how were pyramids built? with kites?

In the latest issue of Time magazine, they have an article about a lady from California that argues that the pyramids might have been built with the help of kites. The Times web site doesn’t have the article (yet), but I found another one about her at the ABC news science archive.

I always thought that egyptologists had pretty much agreed that the pyramids were built by moving the blocks on (wooden?) rollers. Was this established by deduction or from historical documents?

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

After reading your link, I came to the conclusion that Clemmons and a kite have something in common: they’re both high. Her theory is based upon two tenuous premises:
-“this was hardly an efficient way to do things”- True. Who said they needed to be efficient? Consider that the Egyptians used slave labor and slaves lives weren’t a premium.
-“the historic record is littered with
less-than-oblique references to this practice, according to Clemmons.” Further down in the article it states that there is a hieroglyph that she interprets to be of a box kite.- She is able to lift a 400 Lb. concrete obelisk with a kite. This is fairly impressive. However, there are three problems with this: 1-There is a large difference between 400 lbs and the 40 ton obelisks that were actually used to construct the pyramids. 2-She used a delta-shaped kite, whereas the representations she saw were interpreted (by her) to be box kites. 3-She used a nylon kite which probably wasn’t available to the pyramid builders.

I wouldn’t put too much stock into it. There was a scientist who claimed that the Incans built their pyramids using crude lasers to cut the rocks. His proof? The rocks would’ve been extremely difficult to carve properly otherwise, they were sun worshippers, and he found several shiny metal disks that he thought could be used to condense the light into a laser-powered stone cutting tool. He was ridiculed by his peers and couldn’t replicate the crude laser.

Yes, it’s pretty much agreed that the Egyptians used rollers (sometimes-- not as easy as it seems, given the, you know, sand and all) and sledges with slick mud on top of wooden “rails”, levered hoists, ramps, etc. There’s a good episode of Nova from Nov 1991 on this-- an archaeologist and mason built a small one to see what the best ways of doing it were (I just showed this to a class).
There’s something about egyptian studies that really draws out the wackos for some reason. This stuff really isn’t a total mystery.

I’ve heard it suggested recently that the blocks used to buid the pyramids might have been made of a crude sort of concrete that was poured into place. The inner blocks are granite, but the outer blocks are a sort of conglomerate stone, pourous and sandy. Has anyone else seen anything about this?

Re. concrete: Uh-uh. We know where the rocks came from. Limestone. Granite. A sedimentary rock might look like aggregate to someone who was already INSANE, though.

I saw a really neat documentary on how they erected cap-stones (the really really BIG slabs that serve as a roof/ceiling.)

They would build the walls and floor, then fill the structure with sand. The sand was piled high against the slab, which was standing upright on an adjacent pile of sand.

With only a little push, the slab toppled, but was caught by the sand. They then began to “drain” the sand out of the building, but only the sand which was on the same side of the building as the slab.

The fluidity of the draining sand slowly and evenly lowered the slab onto the building. Evidently, they could make the slab fall within an inch of where they wanted it.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting.


Don’t forget to mention the “little green men, and there flying saucers” theory.

The latest data seems to indicate that slave labor (i.e. jews and other foreigners) was NOT employed in the construction of the Great Pyramids. Archeologists unearthed the remains of the workers and laborers who built these massive structures. It would seem that “citizens” of the nile were “conscripted” to aid in the building and many of them saw it as their holy duty.

And I have to agree with Mojo - you have to be high to buy into the kite theory.

The concrete theory is crap - the stone quarry all of the blocks came from is right in the shadow of the pyramids. There are even half-cut blocks just waiting to be dragged to build a new structure after thousands of years.

Hell is Other People.

Sake–you are correct about the make up of the labor crew. The Jews did not enter Egypt until long after the construction of the pyramids were complete. The work that they were involved in was probably the construction of a large temple or other building, not a tomb. One dead give away in the bible is that the Israelites are described as making bricks out of mud, not quarrying stone.

The NOVA episode everyone is referring to was called “This Old Pyramid”, and starred one of the workers from “This Old House” (not Norm, Steve, or Bob Villa).

Does anyone have a clue how a store-bought kite can lift a 400-pound object, and that ABC article claims?

Even if unusually strong winds were needed, the reasonable conclusion would be that a weaker wind is capable of lifting a 200-pound object, or certainly an 80-pound child.

But how often have we heard of children being carried off by their kites?

Come on, this has “Urban Legend” written all over it. I’m just looking for a hint of explanation, that’s all.

Thank you all for your answers.

Keeves: the Time magazine article said about the same thing. Additionally the Time magazine article mentioned how a professor at CalTech had told this lady that in his opinion it wold be possible to lift large stones using her method. I don’t think it’s an urban legend.

According to the Time website, the full article might be there on Sunday. If it is, I will post a link to the article.

La franchise ne consiste pas à dire tout ce que l’on pense, mais à penser tout ce que l’on dit.
H. de Livry

A few of weeks ago I saw a couple of guys at Galviston beach going aloft with very large deltas. Somehow I think they used bikes to get speed.

What would overcome that initial inertia to get a 400 lp anything into the air? Wouldn’t that first pull snap any rope?

Come to think of it: at VA Beach the flyers are pulled behind motor boats on skis to get the speed to go aloft with those large kites, also deltas. Don’t the flyers at Kitty Hawk just leap off of cliffs or high dunes?

So what if a nice Egyptian-made-gasoline engine got those block off the ground, it’s controlling the flight and getting the blocks in place that puzzles me.

I’m attempting to carve an Easter Island type sculpture using nothing but yo-yos and sling-shots. I’ll keep you all apprised of my progress.

Elmer J. Fudd,
I own a mansion and a yacht.

Think “hang glider” instead of “kite”. A hang glider is basically a kite.

I have several kites. One of them is a design called a “French Military”. It got the name because the French used large versions of the design to lift observers for artillery during WW I. They were phased out after aircraft were introduced.

There is a good picture of one (which actually looks like the one I own) at

“Drink your coffee! Remember, there are people sleeping in China.”

Dennis Matheson —
Hike, Dive, Ski, Climb —

Arnold, no one knows how the pyramids were made.

There be something mighty fancy it be called ‘the seven wonders of the world.’

Actually, that was a(nother) mistranslation. The original passage reads,

The Dead Sea Scrolls sure kick ass!

Amusingly, the picture Time published with the story has this woman looking quite mad.

{:-Df, where is your quote from? I cannot find anything about “lamentation” or “cut” in Exodus 5.

I’d like to defend Guy Propski against your charge of mistranslation, but I’ll need to see the words of the original.

      • I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but, , ,
      • You really can’t put a 5000 pound stone on a few logs and roll it around - the wooden rollers will quickly crack and split, and turning corners is very difficult.
      • The pyramid stones were moved mostly with logs. What they did was, suppose they wanted to move a cube-shaped block three feet square. They would get a log three feet thick and six feet long and cut it in half lengthwise, resulting in two pieces three feet thick and three feet in diameter. Then they would split both these logs in half lenghwise so that the logs were three feet high each and from the end, looked like the letter “D”. Then they would cut the rounded (what was the outside of the tree) side down until they could place the flat side of all four pieces of log arond the cube and wrap it up with rope. Now the cube shaped stone is inside four pieces of wood that have a round outside edge and the whole thing can be tipped on its side and rolled. Three adult men can fairly easily move it on level ground. To ascend ramps they ran more ropes around it anchored to, and pulled from, the top of the ramp for a 2:1 advantage.
  • When they got it about into where they wanted it, they would cut the rope and remove three of the pieces, leaving the one underneath. They would let it roll towards where they wanted it, off the last piece of wood, and then tap it into final position by a few men using another log as a battering ram. - The logs were near at first but they ran out locally and had to go farther for more logs as work went on, but they only went upriver so floating the logs down to the site was no big deal. The blocks didn’t get cracked rolling into final position because the sides were so flat. The pieces of wood were used for this until they cracked and then they were used for firewood, as were the pieces of rope (they used up a lot of each). Now you know - MC