LETTERS TO THE EDITORS
To the Editors:
Although not a specialist in this field, I devoured with gusto Henry
Petroski's article on possible methods for raising large stone
blocks onto the pyramids ("Pyramids as Inclined Planes,"
Egyptologists seem foolishly wedded to the idea that men dragged the
blocks to the top of the pyramid. Oxen were a common beast of burden
during biblical times, and I believe that the sledges were probably
drawn by those beasts, either individually or in small teams. With a
small team yoked single file, I believe that the animals could
successfully negotiate the 90-degree turn required at each corner of
the pyramid as each level was ascended.
For people, equipment and animals to descend a pyramid while others
were ascending, it would be sensible for the designer to leave gaps
along the wall at intervals, one or two blocks large, so that
descending teams could step aside while ascending teams passed. This
is the same basic idea as the railroad sidings used by 19th-century
American planners that allowed trains moving in opposite directions
to use a single stretch of track.
I believe that images shown in the famous 1950s film The Ten
Commandments have led to the widespread assumption that only
human labor was used. The images were very powerful, no oxen are
present in any scene, and there is a very graphic scene of a large
crowd of men dragging a huge stone block, which nearly kills a
woman. This movie is shown once a year in America, the repetition of
which will ingrain the imagery deeply in everybody's mind.
I hope that future calculations performed by established researchers
will account for the use of traditional beasts of
burden—camel, mule, ox and horse.
Royal Oak, Michigan