Is This How Ancient Egyptians Moved Massive Stones?

Kane Khanh | Archeaology
July 22, 2023

Mainstream experts say that the ancient Egyptians moved massive stones weighing several hundred tons across the desert with no more than wooden sleds and wet sand.

How did the ancient Egyptians move supermassive stone blocks across vast distances without technology? Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations built truly massive structures. No matter where we decide to look, we find ancient monuments dating back to when history was not even written. Experts, authors, and theorists debate how these massive structures were built. One example is ancient Egypt. We will find truly gigantic monuments built more than 4,700 years ago there. Not only are ancient Egypt’s pyramids a mind-boggling architectural phenomenon that has remained unexplained for decades, but many other monuments—temples, and statues across the country—have drawn the attention of experts like a magnet.

How did the ancient Egyptians move massive stones?

The history of Egypt was written in stone. Regarding ancient Egyptian pyramids, the transportation of the massive stones used in their construction and construction are two of the most puzzling subjects. These gigantic structures are so impressive that in ancient times, people were awestruck by their existence. Roman writer Pliny the Elder, who condemned eh pyramids as an “ideal and foolish exhibition of Royal wealth,” found much to wonder at when studying the monuments. He wrote: “The most curious question is how the stones were raised to such a great height.”This is by far one of the most asked questions regarding the pyramids of Egypt.

Lack of documents

Regrettably, and for reasons we are still unable to understand, not one ancient text dating back to when pyramids were built in Egypt has been recovered by experts. Scholars argue that the first pyramid of Egypt is that of King Djoser. The Step Pyramid of Saqqara is believed to have been built around 4,700 years ago and came abruptly, forever changing the history of ancient Egyptian architecture. The 6-tier 4-sided structure is the earliest colossal stone building in Egypt. It is an imposing structure, one that is considered the earliest large-scale cut stone production.

Did it start with the Step Pyramid?

Although the Step Pyramid of Djoser is not the biggest pyramid Egypt would have, it still is mindboggling since the social implications of such a massive and carefully sculpted stone structure are, without a doubt, staggering. Djoser introduced stone building architecture to Egypt, and the monuments following the Step Pyramid of Saqqara were bigger and more complex. Precisely therein lies the mystery. As larger buildings were built, the largest and heavier stones were needed. How did the ancient Egyptian transport the massive stones?

Moving massive stones effortlessly?

Without the help of modern technology, the ancient Egyptian civilization moved massive stone blocks weighing several tons to build the pyramids with ease. Somehow, the ancient Egyptians would go on to transport stone blocks ranging from several tons to several hundred tons in weight. Despite the achievement of transporting such massive blocks, they did not find much need to record how this was done. Isn’t that strange? Despite the lack of descriptions, blueprints, and traces of “technology,” mainstream researchers say that it was achieved in the most mundane ways and comes all down to friction.

What do scholars say?

Scholars maintain that the ancient Egyptians would transport their massive stone blocks across vast distances crossing rivers and desert sands. They would essentially quarry a massive block of stone and then just “sleds” to transport it to the desired destination. However, transporting anything across the desert is challenging. Imagine having to haul a 2.5-ton block atop a sled across several hundreds of kilometers. You’d be faced with many issues. One problem is that as you haul the rock on the sled, it builds up sand ahead of it, which means that the ancient Egyptians must have figured out how to solve the issue.

Wet sand?

Experts have concluded that the ancient Egyptians solved the issue by pouring water in front of the sled: wet sand offers less resistance as it doesn’t build up as much as dry sand. A study looking into the transportation of massive blocks of stone in ancient Egypt suggests that with just the right amount of dampness, the sand is prevented from berming in front of the sled, cutting the force required to drag the sled across the sand in half. As noted in the 2014 study by the University of Amsterdam:

The physicists placed a laboratory version of the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand. They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand. To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand Experiments revealed that the required pulling force decreased proportionally to the stiffness of the sand… A sledge glides far more easily over firm desert sand simply because the sand does not pile up in front of the sledge as it does in the case of dry sand.

Was wet sand the secret to transporting massive stones?

That’s cool. Right. The ancient Egyptians knew that wetting the desert in front of the sled would allow them to transport the massive blocks of stones with less effort. All of this sounds great, and experts have put forth even evidence that sleds and wet sand were used to transport massive stones feasibly. All we have to do is look at Djehutihotep, an ancient Egyptian nomarch who lived during the twelfth dynasty, c. 1900 BC. Inside his tomb, there was—now destroyed—a famous decoration showing what seems to be the transport of a colossal statue of him. Egyptologists say that this statue was almost 7 meters high and had an estimated weight of 58 tons. According to the drawings inside Djehutihotep’s tomb, the massive statue was transported by 172 workers.

A schematic drawing of the transportion scene of the colossus Djehutihotep. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
A schematic drawing of the transportation scene of the Colossus

Until a few years back, this drawing was dismissed by Egyptologists as a ritual. The study by UvA experts demonstrates its supposed feasibility. The massive statue intricately depicted inside Djehutihotep has regrettably never been found, so we can’t know whether the drawing inside the tomb ever happened. The study by UvA experts demonstrates the possibility of moving across the desert blocks of stone weighing around 3 tons. However, does this apply when we speak of larger blocks of stone?

How did the ancient Egyptians transport stones weighing over 150 tons?

What about the transportation of a block of stone weight 150 tons? If the alleged statue of Djehutihotep weighed nearly 60 tons and were transported by 172 workers, then according to that logic transporting a stone of 150 tons would require nearly 400 workers. But we know that the ancient Egyptians transported stones much heavier than that. Was it done using no more than a massive workforce, water, and wooden sleds? Take, for example, the Colossi of Memnon. Each of the massive statues weighs 720 tons. Located near present-day Luxor, the megalithic statues were transported from a quarry near present-day Cairo to more than 650 kilometers away.

And how did they move a massive 720-ton statue across the desert?

Walking the distance from el-Gabal el-Ahmar to the location of the colossi today without dragging massive blocks of stone is more than challenging. It would take a person 5.5 days without stopping to arrive where the colossi stand today. Add to that equation that you are hauling a massive 720-ton statue across the desert. Thousands of workers would be needed, and the feasibility of transporting such a heavy block of stone seems minuscule when applying the proposed transportation method by UvA experts. The statue of Djehutihotep that 172 workers supposedly transported had a weight of nearly 60 tons which means that just one of the colossi of Memnon is 12 times heavier than that of Djehutihotep. Are we missing something?