliminary check of this piece, that the ancient pyramid builders had to have used a machine with three axes of movement (X-Y-Z) to guide the tool in three-dimensional space to create it. Outside of being incredibly precise, normal flat surfaces, being simple geometry, can justifiably be explained away by simple methods. This piece, though, drives us beyond the question, "What tools were used to cut it?" to a more far reaching question, "What guided the cutting tool?" In addressing this question and being comfortable with the answer, it is helpful to have a working knowledge of contour machining.

Many of the artifacts that modern civilization creates would be impossible to produce using simple handwork. We are surrounded by artifacts that are the result of men and women employing their minds to create tools which overcome physical limitations. We have developed machine tools to create the dies that produce the aesthetic contours on the cars that we drive, the radios we listen to and the appliances we use. To create the dies to produce these items, a cutting tool has to accurately follow a predetermined contoured path in three dimensions. In some applications it will move in three dimensions, simultaneously using three or more axes of movement. The artifact that I was looking at required a minimum of three axes of motion to machine it. When the machine tool industry was relatively young, techniques were employed where the final shape was finished by hand, using templates as a guide. Today, with the use of precision computer numerical control machines, there is little call for handwork. A little polishing to remove unwanted tool marks may be the only handwork required. To know that an artifact has been produced on such a machine, therefore, one would expect to see a precise surface with indications of tool marks that show the path of the tool. This is what I found on the Giza Plateau, laying out in the open south of the Great Pyramid about 100 yards east of the second pyramid.

There are so many rocks of all shapes and sizes lying around this area that to the untrained eye, this one could easily be overlooked. To a trained eye, it may attract some cursory attention and a brief muse. I was fortunate that it both caught my attention, and that I had some tools with which to inspect it. There were two pieces laying close together, one larger than the other. They had originally been one piece and had been broken. I found I needed every tool that I had brought with me to inspect it. I was most interested in the accuracy of the contour and its symmetry.

 

Giza rock3.JPG (77398 bytes)                   Giza rock6.JPG (78227 bytes)

                                                 Contoured Block of Granite on the Giza Plateau

Giza rock4.JPG (67929 bytes)                   Giza rock8 wax1.JPG (78383 bytes)

Coaxial check of Contoured Block                                                   Wax impression taken

Giza rock8 wax2.JPG (78565 bytes)                    Giza rock8 wax3.JPG (72931 bytes)

                                                                Tangential Radius Verified

Giza rock8 wax4.JPG (81182 bytes)                 

Tangential Radius Verified                                                              

What we have is an object that, three dimensionally as one piece, could be compared in shape to a small sofa. The seat is a contour that blends into the walls of the arms and the back. I checked the contour using the profile gage along three axes of its length, starting at the blend radius near the back, and ending near the tangency point, which blended smoothly where the contour radius meets the front. The wire radius gage is not the best way to determine the accuracy of this piece. When adjusting the wires at one position on the block and moving to another position, the gage could be re-seated on the contour, but questions could be raised as to whether the hand that positioned it compensated for some inaccuracy in the contour. However, placing the parallel at several points along and around the axes of the contour, I found the surface to be extremely precise. At one point near a crack in the piece, there was light showing through, but the rest of the piece allowed very little to show.

During this time, I had attracted quite a crowd. It’s difficult to traverse the Giza Plateau at the best of times without getting attention from the camel drivers, donkey riders and purveyors of trinkets. It wasn’t long after I had pulled the tools out of my backpack that I had two willing helpers, Mohammed and Mustapha, who weren’t at all interested in compensation. At least that’s what they told me, but I can honestly say that I lost my shirt on that adventure. I had cleaned sand and dirt out of the corner of the larger block and washed it out with water. I used a white T-shirt that I was carrying in my backpack to wipe the corner out so I could get an impression of it with forming wax. Mustapha talked me into giving him the shirt before I left. I was so inspired by what I had found I tossed it to him. Mohammed held the wire gage at different points along the contour while I took photographs of it. I then took the forming wax and heated it with a match, kindly provided by the Movenpick hotel, then pressed it into the corner blend radius. I shaved off the splayed part and positioned it at different points around. Mohammed held the wax still while I took photographs. By this time there was an old camel driver and a policeman on a horse looking on.

What I discovered with the wax was a uniform radius, tangential with the contour, the back and the side wall. When I returned to the US, I measured the wax using a radius gage and found that it was a true radius measuring 7/16 inch.

cg10.JPG (31232 bytes)

 

The side (arm) blend radius has a design feature that is a common engineering practice today. By cutting a relief at the corner, a mating part that is to match or butt up against the surface with the large blend radius may have a smaller radius.

Giza rock5.JPG (59180 bytes)

Corner Radius with Relief

This feature provides for a more efficient machining operation, because it allows a cutting tool with a large diameter, and, therefore, a large radius to be used. With greater rigidity in the tool, more material can be removed when making a cut. I believe there is more, much more, that can be gleaned using these methods of study. I believe the Cairo Museum contains many artifacts that when properly analyzed, will lead to the same conclusion that I have drawn from this piece. The use of high-speed motorized machinery, and what we might call modern techniques in non-conventional machining, in manufacturing the granite artifacts found at Giza and other locations in Egypt warrants serious study by qualified, open-minded people who could approach the subject without preconceived notions.

Gizarock.JPG (255702 bytes)

In terms of a more thorough understanding of the level of technology employed by the ancient pyramid builders, the implications of these discoveries are tremendous. We are not only presented with hard evidence that seems to have eluded us for decades, and which provide further evidence proving the ancients to be advanced, we are also provided with an opportunity to re-analyze everything from a different perspective. Understanding how something is made opens up a different dimension when trying to determine why it was made.

The precision in these artifacts is irrefutable. Even if we ignore the question of how they were produced, we are still faced with the question of why such precision was needed. Revelation of new data invariably raises new questions. In this case it’s understandable to hear, "Where are the machines?" Machines are tools. The question should be applied universally and can be asked of anyone who believes other methods may have been used. The truth is that no tools have been found to explain any theory on how the pyramids were built or granite boxes were cut! More than eighty pyramids have been discovered in Egypt, and the tools that built them have never been found. Even if we accepted the notion that copper tools are capable of producing these incredible artifacts, the few copper implements that have been uncovered do not represent the number of such tools that would have been used if every stonemason who worked on the pyramids at just the Giza site owned one or two. In the Great Pyramid alone, there are an estimated 2,300,000 blocks of stone, both limestone and granite, weighing between 2 tons and 70 tons each. That is a mountain of evidence, and there are no tools surviving to explain its creation.

The principle of "Occams Razor," where the simplest means of manufacturing holds force until proven inadequate, has guided my attempt to understand the pyramid builders' methods. With Egyptologists, there is one component of this principle that has been lacking. The simplest methods do not satisfy the evidence, and they have been reluctant to consider other less simple methods. There is little doubt that the capabilities of the ancient pyramid builders have been seriously underestimated. The most distinct evidence that I can relate is the precision and mastery of machining technologies that have only been recognized in recent years.

Some technologies the Egyptians possessed still astound modern artisans and engineers primarily for this reason. The development of machine tools has been intrinsically linked with the availability of consumer goods and the desire to find a customer. One reference point for judging a civilization to be advanced has been our current state of manufacturing evolution. Manufacturing is the manifestation of all scientific and engineering effort. For over a hundred years industry has progressed exponentially. Since Petrie first made his critical observations between 1880 and 1882, our civilization has leapt forward at breakneck speed to provide the consumer with goods, all created by artisans, and still, over a hundred years after Petrie, these artisans are utterly astounded by the achievements of the ancient pyramid builders. They are astounded not so much by what they perceive a society is capable of using primitive tools, but by comparing these prehistoric artifacts with their own current level of expertise and technological advancement.

The interpretation and understanding of a civilization's level of technology should not hinge on the preservation of a written record of every technique that they had developed. The "nuts and bolts" of our society do not always make good copy, and a stone mural will more than likely be cut to convey an ideological message rather than the technique used to inscribe it. Records of the technology developed by our modern civilization rest in media that is vulnerable and could conceivably cease to exist in the event of a worldwide catastrophe, such as a nuclear war or another ice age. Consequently, after several thousand years, an interpretation of an artisan’s methods may be more accurate than an interpretation of his language. The language of science and technology doesn’t have the same freedom as speech. So even though the tools and machines have not survived the thousands of years since their use, we have to assume, by objective analysis of the evidence, that they did exist.

There is much to be learned from our distant ancestors, if only we can open our minds and accept that another civilization from a distant epoch may have developed manufacturing techniques that are as great or perhaps even greater than our own. As we assimilate new data and new views of old data, it is wise to heed the advice Petrie gave to an American who visited him during his research at Giza. The American expressed a feeling that he had been to a funeral after hearing Petrie’s findings, which had evidently shattered some favorite pyramid theory of the time. Petrie said, "By all means let the old theories have a decent burial; though we should take care that in our haste none of the wounded ones are buried alive."

With such a convincing collection of artifacts that prove the existence of precision machinery in ancient Egypt, the idea that the Great Pyramid was built by an advanced civilization that inhabited the Earth thousands of years ago becomes more admissible. I am not proposing that this civilization was more advanced technologically than ours on all levels, but it does appear that, as far as masonry work and construction are concerned, they were exceeding current capabilities and specifications. Making routine work of precision machining huge pieces of extremely hard igneous rock is astonishingly impressive.

Considered logically, the pyramid builders' civilization must have developed their knowledge in the same manner any civilization would and had reached their "state of the art" through technological progress over many years. As of this writing, there is much research being conducted by many professionals throughout the world. These people are determined to find answers to the many unsolved mysteries indicating that our planet Earth has supported other advanced societies in the distant past. Perhaps when this new knowledge and insight is assimilated, the history books will be rewritten and, if mankind is able to learn from historical events, then perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn is now being formulated for the benefit of future generations. New technology and advances in the sciences are enabling us to take a closer look at the foundations upon which world history has been built, and these foundations seem to be crumbling. It would be illogical, therefore, to dogmatically adhere to any theoretical point concerning ancient civilizations.

For the full text and context of Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt Read The Giza Power Plant: Technologies of Ancient Egypt.

Last updated

6/12/01

2/29/04

Copyright 1998-2004 ~ Christopher Dunn. All rights reserved.