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Physicists from the FOM Foundation and the University of Amsterdam have discovered that the ancient Egyptians used a clever trick to make it easier to transport heavy pyramid stones by sledge.
The Egyptians moistened the sand over which the sledge moved.
By using the right quantity of water they could halve the number of workers needed.
These are small water droplets that bind the sand grains together.
Experiments have demonstrated that the correct amount of dampness in the sand halves the pulling force required.
The researchers published this discovery online on 29 April 2014 in Physical Review Letters.
For the construction of the pyramids, the ancient Egyptians had to transport heavy blocks of stone and large statues across the desert.
They determined both the required pulling force and the stiffness of the sand as a function of the quantity of water in the sand.
To determine the stiffness they used a rheometer, which shows how much force is needed to deform a certain volume of sand.
The Egyptians therefore placed the heavy objects on a sledge that workers pulled over the sand.Research from the University of Amsterdam has now revealed that the Egyptians probably made the desert sand in front of the sledge wet.