
How many workers are necessary to build Khufu's pyramid?
The detailed calculations about how many men were needed to quarry
the stones, transport them up the pyramid of Khufu are based on calculations
by Dr. Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner [1].
Stone quarries  Transport
by boat  Transport on land  Inspecting
and fitting the stones in the building yard  Up
the flank of the pyramid  Transport of the large
granite blocks  Laying the stone blocks and polishing
them  Total  Sources
Herodotus wrote about 2000 years later: "For this, they said, the
ten years were spent, and for the underground chambers on the hill"
and "For the making of the pyramid itself there passed a period of
twenty years" and "they worked by a hundred thousand men at
a time, for each three months continually" [6].
Modern egyptologists estimate a workforce of about 20'000 to 25'000 men
[2].
But were such legions of workers really necessary?
Dr. Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner calculate a total number
of 6'700 workers, which were necessary to build Khufu's pyramid.
Most of those were highly skilled craftsmen and artisans, not unskilled
workers or even slaves.
This is a rough estimate but it is based
on relatively accurate approximations. The calculations are based
on the minimum of workers necessary to finish the pyramid in 20 years
time. 
The number of persons employed probably varied due to daily and seasonal
fluctuations and also because the character of the building project was
changing. By the time less workers were needed to build the proper pyramid,
more workers were needed to build the temple, the satellite pyramids and
the causeway. We think, that it was also possible to build the pyramid
of Khufu in only 10 to 15 years, if at the beginning all four sides of
the pyramid were used to install tracks and rope roll stations and this
without raising the number of workers too much!
Löhner's rope roll
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
Stone quarries
Quarrying stones for the pyramid
Cutting granite with iron tools
Overview pyramid building
Stone quarries in Giza (limestone for the main
body of the pyramid) 
 In the stone quarries in Giza 500 blocks daily (an average of
431 blocks rounded to 500) were quarried from the wall in square
formats. Using the usual methods
where stones are levered with wooden beams from the bedrock a
team of 8 men can lever 2 to 3 stones per hour. For the 500 stones
daily you need 25 teams.
 80 men had to make sure, that the stones fell on soft ground
instead of hard rock. A bed of soft material like sand or soil
is put down where the stone is likely to fall. In such a way no
stones crack and no corners are chipped.
 6 men fasten the stone to a sledge (incl. overseer and water
carrier = 8 men). Calculating 4 hours to lever the stones and
tighten them on the sledge a team could handle 32 stones per day.
For 500 stones we need 16 teams (rounded)
Next step: Transporting the stones to the
pyramid building yard

200 
stonebreakers / quarrymen and stonemasons
(= 25 teams of 8 men) 
80 
men to make sure, the stones fall on a soft bed

130 
men for loading stones 
0410 
TOTAL 

Stone quarries in Tura (white limestone for
the outer casing) 
 The casing stones were primarily used during the first years
of construction, so we calculate with 10 instead of 20
years. The white stones for the outer casing were made
to order. The stone breakers cut the stone accurately to size
and with the right inclination of 52°. The angles of the outer
stones were cut here and not
at the pyramid. If there were any cracks, the stone was discarded
immediately. The corner stones had to meet even stricter criteria.
 This precise work was slower, so we calculate that a team (see
above) required 75 minutes for breaking off a stone. The daily
output was around 6.5 stones per team. If we stipulate, that the
work should be finished in 10 years, 69 Tura stones should be
quarried per day (assuming 290 working days per year). We calculate
11 teams (88 men), together with helpers, overseers etc. about
120 men.
 40 men had to make sure, that the stones fell on soft ground
instead of hard rock.
 The stones had to be handled with care when loading them on
the sledges. The wooden levers were wrapped with straw and the
cargo was specially secured. A 8menteam probably only handled
3 stones per hour which works out to 25 stones per day. With 69
stones per day we need 3 teams of 8 men each (=24 men, rounded
to 30 men).
 The stones had to be transported to the Nile. The sledges with
the stones were loaded on boats and shipped to Giza. Hauling teams
of 15 men [3] haul the stones down to the
Nile. They can handle 6 stones daily. We calculate 12 teams of
15 men each, adding 10 men for supervising and helpers we get
190 men.
Next step: Transport to Giza on the Nile

120 
stonebreakers / quarrymen and stonemasons
(11 teams of 8 men incl. overseer, helpers, water carriers) 
40 
men to make sure, the stones fall on a soft bed

30 
men for loading stones
(3 teams of 8 men, rounded) 
190 
haulers
(12 teams of 15 men plus 10 helpers) 
0380

TOTAL 

Stone quarries in Aswan (granite for the King's
Chamber and the Grand Gallery) 
 In the open quarries of Aswan the granite was worked as follows
(more information): The stone
was pried from the bedrock by inserting several wedges. First
a series of holes has to be drilled. We propose, that like in
the ancient quarries of Europe not an actual drill was used but
a forged chisel. With the hard granite this is only possible with
iron tools. The stone has to be cut along its
cleavage plane, that is the structure by which certain rocks split
most readily.
 A man sits on the stone holding the chisel perpendicular to
the surface to where a hole is placed and three men pound on the
chisel with sledge hammers by turns. After each hit the chisel
is rotated by one eighth until the hole is 10 to 15cm deep. A
row of holes is drilled in such a way along the cleavage. Now
a pair of metal shims are inserted in each hole with a wedge between
and lubricated. Each wedge in the row is pounded until a thin
crack forms between the wedges and the rock can be levered apart.
 For the granite stones we need 2 teams in two shifts with one
man holding the chisel and 9 men (3 times 3 men) pounding. Each
half hour the shift is relieved, because this kind of work is
very exhausting. An average granite stone can be cut in such a
way in one day. Even calculating that it takes 20 times longer
to cut a granite stone (1 block every 20 days) it was still possible
to cut the required blocks in only 10 years.
 A team of 20 men is loading the granite blocks onto sledges
and 25 men haul them to the harbor (1.5km away  we calculate
120 min. to haul a stone there and walk back). A team can haul
4 stones per day (with rope rolls). Still tied to their sledges
the stones are shipped down the Nile to Giza.
 If one of the large 40tons block had to be transported, additional
workers from other quarries were asked to help.
Next step: Transport to Giza on the Nile

80 
stonebreakers / quarrymen
(4 teams of 20 men) 
30 
stonemasons 
29 
blacksmiths and helpers 
10 
masters, scribes, water carriers, helpers etc. 
20 
men for loading stones 
25 
haulers 
1 
overseer 
0200 
TOTAL 


180 
additional large team for transporting the occasional 40tons
stone 
0380 
FINAL TOTAL 

TOTALLY 1170 workers in the quarries
are extracting all the stones necessary by breaking them from the
bedrock and into square blocks. 
Transporting the stones by boat and barge
Shipping the stone blocks down the Nile to Giza
Overview pyramid building
Tura flotilla 
 69 stones had to be transported daily to Giza from the Tura
quarries. One ship could transport about 10 stones, so 7 ships
were necessary.
 For one transport a full day was necessary (a few kilometers
up the Nile, then crossing the river, the next 67km the barge
was towed on the Nile channel, some time to unload and for the
trip back). We calculate 15 men per barge.
Next step: Transport from the harbor to the
pyramid building yard. 
105 
ferrymen
(7 teams of 15 men) 
15 
helpers 
140 
men for towing barges
(7 teams of 20 men) 
20 
supervision 
0280 
TOTAL 

Assuan (Aswan) flotilla 
 A large river barge with a crew of about 20 men could load about
4 small granite blocks. The journey down the Nile and the Nile
channels lasted at least 20 days until they reached the Giza harbor.
For the journey back they needed at least as much time. We calculate
2 months per load.
 For the 500 granite blocks  for some of the larger ones you
needed a ship alone  we need about 350 runs. We calculate an
average of 10 stones per ship and need 10 ships to complete the
task in 8 years.
 We don't know if the ships sailed on the Nile channels or if
they were towed, so we add 6 teams of 30 men for towing. For maintenance
we add 50 carpenters and for coordination an extra 20 men.
Next step: Transport from the harbor to
the pyramid building yard. 
200 
skippers
(10 ships with 20 men) 
180 
men for towing barges close to the pyramids
(6 teams of 30 men) 
50 
carpenters 
20 
coordination etc. 
0450 
TOTAL 

Shipping of material for general use 
 We think, that to transport all additional materials such as
wood, ropes, food etc. we need about twice as much skippers as
for transporting the Tura stones.


TOTALLY 1290 skippers were responsible
for transporting all the stone blocks and other materials needed on
the Nile to the harbor of Giza. 
Transport on land up to the building yard
Transporting the stone blocks using a sledge
on tracks
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient
of friction necessary
Transport from the Giza stone quarries to the
building yard 
 To transport 500 stones daily from the three Giza quarries to
the building yard at the pyramid you need 3 hauling routes (tracks
for sledges) with rope rolls
every 75m (= 300 meters distance). Because it is a slight slope
we need 12 hauling teams of 30 men each [3].
With two shifts we double those numbers, so one team can haul
while the other walks back to the starting point. One track can
deliver a stone every 2 minutes, the transportation capacity of
all the tracks together is one stone every 40 seconds (1 stone
per minute is requested [4]).
 At the beginning of the construction, when most
of the stones are required, there were probably more than
3 hauling routes in service. With the help of Löhner's rope
roll the stones could be hauled up on all 4 sides of the pyramid.
It seems to be logical to use larger capacities if it doesn't
require much additional effort and resources.
 The sledges were used daily
and had to be fixed and overhauled. For this carpenters had to
be employed.
Next step: cutting the stone blocks to size 
720 
haulers from the quarries to the building yard
(24 teams of 30 men) 
80 
additional helpers (carpenters, greasers, water carriers) 
0800 
TOTAL 

Transport from the harbor to the building yard 
 69 stones arriving from the Tura quarries had to be transported
daily from the harbor to the building yard (= transport of all
required blocks during 10 years). The stones arrived already tied
to the sledges and were unloaded on special loading bays straight
to the tracks.
 We need a hauling track with rope rolls every 75m (= 525m route,
perhaps longer), so we need 7 hauling teams of 22 men each. We
add an other team if there are additional ships landing or specially
large blocks have to be moved.
Next step: Inspecting the stones 
176 
haulers from the harbor (= 8 teams of 22 men) 
44 
additional helpers 
0220 
TOTAL 

TOTALLY 1020 workers were
hauling all the stone blocks necessary for building the pyramid from
the Giza quarries and from the harbor to the building yard. 
Inspecting and fitting the stones in the building yard and transporting
them to the foot of the pyramid
The pyramid building yard  the center of
the construction project
Building yard 
 This is the center of the whole construction site. All the work,
all assignments are planned and coordinated here. The route of
each stone has to be scheduled and its shape and size and its
intended place on the pyramid has to be decided in advance.
 At the building yard the stones were placed in the right order
to see if they fit together. This was written down on the blocks
and then they were transported, still tied to the same sledge,
in the correct order to the building site and up the flank of
the pyramid.
 Each stone was examined by a master builder and most passed
without any changes necessary. But sometimes a stone with the
wrong size or shape was delivered or a flawed stone had to be
replaced. At the wokshop those stones were cut to the size and
shape required.
 For a standard size stone (stone blocks from the Giza quarries)
a stonemason needed about 4 to 5 hours with good tools. For a
casing stone (from the Tura quarries) about 810 hours, for a
corner stone probably more like 1012 hours. To process the 500
stones daily about 300 stonemasons were needed and as much helpers.
 An important part was played by the smiths that had to manufacture
and maintain the iron tools.
We calculate 100 smiths and twice as much additional helpers.

300 
stonemasons 
300 
helpers in the workshop
(water carriers, removal of scrap, tool suppliers) 
100 
smiths 
200 
supporting workers and helpers
(men at the bellows, men supplying material needed, water
carriers etc.)

120 
supervising, administration, planning etc. 
1020 
TOTAL 

Transport from the building yard to the foot
of the pyramid 
 To transport the stones from the building yard to the foot of
the pyramid (about 200m) it was expedient to install tracks that
could be shifted and which connected to the five tracks (minimum)
that were leading up the pyramid flank.
 First we need 8 teams of 18 men each to maneuver the stones
from the building yard onto the short tracks. These teams are
large, because this had to be accomplished by levering each block.
Then we calculate 5 teams of 15 men each [3]
for hauling the stones over these tracks on even ground.
 The number of teams can be increased, if there are more than
5 tracks leading up the flank of the pyramid. Since this can considerately
reduce the time needed for the whole building process, it seems
logical, that there were more tracks in use. Our calculations
on this page are based on the minimum of workers needed to finish
the pyramid in 20 years time.

75 
haulers on even ground (= 5 teams of 15 men) 
150 
haulers from the building yard to the beginning of the tracks
at the pyramid (= 8 teams of 18 men) 
75 
additional helpers 
0300 
TOTAL 

TOTALLY 1320 workers were processing
the stone blocks, fitting them together and preparing them for the
transfer to the pyramid tracks. 
Transporting the stones up the flank of the pyramid
Löhner's rope roll
Transport up the pyramid flank with Löhner's
rope roll
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient
of friction necessary
Numbers and figures of the Cheopspyramid
(pyramid of Khufu)
On the flank of the pyramid 
 The stones arrived still tied to the sledge and were hauled
up the flank. Here at least 5 tracks were installed with pairs
of rope roll stations each 35 meters. Thanks to the rope roll
an average stone block could be hauled up the flank with a team
of only 55 men [3].
 Because the volume of stones needed is less with every new layer,
those five tracks were reduced over time first to 3 then to a
single track which leads up to the very tip of the pyramid.
 For the first 35 meters we calculate 550 men to operate the
five tracks (for each track two double teams = 110 men, one team
hauling, one walking back). Then the tracks are reduced to 3 units.
We calculate 2 pairs or 6 double teams (= 660 men). For the single
track leading up to the top which has 4 rope roll stations we
need 4 double teams (= 440 men).
 We calculate that a maximum of 880 men were needed, namely when
there were 4 tracks in use with 2 stations a piece.
 Possibly the Egyptians built the tracks not only on the southern
side of the pyramid but also on the west and east, so it was possible
that more hauling teams were needed (1 double team per track per
3037m = 110 men). Installing more tracks would of course also
make a big difference in the time needed to finish building the
pyramids.

5 hauling tracks up to 37m 
3 hauling tracks up from 37m to 75m 
1 hauling track up to the top of the pyramid (146.59m) 
0880 
TOTAL 

A MAXIMUM of 880 workers were
necessary to transport the stones for the pyramid from the base of
the pyramid to the planned height. 
Transporting the large granite blocks from the harbor to the intended
height
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
Cutting granite with iron tools
Transport of the heavy granite stone blocks 
 For transporting the heavy granite blocks of up to 4050 tons,
a separate track was built, because the transport was more difficult.
This track went from the harbor up to the pyramid and without
stopping straight up the flank of the pyramid (probably on the
eastern or northern side). This track had to be specially
constructed to bear more weight and with more rope rolls.
 If one of the very large granite beams arrived at the harbor,
workers from other parts of the building site were recruited to
help. But on the flank of the pyramid only seasoned workers were
employed, because work here was more demanding.
 Since the granite blocks were made to measure in Assuan it was
only necessary to slightly adjust or change them at the building
yard.

200 
Additional haulers for transporting the granite
stones from the harbor to the building yard 
0200 
TOTAL 

TOTALLY 200 additional workers
were needed to haul the large granite blocks from the harbor
to the building yard. 
Laying the stone blocks and polishing the casing blocks
The outer casing stones of the pyramid
Transporting the large granite blocks
up the pyramid
Pyramid plateau 
 On the working plateau of the frustum, room was very limited,
so each gang had its specific work allocated. Once the stones
arrived on the pyramid plateau, they were hauled on movable tracks
to the right place where they were levered and layed down in a
specific order.
 Specially the outer casing stones had to be aligned in a precise
pattern and fitted neatly to their neighbor stone. Then the outer
casing stones were burnished and polished (but not bevelled 
that was done at the quarry) while the next layer of stones was
laid down. A team of 20 polishers could finish a surface of about
1.5m² per day.
 Over the whole construction period we calculate with an average
of 4 tracks leading up, so we need 4 time 7 stone laying teams
of 26 men each.

728 
Haulers and stone layers (= 28 stone laying teams
of 26 men) 
20 
polishers 
72 
building supervision and helpers 
0820 
TOTAL 

TOTALLY 820 workers are laying down
the stones on the pyramid plateau in a specific order, fitting them
and polishing the outer casing blocks. 
Rough calculations give a total
number of 6700 workers for the construction of Khufu's pyramid
[1]
1170 workers in the stone quarries
1290 skippers on the Nile
1020 workers for the land transport
1320 workers in the building yard and at the foot of the pyramid
880 workers on the pyramid flank
200 workers for transporting the granite blocks
820 workers to position the stone blocks on the pyramid plateau

Even if we increase these numbers they are still at the scale
of a large construction site  one, the ancient Egyptians could feed and
pay for!
Overview pyramid building
These calculations show, that it was possible to build the pyramids without
the numerous (slave?) workers most Egyptologists suggest. This was a very
large, but manageable construction site, where skilled workers were employed
over a number of years, each worker with a very precise assignment as
part of a large planned undertaking  building the Great Pyramid of Giza!
For comparison: a known egyptologist calculates ([5]
for the Dahshur pyramid) 30 men per 2.5 ton block just for the transport
from the quarries and up the pyramid. Our calculations show, that without
the rope roll, 30 haulers are not enough for the angle of inclination
used for the ramps. We calculate with 37 haulers at an inclination of
5° / 136 haulers at 10° inclination. But other actors are even
more important: First you also have to consider, that with the ramps there
is only one hauling route going up, not five track systems. Second the
sledge plus the hauling team walking in front of it use much more space
than the sledge and the hauling team walking down on the side. Third,
the haulers have to haul much longer distances and forth, each time you
have to go around a corner you have to use levers which really takes a
lot of time! Most egyptologists think 20'000 to 25'000 workers were necessary.
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient
of friction necessary (details)
Sources
[1] The numbers on this page were first published 1993
in the book by Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner
"Der Bau der CheopsPyramide" and were calculated again for
this website
[2] R. Stadelmann Die grossen
Pyramiden von Giza
[3] Detailed calculations:
 Pyramid flank (52°): we get a hauling team of 55 men (48 haulers,
a overseer, lubricator and men for checking the tracks and the ropes,
stopping the stones from slipping down the tracks and for working the
rope roll)
 Gradient of 5°: For small auxiliary ramps we need 24 haulers. Together
with 2 men in reserve and 4 additional workers we get a hauling team of
30 men.
 On level surface: here 12 haulers are enough. Including a overseer,
and some men to take care of the tracks and ropes we get a hauling team
of 15 men.
[4] Detailed calculations:
Assuming 20 years to build the pyramid of Khufu (2'500'000 stones) we
calculate 342 stones that had to be moved daily (working during 365 days
a year) or 431 stones daily (working during 290 days a year). Assuming
a 10hour day a stone every 2 minutes / with a 8hour day a stone every
minute had to be hauled up the pyramid.
[5] M. Lehner The Complete Pyramids
of Egypt page 22
[6] Herodotus was a Greek historian who lived about 2000 years later and
wrote about how Cheops (Greek name for Khufu) and his sons build the Pyramids
of Giza. He also insinuated, that the pharaohs had all kinds of vices.
He wrote, that Cheops, "to such a pitch of wickedness, that being
in want of money he caused his own daughter to sit in the stews"
(= brothel). He also describes machines that were used for constructing
the pyramids (translated as "hoisting apparatus" in some texts)
and says, that Cheops must have spent a lot of money for the iron used
for building the pyramids. (Herodotus,
The Histories second Book, Numbers 124 to 128)
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