PYRAMIDS AND GEOPOLYMERS
BOOK: THE PYRAMIDS AN ENIGMA SOLVED
Prof. Joseph Davidovits
The pyramid building decline was barely noticeable at first. Khufu’s son, Djedefra, was enthroned and built a monument about five miles north of the Great Pyramid, at Aba Roash. He named it the Pyramid Which Is the Sehedu-Star. Because Djedefra reigned only eight years, the monument was never completed, although substantial progress was made. The causeway was probably the most elaborate ever, measuring 1.5 kilometers (1640 yards) long. The base of the pyramid measures 100 meters (109 yards) square, and was planned to be considerably smaller than the Great Pyramid.
Several blocks of red granite remaining on the eastern face suggest that the pyramid was at least partially cased with this material, which would help to make any low, unfinished structure even more attractive for exploitation. Today the pyramid is mostly dismantled. The site was used as a quarry even in modern times. In Pyramids and Temples of Giza Petrie reported that he was told that as many as 300 camel loads of stone were being removed from the site daily. This gives us additional appreciation of the difficulty that quarrying stone with primitive tools poses. Even in modern times it has proved far easier to remove and transport pyramid blocks than to quarry hard stone from bedrock close to a building site and dress it.
The next pharaoh to reign was another son of Khufu named Khafra (also Ra’Kha’ef, and, in Greek, Khephren), who built the second largest pyramid (Fig. 78). Today it is usually called the Second Pyramid of Giza, but the pharaoh named his monument the Great Pyramid. Its interior is not as elaborate as that of Khufu’s pyramid, although, the complex, with its impressive features, is the most well preserved of the Giza group.
Figure 78: Pyramid of Pharaoh Khafra (Khefren or Chephren), the Second Pyramid at Giza and cross section (1984).
In the Valley temple south of the Great Sphinx, two levels are made of blocks weighing fifty to eighty tons apiece and assembled with tongue-and-groove joints.As mentioned, some blocks weigh up to 500 tons. And Jomard, in Description de l’Egypte, remarked, “ Because of their size, I first thought these blocks were protrusions of bedrock, rough- cut and squared. I would have remained ignorant about this if I had not noticed the mortar which joins the layers ”. Despite these joints, the stones are considered to have been cut in situ because of their great size (Fig. 79). The issue of the transport and placement of these stones is, therefore, conveniently avoided. However, the joints, there to reduce stress, are perfectly obvious and are filled with mortar. Their presence indicates irrefutably that these blocks were not carved in situ. Furthermore, these blocks are clearly defined from the bedrock, or, in other words, unattached. Certainly, the transport and placement of these blocks would pose enormous problems with means available to the Egyptians of the Fourth Dynasty. This entire issue is settled by the use of cast stone.
Figure 79: From Khafra's Mortuary Temple to the east are (A) back of the Sphinx, (B) causeway leading to Khafra's Valley Temple (C) (1984).
Indeed, as discussed in Chapter 8, the lift lines in these blocks are not horizontal like the strata of Giza. They are instead wavy, caused by construction interruptions. The heights of the lift lines do not match the strata of Giza. And these blocks exhibit the same erosion pattern as do the pyramid blocks. Although the causeway might contain some protrusions of natural bedrock, for the most part, this same argument can be made for the blocks of the causeway.
The Valley temple was first excavated by Mariette in 1853. He found the famous diorite statue of Khafra in a well in the entranceway. The Valley temple was originally cased inside and out with finely jointed granite blocks, most of which have been removed from the outside. Inside, the granite blocks are in perfect condition, exhibiting the fabulous jigsaw joints, already described, which go around corners.
These and many other features in the pyramid and complex support the use of cast stone (Fig. 80). The two-ton portcullis mentioned in Chapter 1 is positioned in a narrow passageway and requires the efforts of at least forty men to raise it. The passageway itself has room for no more than eight men to work together. In the light of the evidence for cast stone already presented, it makes sense that the heavy portcullises of this and other pyramids were cast in place.
Figure 80: The author examines enormous blocks of the first step on the East Side of Khafra's pyramid. The curved angle joint at (A) suggests stones were cast against bare neighboring stones to produce close fit. (B) Shows thick mortar sealing the bottom of the mold (1984).
Too, features such as the uniform widths of blocks of the Second Pyramid demonstrate overwhelming evidence for stones cast in molds, and like the Great Pyramid blocks, the heights of the Second Pyramid blocks are staggered.
Several tiers of casing stones remain at the summit of the pyramid. Some are mottled and discolored by the growth of large patches of small, red lichen plants. Most, however, still maintain their smooth surface after thousands of years and reflect sunlight and white moonlight. The casing blocks fit together with tongue-and-groove joints. Certainly, casting these blocks makes more sense than carving them with primitive tools.
Figure 81: The three great pyramids of Giza, from left, are of Khufu, Khafra, and Menkure (Royal Air Force, 1924).
The pyramid itself measures 143.5 meters (157 yards) high and has a square base of 215.5 x 215.5 meters (235 square yards). Though not planned to be as large as Khufu’s pyramid, the Second Pyramid is built on higher ground, making the two superstructures appear as gigantic twins from a distance. No Egyptian pharaoh would ever again come close to building on this tremendous scale.
Figure 82: Cross section of Menkure's pyramid (Perring).
Suddenly, the decline becomes dramatic. The next king was Menkure (Mykerinos or Mycerinus in Greek). His pyramid, called by him the Divine Pyramid and today the Third Pyramid of Giza, was built of blocks of staggered di- mensions, similar to the pyramids of Khufu and Khafra (Fig. 81). It measures only 108.5 meters (118 yards) square and originally stood 66.5 meters (72 yards) high. It is seven percent the size of the Great Pyramid (Fig. 82).
Menkure reigned for eighteen years, from 2490 to 2472 BC. Considering the amount of construction work accomplished during Khufu’s twenty-year reign, Menkure would certainly have had time to build a larger monument, and yet, a sudden, dramatic decline occurred.
Menkure’s small pyramid is no aberration. The last king of the Fourth Dynasty was Shepsekaf, who reigned a little over four years. He did not plan a large pyramid. Instead, he built a different type of royal monument that was neither a pyramid nor a true mastaba. The structure he called the Purified Pyramid is today called Mastabet Fara’un, and it looks instead like a giant, rectangular sarcophagus of fine- quality stone. The structure measures 100 x 72 meters (109 x 78 yards) and is only 18 meters (19.6 yards) high.
The Fifth Dynasty (2465-2323 BC) marks the end of the Pyramid Age. In the order of their reign, Fifth Dynasty kings known to have built pyramids were Userkaf, who built at Saqqara; Sahur, Neferirkare, Niuserre, each of who built at Abusir; and Djedkara-Isesi and Unas, who also built at Saqqara. Their pyramids were much inferiors, shoddy by comparison with those of the Fourth Dynasty All were planned to be smaller than Menkure’s pyramid except for the one started for Neferirkare at Abusir.
Even though Menkure’s pyramid is small, it consists of solid core masonry, but the monument of Neferirkare, which was never completed, and those of the other Fifth Dynasty kings were built of loose stone rubble and sand, sandwiched between stone walls. The casing stones have been mostly removed and the structures are in ruin today. Most are little more than heaps of rubble, because this type of cons- truction rapidly degrades once the casing is badly damaged or removed. The remaining casing stones and the stone of descending tunnels, rafters, burial chambers, and sarcophagi appear to be agglomerated.
More emphasis was placed on building the surrounding funerary complex, in this period, of both stone and sun-dried mud brick. These once elegant structures also are in almost complete ruin. The funerary complexes required far less stone than did pyramids and, therefore, do not compensate for the reduced size of the pyramids. Causeways, which require a great deal of stone, were sometimes altered to accommodate more than one pyramid, and advantage was taken of the bedrock in causeway construction. Sahure’s causeway, for instance, changes direction twice to take advantage of natural features. It also contains blocks taken from Zoser’s complex. This relates to what I have termed the sixth false proof of Egyptology, discussed in Chapter 4, which discusses the blocks hauled to Unas’s pyramid.
Certain building blocks are much larger than those used in earlier pyramids. The burial chambers, for instance, have pointed ceilings made of enormous limestone support beams, sometimes measuring from 10 to 15 meters (11 to 16 yards) in length and weighing from forty to eighty tons apiece. The design of the ceilings consists of three layers of massive beams that support one another and increase in size as they ascend (Fig. 83).
Figure 83: Sahure's pyramid shows burial chamber of massive beams increasing in size as they ascend. (Borchardt)
Though these are not great pyramids, some have notable features. Userkaf ’s pyramid complex, located about 200 meters (218 yards) from the northeast corner of Zoser’s complex, exhibits beautiful reliefs in stone walls of the mortuary temple. And this type of fine artwork typifies Fifth Dynasty funerary complexes. Reliefs in the complexes of Sahure and Niuserre are even more elaborate. The reliefs in Sahure’s complex alone were estimated originally to have covered about 10,000 square meters (2.47 acres) of wall surface.
Egyptologists cannot explain why the Egyptians of this period dedicated themselves to lavishing decorations on temple walls instead of concentrating on building great pyramids, nor can they explain why the workers resorted to removing blocks from previous monuments to complete their construc- tion work. The reason, however, will become obvious.
The remarkably small pyramid of Unas is notable for the thousands of engraved hieroglyphs, painted blue, that cover the vestibule and white limestone walls of the burial chamber. These inscriptions, known as the Pyramid Texts, constitute the world’s oldest surviving religious writings. Egyptologists surmise that these sacred texts date to the earliest Egyptian times. The writings, compiled by the priests of Heliopolis, contain such archaic word forms, indicating extreme antiquity, as those praising Khnum, which are far more remote than the reign of Unas. Many portions preserved in Unas’s pyramid are not repeated on the walls of later monuments.
The power of the king began to dissipate after the Fourth Dynasty. The Fifth Dynasty kings could not hope to command the same degree of power and prestige as predecessors who had built the Great Pyramids. The governors of nomes gained local power and this is believed to have diminished central authority Kings started marrying the daughters of these rich, powerful governors apparently in an attempt to strengthen their own royal power.
Still, the times were prosperous, and despite some minor border skirmishes, the period was not characterized by war. Instead, the Fifth Dynasty is characterized by a revolution in art and literature. Trade flourished and there was an Egyptian fleet in the Mediterranean. At least four of the Fifth Dynasty kings are known to have sent expeditions to the Sinai. And royal expeditions sent to Nubia and Punt (Somaliland) brought back exotic goods.
Figure 84: The rise and fall of the pyramids. Volume in Millions of cubic meters of stone.
The chart of Fig. 84 representing the evolution of the bulk volume in pyramid building poses great questions.Why, with all of the prosperity, combined with the Egyptian’s accumulated expertise in engineering, organizational, and other skills, was there a great decline in building? Sneferu, Khufu, Khafra, together accomplished the bulk of pyramid building within less than 100 years.
It is difficult for Egyptologists to pinpoint the reason that Menkure (Mykerinos) and Fifth Dynasty pyramids were built inferior to former structures. Most advocate that the reduced size is attributed to a decline in the civilization itself. This is not a valid explanation because scholars evaluate the decline of the civilization not by hard evidence, but by the lack of building. Some scholars conjecture that the building trend was due to the consumption of something that leaves no trace. All agree that there is no one simple explanation.
A logical explanation comes to light with an understanding of how the pyramids were really built: the building decline may well have been caused by a depletion of mineral resources. Industrial quantities of mafkat minerals were removed from the Sinai mines during the Third and Fourth Dynasties, especially by Sneferu and the next few kings to follow. The mines of Wadi Maghara had been exploited by such kings as Zanakht, Zoser, Sekhemkhet, Sneferu, and
Figure 85: The only surviving record of the activities of Khufu (Kheops of Cheops) is scenes engraved in the Sinai indicating vigorous mining expeditions.
Khufu, who proudly planted their reliefs there. The only surviving records of Khufu’s activities are the reliefs at Wadi Maghara, indicative of important mining expeditions (Fig. 85). Sneferu heavily exploited the nearby mines of Serabit el- Khadim, where he was later worshipped by the local Sinai people. The decline was caused by the consumption of something quite traceable after all (Fig. 86).
Figure 86: Map of the Sinai region and location of the mines exploited by the Egyptians.
How else can the tremendous quantity of mafkat excavated in the Sinai be accounted for? The existence of great desert mining industries is well established. Expeditions yielded gold and silver, and semiprecious gems such as jasper, carnelian, and rock crystal. The major mineral outcrop in the Sinai was mafkat ores. The town of Gebtu (Coptos in Greek and Quift in modern times) was prominent throughout Egyptian history because of its geographical location closest to the Sinai. Mining operations were conducted by the army dispatched from Gebtu. The task force labored under Egyptian foremen in fortified camps along with the Sinai bedouins. Huge shipments of turquoise, green and blue malachite, and the other mafkat minerals listed in Table II were transported to Gebtu.
The exhaustive quantity of extracted mafkat is unaccounted for. Did it disappear through trade with other nations? Certainly the number of surviving jewelry items, amulets, and other artifacts made of or exhibiting turquoise and other blue or blue-green minerals is disproportionate to the amount of mafkat that was excavated. And artifacts found in regions known to have ancient trade with Egypt cannot account for the unusually high amount of mafkat extracted.
It has been estimated that more than 100,000 tons of mafkat ore were extracted, roughly the same as the amount of copper ore. If one assumes that mafkat made up ten per- cent of the cement, then the 100,000 tons would yield 1 mil- lion tons of cement. If one assumes that as much as ten per- cent of the pyramid limestone concrete is cement, then 1 million tons of cement would have yielded 10 million tons of limestone concrete. Because mafkat was only needed for high quality stone such as protective casing, the minerals from the Sinai mines would have served to build all of the pyramids and related stonework, such as interior and exterior casing stones, temples, capstones, and statuary.
If other minerals which react at ambient temperatures such as opal (hydrated silicon oxide), flint, volcanic glass, and amorphous materials were added to the mafkat, enough material was available to build all of the Great Pyramids. Copper slag from smelting also reacts at ambient temperatures with alkalis. Slag could also have been used to increase cement yield.
However, the most basic products to any agglomerated limestone pyramid blocks are the chemicals natron (the sodium carbonate salt very abundant in Egypt) and lime (calcium oxide CaO). These same elements were used by the Egyptians in other processes. Natron was a sacred product used not only for flux, but also for mummification and deification rites. Many of the same elements applicable for alchemical stone-making later played a role in glassmaking, enamels and ceramics. Advanced technology plays no part in the production of geopolymeric alchemical reactions. The natron salt is extraordinarily abundant in the deserts and salt lakes. Natron reacts with lime and water to produce caustic soda, the main ingredient for alchemically making stone (called the “ Second Alchemical Invention ” in Appendix 1).
The calcination of limestone into lime CaO requires temperatures in the range of 750°C-850°C (1380°F-1560°F), far less than the temperatures needed for smelting copper, but higher than those for making gypsum mortar.Yet,Egyptology postulates that lime was not calcined in Ancient Egypt until the Ptolomaic time. The experts rely on A. Lucas' statements by which the main reason for the lack of lime is the scarcity of fuel (wood) . But the Egyptians had several trees at their disposal: the acacia, the carob, two species of palm, the date and the doum, the zizyphus, the willow, the sycamore, the persea and the tamarisk. An abundance of lime-ash (CaO in ashes) would have been available by burning these woods for bread making and cooking in simple hearths. The appa- rent contradiction is due to the lack of adequate scientific method in the search for lime in the Old Kingdom pyramids. I had previously tackled this difficult issue in an earlier scientific study  and stated the following with respect to the detection of artificial limestone:
“ ... A problem of analysis, assuming that this stone is made by agglomerating limestone (aggregates) using lime as a binder, is that lime hardens over a period of time and becomes recarbonated into calcium carbonate [limestone]. It is impos- sible to distinguish a natural calcite microcrystal and a microcrystal of calcite which is the result of the recarbonation of lime. This is an obstacle involved in the detection of geopolymeric setting and a new technique must be developed to resolve it... ”.
In a recently published study, geochemist D.D. Klemm claimed having implemented a scientific technique for the detection of carbonated lime . With his new method, Klemm found lime in mortars at Zoser, Meidum, Khafra (Khefren or Chephren), more generally in pyramids of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Dynasties, whereas, according to Klemm: “ ... in the Sixth Dynasty lime disappears nearly within the mortars. May this be interpreted as a variation of accessibility of fuel [wood] and consequently of economic potential? ”
Referring to the postulate enacted by A. Lucas on the absence of sufficient wood to carry out the limestone calci- nation, Klemm mentioned in his study:
“ ... This paradigm of the nonexistence of lime mortar before Ptolemaic time was always repeated in literature until recently... J. Davidovits shocked the international Egyptological community with the hypothesis that the limestone that constitutes the major pyramids of the Old Kingdom should be artificial man-made stone.The authors of this article [D.D.Klemm and R.Klemm] investigated nearly 1200 limestones samples of the Old Kingdom pyramids, compared them with the respective quarry material from where they were mined and could prove his hypothesis to be obsolete (in 1988)... But on the other hand J. Davidovits is an international well reputed cement specialist, therefore the analytical data presented by him should be taken as serious... ”
Apparently, Klemm was able to develop a method for detecting lime in mortar only, not in the stones themselves. Yet he proved that lime mortar had been manufactured and he demonstrated that the pyramid builders of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Dynasties, did had the wood combustible to provide the lime-ash CaO. On the other hand, he did not find any lime in Sixth Dynasty mortars. Were they no longer ca- pable of cooking their breads in hearths? Was wood becoming scarce or did an erratic change of climate produce an agricultural disaster? I.E.S. Edwards mentioned a severe fa- mine at the end of the Fifth Dynasty (Unas) :
“ ... Possibly the most graphic scene of all illustrated the victims of a famine, whose bodies were so emaciated that they were reduced to little more than skin and bone... ”
Was the fall in pyramid construction actually attributed to the decrease of lime-ash CaO production, due to a severe shortage in wood combustible? This is quite pos- sible. Under Sneferu, Khufu (Kheops or Cheops) and Khafra (Khefren or Chephren), the entire country was indoctrinated with the gigantic task of supplying fuel for lime calcination. This intensive exploitation of agricultural resources may have generated an ecological disaster.
By the Sixth Dynasty, Egypt was less powerful and the power of the kings seems no longer to have been absolute. The decline of architecture worsened and even artwork was adversely affected. Statues dating to the Fifth and Sixth Dy- nasties are relatively rare, and the finest date from the early Fifth Dynasty. In contrast, it was estimated through an analysis of fragments that almost 500 statues originally adorned the three Great Pyramid complexes at Giza, collectively. Sixth Dynasty kings were Teti, Pepi I, Merenre, and Pepi II. Their pyramids were constructed like those of the Fifth Dynasty kings (Fig. 87). The surrounding funerary complexes and their reliefs, however, were far less elaborate.
High officials of this period undertook very ambitious, continuous foreign expeditions and quarry activities for which they were better rewarded by the kings than were their counterparts in earlier times. The foreign expeditions, which yielded various goods, may have been motivated by the need for new mineral sources. If this were the case, the pharaohs would indeed have been extremely dependent on their administrators, explaining why such officials were allowed increased privileges and far more lavish tombs.
Figure 87: Cross section of the pyramid of Teti shows enormous support beams (J.P. Lauer).
Objects found in Lebanon and bearing the name of Pepi II suggest a long, continuous trade in timber suitable for wood combustible or for molds. Pepi II’s pyramid was built better than most of this period, and it is relatively well preserved with some large limestone casing blocks still remaining on the western side. Of all the pharaohs, Pepi II would have had time to become Egypt’s most prolific builder had the means been available. Extraordinarily, he reigned for ninety-four years, the longest reign in history.
Pepi II was to be the last great pharaoh of the Old Kingdom. Within a few years after his death, Egypt was no longer a united nation. The country was in a state of anarchy, lasting more than 200 years. Political and social revolution and high mortality rates characterize the epoch.
The social disruption persisted from the Seventh through Tenth dynasties, called the First Intermediate Period. It appears that during the Seventh Dynasty ephemeral nobles of Memphis attempted to restore order and authority. According to inscriptions found at Gebtu, Eighth Dynasty kings of Memphis, also reigning for brief periods, extended control in Upper Egypt. Petty monarchs defended the nomes in which they resided not against foreign invaders, but against the many perils accompanying a breakdown in civilization.
The sparse monuments built during this era were made of poor-quality materials. Pottery replaced stone, metal, and faience in vessels. Structures never stood higher than 10 meters (10.9 yards), and most were left unfinished or have perished.
The town of Henen-Hesut (Heracleopolis) was the seat of government in Middle Egypt in the Ninth and Tenth Dy- nasties; the Thebans held control in the south. There was intermittent but intense fighting by these two factions until a Theban victory reunited Egypt in the Eleventh Dynasty, founding the period known as the Middle Kingdom. Thebes was established as the capital of Egypt and a king named Muntuhotep was enthroned. He ambitiously reorganized the land and sent expeditions to Sinai, Nubia, Syria, and Lybia. It was in this time that a new royal building tradition was first effectively and dramatically used to bury a king.