Today in History: Pyramid restorers ditch modern tech for ancient restoration methods
On this day in 1984, an international panel overseeing the restoration of the Great Pyramids in Egypt overcomes years of frustration when it abandons modern construction techniques in favour of the method employed by the ancient Egyptians.
Located at Giza outside Cairo, some of the oldest man-made structures on Earth were showing severe signs of decay by the early 1980s. Successful repair work began on the 4 600-year-old Sphinx in 1981, but restoration of the pyramids proved destructive when water in modern cement caused adjacent limestone stones to split.
On 12 January, 1984 restorers stopped using mortar and adopted the system of interlocking blocks practiced by the original pyramid builders. From thereon, the project proceeded smoothly. The ancient Egyptians believed that the pyramids eased the monarchs' passage into the afterlife, and the sites served as centres of religious activity.
During the Old Kingdom, a period of Egyptian history that lasted from the late 26th century BC to the mid-22nd century BC, the Egyptians built their largest and most ambitious pyramids. The three enormous pyramids situated at Giza outside of Cairo were built by King Khufu, his son and his grandson in the Fourth Dynasty.
The largest, known as the Great Pyramid, was built by Khufu and is the only one of the 'Seven Wonders of the World' from antiquity that still survives. The Great Pyramid was built of approximately 2,3 million blocks of stone and stood nearly 50 stories high upon completion. Its base forms a nearly perfect and level square, with sides aligned to the four cardinal points of the compass.
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