A truth resilient against all the scrutiny that should be reasonably expected of anything claiming that word. Even if the truth is, that we simply don’t know.
I shouted and my horse immediately complied, rearing slightly at first, knocking my hat off, which allowed me to feel the hot desert wind in my hair as we hit maximum velocity down into a dip in the dunes and up the other side to the top of a sandy crest.
Something transcendent happens when a horse’s gallop smoothes out so you no longer have to think about staying on it and are instead free to watch the Great Pyramids of Giza approaching you at furious speed. Getting larger and larger in hot silence.
At the top of the second ridge I reined the horse in and it obeyed nicely. From this ridge the land drops away smoothly, and there is no ridge beyond, so as you crest it, the whole picture of all the monuments on the Giza plateau comes into view. Still about a quarter mile or more away, you see the pyramids, the Sphinx, the causeways, the roads, the tour busses, the people, the garbage. Everything.
At this point, the fact that you are part of a millennia old continuum of people who have come to see these monuments suddenly hits you. You just plugged yourself into an outlet that goes back over 4000 years. The history is immediate. And the electricity is fresh.
I waited on this ridge for my wife and our guide to catch up.
Growing up, both my parents instilled in me an appreciation for beauty and attention to detail, but my father is also responsible for imparting to me knowledge of math, physics, and engineering. He was a racing car driver. Such things are very important to that discipline. As a result, I am able to appreciate both the aesthetic beauty of things and also the beauty that comes from understanding their underlying form and the artistry that went into how they were made.
The Pyramids are perhaps the grandest place for such an upbringing to bear itself out.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is made up of approximately 2.5 million blocks with a minimum weight of 2.5 tonnes each. Some go up to 70 tonnes. our guide, Sayeed, told me that most of the blocks were quarried from about 30KM away, while others, like the red granite in the Kings Chamber, were quarried from Aswan and transported 400KM to their current resting place at Giza. Put into position by men with ropes pulling them up a ramp on log rollers.
The height of the Great Pyramid is 453 feet with all side slope angles measuring a stiff 52 degrees.
Let’s dismiss the 25, 40 and 70-ton blocks for a moment and pretend that all the blocks weigh only 2.5 tonnes or about the mass of a typical family car.
The standard view of Egyptologists states that the Khufu’s Pyramid took 30 years to build and that building only took place for part of each year. For purposes of easy math, let’s say building took place for half of each year. With only these factors in mind, it doesn’t take very sophisticated mathematics to deduce that 2.5 million blocks worked over 30 years, 6 months a year, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, means that for the Egyptologists claim to be true, one two-ton block must have been put into position at Giza, without error, or tragedy, or failure, every 5 minutes during construction.
That alone is an astounding claim. Add to that the ramp theory and the manpower needed to do such a job, and it becomes an even more tenuous position.
To build a ramp to the top of the Great Pyramid at a slope as steep as it is humanly possible to drag a stone up without risking killing everyone below you if something were to go wrong, which turns out to be about one foot of incline for every 10 feet of length, would result in a ramp over a mile long, and indeed one which would require more building materials to construct than would the Great Pyramid itself. Yet none of these building materials remain at Giza and no materials fitting this description have ever been found on the Plateau.
Upon reaching the pyramid, we bribed the guard to let us climb it. This has been illegal for many years, but in Egypt, the right price, offered the right way, can acquire permission for just about anything.
As we climbed row on row of huge blocks, my wife very naturally expressed an obvious truth “This is hard.” She said. And she was right. It wasn’t easy. The sand made for slippery going in some places and in others the ledges weren’t very wide. One wrong move could send you tumbling down a long, long way if you weren’t careful. And that made me think.
With the 160,000 men some modest, but orthodox, Egyptological estimates calculate for the size of the work force required to build the pyramids, organizing a drop of a 2-ton block of stone into a precise arrangement every 5 minutes while perhaps hundreds of people all clamor around on the pyramid at one time, would be a nearly impossible task. Or perhaps, even actually impossible.
This is not the only issue. There are many questions to be asked in Egypt. Few are asking, and answers are elusive.
I came to Egypt for the same reasons I went to Cambodia, Peru, Mexico, England, Scotland, Chile, Bolivia, India, and others. To follow a trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the truth. The ongoing search for a truth that holds up to all the reasoning, rationale, logic, and critique I can throw at it.
The search for truth. That’s my 5%. Above all else.