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Egypt Pyramid Building and Construction
pyramids egypt construction
The Pyramids of Egypt

pyramids egypt construction


By Nabil Swelim

On Pyramid Construction

The actual building of a pyramid places special emphasis on the accuracy of setting the first course of the outer facing, constructing the core and nucleus, and covering it with the outer facing and placing the pyramidion on top.

The Actual Building

We have to take into consideration: quarrying, transporting, shaping, lifting and placing each block into its final position with enough man power and enough supplies of mortar and tools etc.

All these activities were under tight supervision to preserve the correctness of shape, stability, orientation, traditional requirements, and religious demands.

The first course of the outer facing was very carefully monitored because it is the actual orientation of the monument. There are several examples showing how this course was considered.

At Khufu, Unas, Pepi I and many other sites, large limestone blocks display the admirable methods of building the first course on a variety of foundations and platforms.

Djedefra, Khafra and Menkura built this course in granite (pictured right).

pyramid of king Khafra at Giza
At the pyramid of king Khafra ‘G2, at Giza the first course of the outer facing was built of polished granite which was joined by the surrounding pavement of the pyramid by an upright cut. This cut was aligned to the cardinal points for the orientation of the monument, Nabil Swelim 1990.


Many studies and TV documentaries have proposed methods for moving big blocks of stone up ramps and by mechanical means. Some of the suggestions are remarkable. Important as these methods are, they become useless if they do not satisfy the intensity needed to complete the building within the kings’ reign.

· The great pyramid of Khufu was built of 2.6 million blocks of limestone each of an average volume of One Cubic Meter, weighing 2.5 metric tons. This figure comes from the volume of the pyramid being 2,600,000 cubic meters. By the equation (230 x 230 x 148/3) The Area Of The Base Times One Third Of The Height.

· The Turin king list tells us that Khufu reigned for 23 years.

· Assuming that the pyramid was built every day of the 23 years of his reign, and then we have 8395 days of building.

pyramid of king Khafra at Giza
The pyramid of king Khafra ‘G2, at Giza clearly showing the nucleus, the first course of the outer facing see and a large cased area towards the top where the pyramidion was once set. Tarek Swelim 1985.

· Working hours should be 10 hours a day, and then we have 83,950 hours or 5,037,000 minutes.

· To install 2,600,000 blocks in 5,037,000 minutes at a regular rate means: that every block has to be set in less than two minutes. (1.94 min)

The building never followed that rate: it had to be much, much faster at the beginning and slower towards the end.


At the very end of the building project comes the difficult task of placing the pyramidion at the apex of a pyramid. This is like putting the crown on the king’s head. An amazing task, the example I present is that of the pyramid of King Khafra which I considered a few years ago. This pyramidion was prefabricated in 2 parts of diorite weighing 4 and 7.15 = total 11.15 tons. They were placed on the uppermost course of the outer facing, which created a platform. The pyramidion had to fit precisely on the platform. This is at the top of a pyramid, at a height of 144 meters, with very limited space to maneuver.

egypt pyramid diagram

egypt pyramid diagram

(Above left) A diorite fragment of the pyramidion of Khafra found by Selim Hassan. Drawn for Nabil Swelim by Jaroslaw Dobrowolski 1996 after Selim Hassan. (Above right) The platform on which the pyramidion was placed, slabs rearranged and drawn by Nabil Swelim 1996 after Lepsius.

When such a task was completed, taking the pyramid of Khafra as an example, we would be looking at a very beautiful monument: Well oriented, well stabilized, the first course of rose granite, a whitish gold outer facing and a dark green diorite pyramidion on top.

pyramids egypt construction

egypt pyramids

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