“We Couldn’t Build the Great Pyramid Today” – We Could Do Better

I’m nearly finished with the book by David McCullough, The Path Between the Seas: The Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914. I don’t ever want to hear any such nonsensical statement again about how the Great Pyramid is beyond modern reach.  Ever. To not laugh when I hear it would be to suffer a fool, and that wasn’t my strong suit before I read the book.

Just one statistic will suffice for this post. It has been estimated that, if the Great Pyramid were built today it would require 3 million cubic yards of concrete. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? A drop in the bucket compared to the Panama Canal.

In just the American phase of the construction (1903-1914) a total of 238,845,587 cubic yards were excavated. In 1907, men were moving 1,000,000 cubic yards every month. Three million cubic yards pales in comparison. It would have been a vacation for the tens of thousands of men working in Panama. And the cubic yardage doesn’t even begin to describe the engineering logistics and obstacles, not to mention this was all done through waves of malaria and yellow fever.It’s truly a colossal feat of engineering.

But, Mike, you say, it’s not a fair comparison. The people building the canal had machines like steam shovels and trains. Uh … that’s my point. We *could* build the Great Pyramid today and it wouldn’t require aliens, just like it didn’t back in ancient Egypt. As impressive as the Great Pyramid is, its engineering problems are known and solvable. Sure, a couple of dim-witted scientists in a NOVA television special weren’t up to the task — which only shows they weren’t up to the task. Engineers like Jean Pierre Houdin have articulated in great (and coherent) detail how the pyramid could have been built without modern machinery. Other engineers (namely Davidovits and Barsoum) have proposed that the pyramid blocks were fabricated ancient concrete. Scholars of Egyptian engineering are well informed in Egyptian construction methods, including the pyramids.

And isn’t it odd how ancient astronaut theorists never seem to talk about the failed pyramid projects, like the pyramid of Huni (the Meidum collapsed pyramid), built during the reign of Sneferu, the father of Khufu? Maybe the aliens were on vacation for that one. And also the Bent Pyramid . . . and the Step Pyramid of Djoser, which was built in stages after altering the non-pyramid burial mastaba style. These are all examples of human engineering — the Egyptians learned how to build pyramids gradually, trying new techniques and learning from failures. Pyramid engineering evolved through various transitions. The pyramids themselves demonstrate this quite clearly. To say they needed alien help is just insulting.



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  • the guy

    well yes, lol especially when you say they “specialize in ancient construction techniques” when they of course hehe…didnt build the pyramids, tell me, what makes someone an expert in something they werent there to witness or even really build?again, just because we have tape measurers and fancy equations doesnt mean we have mastered all of physics and geometry.
    and once again, selective journalism at its finest. quote from you “yes, engineers would be the last person to listen to” my quote “there are plenty of credited engineers that would say the opposite”. AND “do things like read ancient sources for how they did things” well, the egyptians also wrote about an alligator headed, upper body lion,lower body hippo demon named ammit. Do you take that seriously? Theres no telling what any of the stuff they wrote really ment. Wether its about gods or construction.
    Everything you have on this website and all the links cannot be considered valuable sources of information because its biased beyond belief…

  • the guy

    why does my comment keep deleting. what are you doing mike?

    • mheiser

      sorry; I’ve been playing around with the Disqus plugin (with the settings). Try it again tonight or tomorrow.

  • protectorian

    You know the problem I have with claiming the Giza pyramids were a gradual production of Egyptian production alone is this:
    1) We have tried for the last 2000 years now in various cultures & civilizations to reproduce the building of those pyramids & have failed… miserably!
    2) Even if the Egyptians did build the pyramids where did they get the math, so much of the math they were using was way beyond the capabilities of their era & even many era & cultures after them didn’t duplicate it (but I’m not selling the Egyptian capabilities short), it’s just that if we can’t even reproduce it today with all the capabilities & advances we have how did they build Khufu’s pyramid at Giza in just 20 years. & each one of the Giza Pyramids was built in the life of one man but you’d think that ok the next pyramid after Khufu’s would have been bigger & better but then poof you get a the smallest one at giza. Somethings wrong with that picture… were the Egyptians trying to down size their architecture like we downsize
    our computer technology? why the hell would they feel the need to do that?
    3) How the hell did they move 2.3 million stone blocks each weighing 2.5 tonnes in just 20 yeas & then place them neatly in pyramid fashion building upwards & all the while build an interior labyrinth of corridors & rooms. You know if they were going downwards I could see them doing it all by themselves but that wasn’t the case. OH wait a minute they found a 4th pyramid by satellite recently with a very long ramp… the ramp starts downwards and ends at the bottom & is the longest ramp we’ve seen yet.
    4) Then the three pyramids of Giza are a perfect reproduction of the 3 stars of Orion’s belt… wait a minute they
    were aligned with a star constellation… WTF for? Orions belt is a pretty boring constellation to be so obsessed about even for an ancient don’t you think? So WTF was that all about?
    5) The Temple of Karnak is beyond anything we’ve ever produced in the last 2600 years since Herodotus.
    The great temple at the heart of Karnak is so big, St Peter’s, Milan and
    Notre Dame Cathedrals could be lost within its walls. The Hypostyle
    hall at 54,000 square feet with its 134 columns is still the largest
    room of any religious building in the world. In addition to the main
    sanctuary there are several smaller temples and a vast sacred lake.

    How they hell did they do that? Ancient civilization, barely evolved to stage of the Greek & Persian civilizations.
    They’re production make Greek & Persian productions look scanty & puny not even the Romans exemplify such magnificent architecture! How could they do this…mere barbarians compared to our era!
    6) Modern engineers like to hypothesis & theorize how the Egyptians did with very little evidence of the positions
    since we still don’t really know how they did it all by themselves with no guiding help from another extra source
    of creativity. The Modern engineer has the bias of modern technology, yet modern technology has not
    reproduced the smallest of the Giza pyramids or any production like it.
    7) OK granted Alex Collier is quite a wack job, & thinks he talks to aliens (Schizophrenia implied) but Zacharia Sitchin was a notable expert in Sumerian cuniform with a degree in economics & he rendered evidence & examples that to date show that extra-terrestrial phenomenon in Babylonian/Sumerian civilizations is implied. If so, how come skeptics so easily dismiss that the Great Pyramids don’t imply some extra-terrestrial involvement in our past.
    8) We’ve yet to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a random Darwinian solution is the origin of our species.
    Modern day interpretation of humanities origins seem accurate on the surface of things but when we dig deeper into our origins we find tremendous complexities that get us into endless arguments to the point that i can no longer accept the tradtional gradual evolution theory is the only plausible explanation out there. I agree gradual evolution occurs but I do not agree that gradual evolution is the only explanation for the production of man & nature.
    9) There are other theories other than the standard tripe, they should be explored but every time someone from
    outside authoritative positions explores them, (usually because the public gets little & next to 0 closure on the
    research controlled & conducted usually by the political correct), these people get black listed or shunned by
    government detractors.
    10) if the Alien theorist are so wrong why do so many detractors come out and vehemently attack them.
    If they’re so wrong people will notice & say hey look at these bafoons. But in reality so many people are
    fascinated by the alien archeology theorists that I can’t believe that these detractors are correct.
    11) An ancient Peruvian civilization out of Cusco & Machu Picchu had a unique series of artifacts we’ve
    discovered. They depicted ancient wonders that defy our sense of reasoning today that we had no interaction
    with Gods or extra-terrestrials & did not have exposure to the dinosaurs but the Ica stones say different & they
    even indicate we had technology in the past even more advanced than what we have today.
    It actually led to the Jurassic Park theory that we could bio-engineer dinosaurs and while it was hailed as
    science fiction back in the 90′s, today it’s theoretical possible given our advances in bio-engineering.
    12) What science knows today is only a fraction of what humanity has known in the past & what we will
    know over the next thousand years. Machiu Kaku theoretical physicist believes aliens exist & we may one
    day be faced with an invasion of aliens. His remark from an interview in support of SETI, “We could be in the
    middle of an intergalactic conversation…and we wouldn’t even know.” shows he thinks it will take us by
    surprise one day. SETI – search for extraterrestrial intelligence… This is the same same as the
    Egyptian God SET minus the I (as in eye of Ra), now I don’t think that that is a coincidence either.
    Do you? If so, did you actually study this shit… i did & well OK i’m not totally credulous but I’m
    not totally skeptical either…

    There is just too many fraking grey area’s to say either way in these maters.

    • mheiser

      Nobody has any reason to reproduce the pyramids — and frankly, who tried? I don’t know any instances where other ancient cultures said, “we need to do one of those, too.” They built other amazing things, like the lighthouse at Alexandria. It’s a false “litmus test.”

      Their math wasn’t beyond the task at all. You don’t need calculus to build a pyramid. A base-ten system and fractions (and geometric principles – like the 3-4-5 principle Wallignton shows in his video – to produce the angle of the great pyramid – is just fine).

      On the “how?” watch Wallington’s video and then watch Houdin’s video. This has quite workable solutions using simple principles of counterweight and leverage. It’s frankly brilliant.

      The Orion correlation is also simply achieved. (It’s also not “perfect” but that’s beside the point). You could do this today with a straight line object – align it visually, measure the angle of the offset, apply the results to a small scale grid on the ground, then plot the larger grid.

      Basically everything you have in this comment is answered in the materials on this site, so I’m not going to go through this whole thing. None of it is unknown to folks who specialize in Egyptian engineering and quarrying methods. It’s all ground that’s been covered. While ancient astronaut theorists and Internet writers are breathlessly saying it’s all a mystery, real scholars have produced answers that are repeatable, scaleable, and reflected by the archaeological record.

      • mechlord

        The thing with you and people like you is that whenever something is discussed that defies the accepted mainstream explanation you tend to latch to small meaningless aspects and fail to look at the overall big picture.

        See,its not just Egypt. Every ancient culture has these enormous, seemingly without purpose, bigger-than-life structures. Why?

        Cave people, all of sudden decide to build gigantic monuments to their gods?
        Bronze age people all of sudden can do wondrous things, and as it so happens, NO ONE after them can replicate them? to me it sounds like a pointer.

        How come we can reproduce everything they did EXCEPT these buildings?

        Look at the bigger picture here: There is an important piece of history we lost, and it seems connected to all these achievements.

        What about the Olmecs?, hell, what about the great deluge? the Great Pyramid is just the tip of the iceberg, like someone saying: “try to understand this and reproduce, fail and know that someone else did (aliens or humans way more intelligent than us) and try to learn about us and come after our markings”

        Its the only reasonable explanation i have to the riddle of ancient human history.

  • Dean.

    Sure it was people. But we couldn’t build a better pyramid faster today and that is a fact. I work in the iron industry and I see crazy things built that you’d never believe, even have a hand in them. Your article offers little to no proof of anything either, and you are calling your commenters ignorant for calling you out. We don’t have the technology to lift these stones without abrasion marks, perfectly into place, to create the hydraulic pump system that is the pyramid of Giza. Of course it was people who built the pyramid. But they were smarter than you and I. Have you ever heard of Acoustic Resonance Levitation? With nobody truly mastering the technique in modern society, the pyramid could never be built, and to say we could do better is surely an ignorant thing to say. Society is deteriorating, to the point where people don’t even offer explanations in their arguments. “We built the panama canal therefore we can build the pyramid too :D!” If there was a simpleton explanation like that for everything, I’m sure it would say alot about humanity as a whole, but instead, it just says alot about you. You must remember people are not becoming more, intelligent with time. We have been a straight downward path for the last 250 years due to the powers that be, and you are foolish if you think you are exempt. The information achieved by carbon dating shows the stones were moved in a timely manner. I do truly believe with effort the great pyramid of Giza could have been built by people WITHOUT doubt. But the elaborate complexities inside the pyramid would be nowhere near the level of perfection. These pyramids, unlike Rome, WERE built in a day (or 7). But I don’t see you using that data. See, each molecule has a magnetic value. Acoustic resonance uses this to lift objects and basically “take their weight away”, so you can basically slide it into place. I have no doubt they used barges to transport quarried stones, but humans didn’t lift them into place with brute strength, or there would be alot more imperfection than what you see. Also stop talking to people like they are stupid, or saying every argument has to do with aliens. I don’t say shit here about aliens, so don’t even use the alien mockery trick in your reply. The problem with people, is that they are willing to sell themselves short as soon as they can’t figure it out, it must have involved foreign help. Which by the way, is retarded, people are intelligent beings. We used to be the most intelligent thing on Earth. The most powerful, of course we built these ourselves, but we had smarter people than engineers doing math. I strongly doubt you could throw a pyramid of Giza up in a week and have a better result, because the devolution of society is willing to bet you’re wrong.

    • GI_Egghead

      What prove is there that the pyramids were built in 7 days? I have only heard of the time span of 20 years. I mean the great pyramid of Giza consists of 2.3 million blocks. 7 days = 604800 seconds so they must have moved and placed 3,8 let’s say 4 blocks per second; if people worked 24/7. Seems a bit much for one pyramid alone, let alone multiple.
      Also we can move those blocks and place them precisely without abrasion marks, we have total stations with which we can exactly mark locations and cranes can lift 7,000 tons; put some long slings or hell even ropes for that matter and you’ll have no abbreviation marks. It’ll take a lot to stop abbreviation on big rocks, yes, but it works. Or you could just use the good old Dutch block buster!
      Even if it’s too small we could make it bigger, that’s the thing: if the construction is too big you can always scale up your equipment.
      You mention this levitation technique, but how would they even do that? With trumpets… drums… or something? I don’t know, you’ll probably have a good idea of how it could have worked since you mentioned it. And why if they can easily lift blocks didn’t they use it for combat purposes too? There would be nothing better then sending your enemies floating in the air I would think. Just get your levitation squad in an heavily protected armored vehicle of sorts and start dominating whatever enemy you encounter.
      There are signals that humanity perhaps is getting dumber since there are few challenges which test us to our limits anymore, but that’s in GENERAL. That doesn’t mean we won’t have our share of geniuses anymore.
      Yes the pyramids are impressive constructions and it’s amazing what they’ve done… but it’s precise and advanced… block stacking… for the most part at the end of the day.

  • apeiron

    I agree that we could build a pyramid today if we wanted to. One important point that you seem to have missed is the very size and the location of the Great Pyramid suggests that the ancients’ veneration for the universe produced advanced mathematicians and engineers whose knowledge was eventually obliterated. There might come a day when people will not know just how the Panama Canal was built.

  • Etro

    In 1999 experts were so convinced that not only could they build a Pyramid using modern tools, but build it better than the Egyptians did, that they decided to let themselves be filmed while they did so. It was broadcast. They failed. Completely. Utterly. Without exception.

    • mheiser

      I know all about this and watched it years ago. Problem with this excuse: they didn’t use the sort of techniques the Egyptians would have used (or that Houdin illustrates more currently, or that Wally Wallington demonstrates). In other words, these “experts” showed a profound ignorance of ancient construction techniques.

  • M_J_Murcott

    The properties of stone as a construction material and whether ancient cultures built pyramids due to some shared linkage or because a pyramid is the only large structure you can build? – http://youtu.be/f5gjbC9AuEo

  • Tim Tempest

    Yes but there is evidence the great pyramid was not built at the time of Cheops,the failed pyramids were built way after the best ones which were built at an earlier time.Egyptologists havent realistically said how the great pyramid was built with copper tools.I’d be interested to hear Mike talk about the Baigong pipes of China

  • Randi Van Dahl

    The great pyramids of Giza were buit long before the bent pyramid of Djoser or other “failed” attempts. Egyptians were simply trying to copy those supreme works of ancient engineering but failed.

  • Chester Davis

    Man, most of the commenters on here are beyond help. They’re like young earth creationists who learn about a detailed mechanism for abiogenesis and say that doesn’t matter because you can’t make life from nonlife.

  • James Beaumont

    Ah but the pyramid is not made of poured concrete but of stones weighing tons!

    • mheiser

      I don’t know anyone that insists on the pouring theory – ??