Physicists have a new theory for how Egyptians could've (or should've) built the pyramids

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Aug 28, 2014, 6:07 PM EDT

It’s one of the greatest mysteries in history, and now some physicists have come up with a new idea as to how the ancient Egyptians might’ve moved the massive pyramid stones. Basically, if they didn’t use this technique, they probably should have.

A recent, prevailing theory researchers are eyeing is a system that could’ve used moisture to basically create a sled to move blocks across sand, which is certainly plausible (and somewhat supported by ancient hieroglyphs), but that approach is still hard to explain in regard to pyramids constructed far from a major water source.

The latest option, courtesy of Indiana University physicist Joseph West and a few of his colleagues, could’ve found ancient Egyptians attaching wooden rods to a block, changing its profile from a square into a dodecagon, which could then be moved more easily by rolling the stone. It'd account for far-flung pyramids, and it makes a lot of sense.

As The Physics arXiv Blog notes, the team tested the theory with a 30-kilogram scale model concrete block the shape of a square prism. They attached three wooden dowel rods to each face of the block, transforming its cross-section from a square to dodecagon. They then attached a rope to the top in an effort to determine the amount of force needed to create a steady, rolling motion.

Basically, it’d require a crew of 50 men to move a block with a mass of 2.5 tons at a speed of 0.5 meters per second. Assuming the math holds, it’d only require the team to apply force of 0.15 times the weight of the stone to pull a rope wrapped around the block. So it’d basically make the process a whole lot more manageable. This technique would also cause minimal damage to roads.

Though the technique is extremely cool, there’s no indication ancient Egyptians used it. But it’s still a viable option considering the technology available at the time, so file it away with all the other theories. Here’s hoping we’ll finally get time travel figured out one of these days, and we can pop back and finally know for sure.

What’s your best guess? 

(Via The Physics arXiv Blog)