Pyramid construction with a rope roll. Theory of Franz Löhner

How were the pyramids built?

The pyramid building yard

A new method by Franz Löhner

The whole construction project had to be planned and then its execution controlled up to the placement of each individual stone - from the core stones, to the granite beams for the King's chamber and from the outer casing to capping the pyramid with the pyramidion.
Building yard - Route of a stone - Planning - Rope roll stations where? - Sources


The building yard

The construction project had to be planned methodically from quarrying the right kind and size of stone to transporting them to Giza at the right time. The building yard is the center of the whole pyramid construction project, all assignments are planned and coordinated here, all the important decisions made and the assignments given to the appropriate work gang.

The following tasks have to be coordinated:

  • Coordination of the whole undertaking (building sequence, controlling the pyramid form, projects in the surroundings etc.)
  • Allocation of assignments to the work gangs
  • Manufacture and maintenance of tracks, sledges, ropes and rope rolls
  • Manufacture and maintenance of all tools
  • Procuring housing, food and water for all pyramid workers


Transporting stones from the quarry to the top of the pyramid

Important: Each stone has to be cut to order, delivered on schedule, controlled and if necessary changed, transported up the pyramid flank on schedule and layed down on schedule!
Cutting granite with iron tools

1. New The stone is cut in the quarry to the dimension and shape ordered (doctrine = only the underside is dressed, the stones are first brought up the pyramid and then the rest is dressed)
2. New The stones are only moved with levers at the very beginning (in the quarry) and at the very end, when they are already on the pyramid frustum. In between they are tied all the time to a sledge and pulled on tracks (doctrine = with nearly all ramp models the stone has to be levered around corners or at least on the last 50 meters of the pyramid height)
3. New The stone is tied to the same sledge during the whole journey from the quarry until it reaches its intended place on the pyramid plateau. If the shape of the stone needs to be changed by a stonemason, it is done in his workshop at the foot of the pyramid (doctrine = controlling and fitting of the stones is done on the pyramid plateau)
4. New On the pyramid plateau the stone is layed at its intended place. The outer stones are fitted and if necessary polished straight away (doctrine = the extra stone of the casing blocks is beveled when the stone is already on the pyramid. They are polished at the very end, while the ramps are dismantled)

The following assignments have to be coordinated, until a stone arrives at its intended place on the pyramid plateau:

The route of each stone had to be scheduled and its shape and size and its intended place on the pyramid had to be decided. There were probably several building yards, all close to the pyramid, probably on the south, where most of the tracks converge.

  • The stone, including special stones like corner stones, casing stones from Tura (Turah) and granite blocks are ordered by the master builder for a certain point in time and are made to measure
  • Most stones are a standard size and shape, either core stones or facing stones
  • The stones are split and and prepared accurate to dimension and size in the quarries. The stones for the outer casing of the pyramid were roughly cut already in the Tura quarries, beveled and polished
  • The stones are tied to the sledges and transported on tracks from the harbor or from the quarries to the pyramid
  • Each stone is examined by the master builder and most pass without any changes necessary. But sometimes a stone with the wrong size or shape is delivered or a flawed stone has to be replaced. At the building yard those stones are changed and cut to the size and shape required.
  • For each stone its intended place on the pyramid is decided according to a site plan
  • Then it is earmarked accordantly (graffiti [1])
  • If possible it is transported to the construction site in a specific sequence
  • If this is not possible the stone is stored until it will be used (this time should be as short as possible, because the stones take up a lot of room)
  • The sledge with the stone is transported carefully up the tracks on the pyramid flank
  • On the pyramid plateau it is delivered to its intended place on tracks. It is known, that on the core on which the casing fitted, there are lines drawn on the horizontal surfaces, showing where each casing stone was to be placed on those below it [4]
  • The sledge is removed and the stone is levered exactly to where it is aligned in a precise pattern and layed next to its intended neighbor stone
  • If necessary, small adjustments are made, the seams filled and the surface polished and burnished. Large changes have to be made in advance in the workshops down at the foot of the pyramid

The outer casing stones of the pyramid


Planning the construction sequence


60- Höhenlinie auf dem Giza-Plateu bei der Cheops-Pyramide1. The form, size and exact alignment of the pyramid had to be planned, its height and the angle of inclination (by choosing the seked), as well as the position of the shafts and chambers inside the pyramid were determined and the temple and the causeway planned.

2.It was very important, to choose the right building ground. Major problems had developed while building other pyramids because the ground was too soft and yielded, and some projects had to be altered considerately or even failed. The Giza plateau is very stable ground, mostly bedrock which consist of nummulite limestone from the so called Mokattam formation [1]. A disadvantage is, that digging shafts and chambers in this kind of hard stone is much more difficult.

3. Secondly, it was important to choose a place as close as possible to the harbor of the Nile channel and to the quarries on the Giza plateau. The pyramid of Khufu (Cheops-pyramid) was probably built in the northeast of the Giza plateau, because there was a large rock outcropping over which the pyramid could be built. We don't know how large the rock core under the pyramid is, the precise height is only known, where it can be seen at the corners of the pyramid and in the shafts (Illustration = orange).

The builders of Khufu's pyramid took advantage of the rock outcropping to both increase the stability of its core, as well as to conserve the amount of building materials needed for its construction. Some speculate, that the rock core might reach nearly up to underneath the floor of the queens chamber, which lies on 20 m [1], but for sure we only know, that it reaches 7.9 meters at one of the shafts [3].

Khufu's pyramid is built on a slightly sloping base. Actually the ancient builders were required to cut down the northwest corner of the platform, while the southwest corner had to be built up.

The way the Giza plateau looks nowadays is not the way it looked during Khufu's reign. A large part of the rock was used for building the three pyramids, probably around 4'700'000 m³ of limestone [1] from the 3 quarries on the Giza Plateau.
Large map of the Giza plateau with contour lines (after GPMP)
Plan of the Giza plateau with the harbor and the quarries


Where were Franz Löhner's rope roll stations used?

A 50 men-hauling team for a 2.5 tons stone [2] seems to be realistic and manageable. Anything larger certainly poses problems, specially considering the length of the whole contraption. Without the rope roll this kind of team can only surmount inclinations of 0° to 5°. According to our calculations an inclinations of 10° or more would need a hauling team of over 400 men - that is too much!
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary

A high gradient is no problem at all, if you use Löhner's rope roll - on the contrary, the larger the better.
Löhner's rope roll
Transporting the stone blocks using a sledge on tracks

Using the rope roll is already worth while on a moderate inclination of 5°, and inclinations of 10° or more virtually can not be managed without the rope roll.

Cross section of the Giza plateau from West to East through the middle of the Khufu Pyramid with angles of inclination

Cross section of the Giza plateau from West to East through the center of the pyramid of Khufu. Degrees = approx. inclination, that a sledge with a stone has to negotiate (calculated from the drawing). Elevation in meters above sea level (from GPMP).

Giza quarry to the foot of the pyramid:
The core blocks for the pyramid were delivered to the building site directly from the adjacent quarry, which lie about 300m distance from the pyramid of Khufu. About 15 to 20 meters height had to be surmounted. Probably auxiliary ramps and tracks were built - where the angle was more than 5 degrees, rope rolls had to be used. But because it is easier to walk beside the tracks and not on top of them, we suggest, that rope rolls were used for the whole route.
Quarrying stones for the pyramid (with map)

Harbor to the foot of the pyramid:
The Tura limestones (Turah) and the large granite blocks arrived in the harbor of Giza (the Nile channel lies on approx. 17m above sea level, the exact position of the harbor is unknown) and had to be transported over a distance of 500-600 meters and overcome 40 meters difference in height to the foot of the pyramid. Most of the route is not very steep - the average angle of inclination is about 4° - but there are some stretches with 8° to 24° inclination, that have to be negotiated until you reach the plateau. At a minimum you have to use the rope roll for those stretches. Our calculations show, when using rope rolls, a 2.5 tons block at an inclination of 5° necessitates 23 haulers (without rope roll 37 haulers), at 10° 30 haulers (without rope roll 136 haulers) and at 30° 37 haulers (without rope roll not possible). So we think it was expedient to use rope rolls for the whole route and build a rope roll station every 75 meters.

These gradients are no problem at all to surmount, if you use Franz Löhner's rope roll. Without the help of the rope roll those gradients could only be managed with large ramps. Calculations show, that with a 5° angle of inclination you need a ramp of 114m to surmount 10 meters, with a inclination of 10° you need a ramp of 56 meters.

Pyramid flank:
The angle of inclination of the pyramid flank is 52° - here you can't manage without the rope roll. Every 30-37m height a rope roll station is anchored and for the heavy granite beams a special track is installed, probably on the eastern flank of the pyramid. At the first stage of building several tracks are installed, later they are reduced, until there is only one track leading up.
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's rope roll
Transporting the large granite blocks up the pyramid

The apex (tip) of the pyramid:
One last track with the rope roll stations every 35 meters height is leading directly up the flank to the very top of the pyramid. The somewhat smaller stones for the last meters could be transported with sledges with no problems. The pyramidion was relatively heavy and some special provisions had to be made.
Transporting the pyramidion to the top of the pyramid



[1] R. Stadelmann Die grossen Pyramiden von Giza
[2] D. Arnold Building in Egypt
The stone blocks had an average size of 127 x 127 x 71cm, which computes into a weigth of 2.9 tons. More information.
[3] V. Maragioglio und C. Rinaldi Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite. Le grande piramide di Cheope
[4] W. Petrie The Pyramids and Temples of Gizeh



Copyright 2006:

Franz Löhner

Concept and Design, English Texts:

Teresa (Zubi) Zuberbühler

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