New theories for Egyptian pyramids

Posted May 19th, 2007 by Andrea Vianello

Egypt never ceases to fascinate. I briefly present two recent theories, which have attracted much media attention recently (not always a good thing).

Professor Michel Barsoum of Drexel University, Philadelphia, proposed that the limestone blocks used to build the pyramids of Giza are made of concrete and therefore not natural limestone. A new website where there is an interactive lecture by Prof. Barsoum has been catalogued in Intute. However, Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, has declared in a written statement to the New York Times that “the idea that concrete was used is unlikely and completely unproven”. In spite of this, the scientific evidence advanced by Prof. Barsoum should be carefully considered.

Architect Jean-Pierre Houdin proposed that during the construction of the pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), an internal ramp was built to move the stone blocks to the top. However, Zahi Hawass is reported to have said that “the theory lacked the scientific bases and only relied on inaccurate grounds“.  Since Dr. Hawass  has  mentioned  that an international team of archaeologists has found problems with this theory,  no website supporting this theory has been catalogued in Intute, even if there is no definitive proof that the limestone is natural either.

There is no doubt that Dr. Zahi Hawass is presented with new theories almost daily, and most of them are probably nonsense, so he has to reject almost everything until proven if he wants to maintain credibility. Unfortunately, such a position might hamper positive and fruitful discussion at times.

I decided to report these theories here because I think that they are plausible and should prompt some discussion among Egyptologists. These are just theories that indeed need to be proven and because of this somebody may object in mentioning them in Intute. I was torn about this issue, but eventually considered that with so many theories on ancient Egypt circulating on the Internet, and by word of mouth among students, we should mention a couple of plausible ones. In the case of Prof. Barsoum’s theory there is also the additional benefit of an insight on scientific analyses available to study stones, which may have not provided yet sufficient evidence to prove his theory, but remains a worthwhile technique.

Be as it may on the validity of individual theories, the Egyptian pyramids continue to attract attention and we can be sure that what remains unclear about them, a lot, will continue to prompt new ideas and theories. And the fascination for Egypt will continue to live.


  1. me says: December 5, 2007 @ 1:28 am

    Should have noted what theories there are

  2. Andrea Vianello says: December 5, 2007 @ 11:23 am

    This post is about two new proposed interpretations on Egyptian pyramids, those proposed by Professor Michel Barsoum and architect Jean-Pierre Houdin. Current interpretations that are accepted by scholars can be found in the archaeological literature, including any good textbook. I recommend as an introduction to the pyramids the book by Miroslav Verner, “The Pyramids: their archaeology and history”, published in 2002 by Atlantic Books of London (ISBN 1903809452). For a general introduction to ancient Egypt, I recommend the book by Kathryn Bard, “An Introduction to the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt“, published in 2007 by Blackwell Publishing (ISBN 1405111488). There is no electronic resource that can substitute a good book on this topic. The best website on Egypt, Digital Egypt is most useful as illustrated companion to introductory books and is certainly better than most illustrated books aimed at a general audience, yet it is not a valid replacement for a textbook.