Posted by: Khepera | Wednesday, 6 December 2006

Study Says That Egypt’s Pyramids May Include Early Use of Concrete


As an FYI, this is not surprising, due to some research I have done, and an article I remember from the late 80’s. As this story progresses, one thing which will be revealed is that their definition of “concrete” will be expanded to include the slurry of limestone, etc., used in ancient Khemet. This is not to say that Khemetic skills in the dressing of stone were not in evidence however. Be advised this article is already in the NYT archives, and therefore requires paid access. Stay tuned…

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by John Noble Wilford

In new research on the great pyramids of Giza, a scientist says he has found more to their construction than cut natural limestone: some original parts of the massive structures appear to be made of concrete blocks. If true, historians say, this would be the earliest known application of concrete technology, some 2,500 years before the Romans started using it widely in harbors, amphitheaters and other architecture.Reporting the results of his study, Michel W. Barsoum, a professor of materials engineering at Drexel University in Philadelphia, concluded that the use of limestone concrete could explain in part how the Egyptians were able to complete such massive monuments, beginning around 2550 B.C. They used concrete blocks, he said, on the outer and inner casings and probably on the upper levels, where it would have been difficult to hoist carved stone.“The sophistication and endurance of this ancient concrete technology is simply astounding,” Dr. Barsoum wrote in a report in the December issue of The Journal of the American Ceramic Society.

Dr. Barsoum and his co-workers, Adrish Ganguly of Drexel and Gilles Hug of the National Center for Scientific Research in France, analyzed the mineralogy of samples from several parts of the Khufu pyramid, and said they found mineral ratios that did not exist in any known limestone sources. From the geochemical mix of lime, sand and clay, they concluded, “the simplest explanation” is that it was cast concrete.

Dr. Barsoum, a native of Egypt, said in an interview that he expected his interpretation to be controversial — and it already is.

Zahi Hawass, secretary general of antiquities in Egypt and director of the Giza pyramids excavations, said in an e-mail message, “The idea that concrete was used is unlikely and completely unproven.”

Noting that the pyramids had been restored and reinforced many times with the extensive use of concrete, Dr. Hawass said, “I would ask Dr. Barsoum the question: Where did he get the samples he is working with, and how can he show that the samples are not taken from areas that have been restored in modern times?”

Dr. Barsoum said in his report that samples from the Khufu pyramid included chips and a small block from the outer casing and an inner casing slab, and also “small chunks” from another pyramid. He conceded in an interview that he had yet to sample material from blocks that in detailed photographs appeared to be fairly uniform and, as he had speculated, were probably concrete.

Most Egyptologists think the pyramids were built with limestone blocks that were cut to shape in nearby quarries using copper tools. The blocks were then hauled to the pyramid sites, lifted up ramps and hoisted into place with the help of wedges and levers.

But David Walker, a Columbia geologist, and Sheldon Wiederhorn, an engineer at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in Rockville, Md., and the associate editor of the ceramic society’s journal, who were familiar with the research, said that Dr. Barsoum was a careful and reputable scientist and that his work should be seriously considered.

full article

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