It was all due to Daniel Bonn’s outside-of the-box thinking and a painting. Bonn discovered that water could be used to move heavy statues and pyramid stones.
Bonn along with several other physicists from University of Amsterdam wanted to find out if there was the logic behind wall painting in Djehutihotep’s tomb.
Wall painting from the tomb of Djehutihotep depicting how ancient Egyptians moved massive stones.
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The painting hung on the tomb dates back to approximately 1900 B.C. The painting depicts 172 men moving a sculpture with ropes attached to a sledge.
According to what was drawn on that painting, water is being poured onto the sand in front of the sledge. The physicists then decided to study how water affects the movement of objects in the sand.
On the elementary levels this was done on a small scale and they discovered that the sand would clump if it was dry. This made moving objects more difficult.
However, this was prevented by the right amount of water.
Before this discovery, it was believed that the water being poured into the painting was just more a ceremonial act than a crucial part of its construction.
Bonn explained to Live Science that dry sand won’t work well. But if the sand’s too wet it will not work. There is an optimal stiffness.
These findings seem to have put an end to all speculations about how the pyramids were built. At one point, it was even suggested that they were the work of aliens.
Research shows that sliding friction on sand can be greatly reduced by adding some water, but not too much.
It was so simple, that even the physicists were taken by surprise when the discovery was published in Physical Review Letters.
Bonn said in an interview with The Washington Post that he was surprised at how much the pulling force could be decreased – as much as 50% – meaning that Egyptians would only need half the number of men to pull over wet sand when compared to dry.
According to the university, “Wet desert sand is twice as stiff as dry sand if there’s enough water. A sledge glides much more smoothly over wet desert sand because the sand doesn’t pile up in front, unlike dry sand.”