How the Stones Were Raised


The lower twenty courses of the total two hundred and four recorded for Khufu’s pyramid


Hidden within the sea of stones, tourists seek shelter from the searing summer heat (see left lower corner of photo above).


For several millennia, humankind has wondered how the ancient Egyptians constructed the enormous Giza pyramid monuments on the west side of the Nile River. The theories proposed are numerous and most diversified, yet no viable method has actually been presented. There are many various and logical means for raising stones above ground level, but the first and most important issue to be considered is…TIME!

From calculations, it is estimated that Khufu’s pyramid (Great Pyramid) contains a minimum of five million stones, and the number of stones required to build the remaining pyramids on this site are almost equal. Therefore, we must imagine a total of ten million stones raised above ground level, trimmed for fitting, set into place, and leveled to support the next layer above. Ten million stones…not a small task to perform…in fact, it is a massive task just to consider!

If presented with this project today, it would require little time for us to calculate the volume of stone necessary. Once known, we could simply build the structures (Giza site) next to the supply of stone (quarry)…and so they did! The majority of material used to build the pyramids was quarried from the very hillside that the pyramids are built on.

The next step would be to calculate the total number of hours required to process one stone from the quarry then transport and set into its final resting place. Multiply this time by ten million and we now know the total hours required to complete the project. The only mathematical “problem” to this scenario is calculating the labor required for one average size stone and this would have been simple for them to determine. What we fail to understand is these people being accustomed to cutting and moving stones from quarries by hand…they knew how to use manpower and levers in the most efficient manner. It is without doubt; that the time allotted to complete the Giza site was fully realized by all involved with the project…before construction commenced!

It is folly for any individual to state the total number of years required to complete the Giza site…we simply do not know the answer. From the Greek historian Herodotus, we learn of it requiring approximately 20-30 years upward to 100 years or more. Other ancient visitors to the site have also quoted the total years required, but who are we to believe and is it actually important? Past historians have also noted the number of laborers involved in the Giza project at one time; it ranges from 100,000-200,000 men. These workers apparently labored during the annual flooding of the Nile River, lasting for nearly three months of the year…and now we finally have some basic numbers to work with!

If we use the lowest number of laborers (100,000), then each laborer was responsible for 10,000,000 (stones) divided by 100,000 (men), or 10 stones per labourer. The average size stone used within the Great Pyramid measures 1.3 cubic RC (Royal cubits) (approximately 27” cubed, or 0.68 meters cubed). Therefore, the average individual had to quarry and move 10 stones over a period of 20 (years minimum) x 3 (months of flooding), or a total of 10 stones in 60 months. The final numbers reduce to 2 stones per individual in one full year, for a 5-year period. What we should actually be asking is…What did they do in their spare time?

The numbers certainly look impressive; the work required per laborer is minimal, however, there is one “slight” issue being overlooked, and it directs us back to the initial problem…TIME!

The new problem to resolve is the time allotted to raise each stone.

Ten million stones are to be placed into position over a twenty-year period, at three months per year, this equates to 5,500 stones per day. Working an average of 10 hours each day then…a stone must be placed and fitted into position every ten minutes approximately.

If this number of stones was actually produced and placed into position each day then the concept of the spiral ramp theory (ziggurat) must be rejected; likewise is the theoretical concept of the long extended ramp. Adding further to these “impractical” ramp theories; the material used for constructing the ramps must be handled twice; first to construct the ramp and second to dismantle it.

It is here where we must begin to design/engineer a most practical, and efficient means to move stones with the greatest of accuracy and speed…we must begin to think the “easy” way…their way!

A ramp system was definitely required to raise the stones and the builders used the most basic leverage known…human muscle!

Below is a series of illustrations demonstrating how the builders may have processed the stones; beginning with the quarrying of the limestone blocks, transporting, then raising the stones by incorporating the finished “side” of the pyramid as a ramp.



Stones were quarried in a systematic manner by digging cross-sectional trenches down and below the point of “cracking” the stones. Once complete, small notches were chiseled along the lower edge indicating where the stone was to split (a small sector at the northwest base of Khafre’s pyramid has remnants of rectangular segments similar to the illustration above).

Although only a theoretical concept, the workers would then place a series of two wooden blocks in the trench with the inner block supporting a metal wedge. A tapered wooden block is positioned between the two outer blocks then, by striking the wooden wedge, the force is transferred to the metal wedge causing the stone to split along the notched line.


Using simple leverage, the stones were raised and loaded onto a sled for transporting. First, the workers tilted the stone forward, allowing a wooden block to be placed at the center base of the stone.

Systematically, the stone was raised until three cross-layers of logs could be placed beneath the stone. The upper and lower logs would be carved flat, while the center log remained round. Once positioned, the stone was rolled with ease onto the awaiting sled and secured.

We may have invented the train, but the ancient Egyptians invented the track! Using an “inverted” track system, the sled was pulled along a continuous line of rolling logs. The elderly, weak, and children on site would oversee the positioning of the logs, ensuring a constant flow of loaded sleds.


The easiest method to solve a problem is to tackle it directly. By building small ramps at the base of the structures, it allowed the workers to pull the sled directly up the side of the structure. There would be angular stones at each level; these stones would be grooved, allowing the sled runners to fit within. In effect…the pyramid side was the ramp!

The pyramids were constructed one layer at a time. The photograph above shows the outer “casing” stones interlocking with the inner stones. This provides sufficient evidence to disqualify the Ziggurat (spiral) and straight ramp theory for construction.


When confronted with the larger stones, used within the King’s chamber, then every ramp theory has its downfall. There is only one efficient means to raise these stones to such heights, and that is to pull them directly up the side of the structure. The illustration shows two sets of ramps being used to raise the stone sideways up the pyramid face. This also provided greater stability and control during the operation.


What goes up must come down!

Workers had to be fed, relieved from their post, sleds returned, and ruble disposed of. It meant a constant flow of human beings climbing the pyramids, only to return to the pyramid base. Both stones and workers were to move in the most efficient manner. The “climbers” returned on the sleds, using their weight as a counter-balance for another loaded sled on the opposite side of the structure.


Raised to the working layer of the pyramid, the sled could be directed to any location using cross-sectional tracks.


The only question remaining is…did the ancient pyramid builders use these simple transporting techniques?


To contact Clive Ross please e-mail: