www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler
Transporting stones: using sledges, tracks and rope rolls
A new method by Franz Löhner
Franz Löhner suggests, that the stones were transported up the pyramid with a system of sledges on tracks and rope roll stations installed directly on the pyramid flank. On this page you find the details about tracks and sledges.
Accepted doctrine says that huge construction ramps were used to haul the stone blocks on wooden sleds up the side of the pyramids. But with the help of rope roll stations no large ramps are necessary at all.
Transport up the pyramid flank with
Löhner's rope roll
best solution, that results in the least friction
are simple sledges on tracks. Round logs are laid down
lengthwise, so they form rails and are anchored to the ground. The stone
is laid on a sledge made with round crossbars (no rolling rollers) and
then, skidding diagonally over the logs; behind 2 men with strong levers,
in front a hauling team with ropes, the logs lubricated with watered oil.
(illus. 1 - sledge on round crossbars on tracks according
If a monument takes a long period of time to build, it is well worth while to build permanent tracks. While building the pyramid thousands of stone blocks had to be transported (total of 2'500'000 stones), always on the same routes, including the very large and heavy granite blocks. These blocks should be moved with as little friction as possible on a smooth and unobstructed surface.
Rollers can be used, if you have to move a stone a couple of meters or if the terrain is reasonably flat. But if you try to haul a stone up a steep and bumpy slope, you will overcome only a few meters per hour. But using rollers to move a sledge is impractical. Men have to continually carry rollers from the back to the front of the sledge as it moves forward. It is also cumbersome because the rollers can easily roll askew and at angles that are not 90 degrees to the sledge rails. (illus. 2 - carpentered sledge on diagonal rollers)
However for a one-time transport of a colossal statue (see below) it was not practical to build tracks but the logs were used several times. It is easier to lay them down lengthwise and not crossways in front of the sledge. (illus. 3 - rollers laid down lengthwise under sledge)
Egyptologists suggest that wooden timbers were laid like railway cross-ties (sleepers) on the ramps so that the heavy sledges could slide over them. The spaces between the ties would be filled with clay and water would be used for lubrication. But you have to bear in mind, that clay has some very fine but grainy components, those would rub continually against the wood and abrase and wear it down. Clay is not a good lubricator, on the contrary large braking forces accrue. (illus. 4 - sledge on ties)
Are tracks necessary?
500 stones daily had to be transported from the quarries to the pyramid. Because a stone was lashed to the same sledge for the whole route, we conclude:
Franz Löhner thinks, the sledges used for building the pyramids
were simple models and mass produced.
Actually only illustrations of perfectly carpentered sledges are known,
but those were probably used to transport very large and heavy loads or
very fragile statues. In ancient Egypt wood was very valuable and was
always used sparingly and if possible reused several times.
Franz Löhner has tried out several lubricants and had the best results
with slightly watered oil. By performing practical tests,
the Egyptians must have been able to reduce the friction between the materials
used to a low value on the scale.
On level surface and a slight slope, the friction between sledge and rail is very important, but on the pyramid flank it can nearly be disregarded. Experiments show, that only the hindmost cross beam of the sledge lies on the rail and with this kind of gradient, the pressure on the rail is not very high, because of the drag exerted by the haulers on the rope.
About every two meters special Tura-stones are left (larger illustration) to the left and right of the tracks and the ladder-like rig. These stones are left sticking out and are cut in such a way, that crossbars can be attached (a similar way to hold crossbeams was used in the Kings chamber to hold the portcullis slabs - photo). These crossbars are connected and attached to the tracks and the ladder-like rig used for the hauling teams. The crossbars only anchor the tracks and the ladder-like rig and don't have to bear the sledge or stone, the rope roll bears the main load.
The ladder-like rig is safeguarded with a guardrail made from ropes,
which is affixed at the outer side. This rail helps to prevent members
of the hauling teams from falling.
ropes (red) were attached
left and right to the cross beam in the front part of the sledge. In order
to create an even pull on each side of the sledge Franz Löhner suggests,
that the two ropes were attached in the form of a loop and the actual
hauling ropes (blue) were
attached in the middle. The danger of pulling one-sided is considerately
reduced and it is much easier when changing the hauling ropes at the intermediate
rope roll stations.
The old Egyptians used ropes made from hemp fibre (Cannabis sativa), which are made from the true hemp plant (called "smsm t" in Egyptian). A rope made from hemp with a width of 3cm can easily bear 3 tons (information of the German rope maker association), Guerrier even thinks up to 5.1 tons . If several rope strands are twisted together even more weight can be carried. Two ropes, if routed parallel would allow for extra safety. Ropes made from dom palm fibers (Hyphaene thebaica) are probably not strong enough.
Length of ropes: when using Löhners rope rolls on a slight incline
of 5°, a rope roll station is installed every 75m, so you need ropes
of about 85-90m length. On the 52° pyramid flank there are rope roll
stations every 30-37m, so you will need ropes of 45-50m length. Using
those lengths, the weight of the rope doesn't have to be taken in account.
The haulers form two groups to the left and right of the tracks. They walk in pairs, the rope in the middle of the two haulers. They grab a crossbar handle (wooden toggle) attached to the rope and, holding it in front of their chest, they push. The haulers are not fastened to an actual harness, because if an accident happens, the whole hauling team would be in danger of being thrown and hurling down the slope. The distance between two haulers walking one in front of the other should be about a meter, that is enough for them to be able to pull or push without hampering each other.
Considering, that thousands of stones had to be moved up the pyramid
flank, each well coordinated hauling teams had to be a reliable element
in the effort to build the pyramid. Graffiti
painted by these teams on the stone slabs of the pyramid were found -
with pride they gave themselves names like "friends of Khufu"!
The size of a hauling team depended on the weight of the stone and on the gradient that had to be surmounted. Heribert Illig and H.U. Niemitz calculate the following number of haulers for an average stone block of 2.5 tons:
To walk coordinated side by side is always difficult - the structure
of the hauling team like Franz Löhner suggests also has other advantages
- a maximum of 12 men are walking behind each other (48 = 2 times 2 groups
of 12 men), this can be coordinated with some ease. If we compare this
with the huge hauling teams that would have to walk on transport ramps,
4 rows or more, hauling the stones blocks and lever them around corners,
you have to say - why do it in a complicated way if you can also
do it in a simple way!
Franz Löhner stipulates that any method or theory for pyramid construction should fulfill the following 5 requirements, otherwise it should be rejected:
1. A solution that is as simple as possible using a technology that is
as simple as possible (Occam's razor)
Does the solution proposed on this page by Franz Löhner also meet those five requirements?
The solution suggested by Franz Löhner (sledges on tracks) is much simpler than what the Egyptologists suggest - huge ramps over which elaborately carpentered sledges are hauled over ties (sleepers) or with the help of rollers.
We know, that the Egyptians were able to move up to 700 tons, for example the Memnon colossus of Amenhotep II in Qurna or the colossus of Ramses II in Tanis and Ramesseum.
There are no illustrations of tracks used for sledges, but the Egyptologist Mark Lehner  describes an installation with wooden beams, that he found on the Giza plateau. He thinks, that the cross beams were put down, so the skids of the sledges could be hauled over them. The spaces between the ties would be filled with clay and water would be used for lubrication. Unfortunately wet clay, would abrase and wear the wood down in no time. Franz Löhner thinks, that the ancient Egyptians were smart and attached round logs on top of those beams, thus forming tracks. Now the sledges could be easily hauled, the cross beams of the sledge diagonally to the rails and those lubricated with watered oil. We think, that those findings on the Giza plateau need some reinterpretation.
The wood from the tracks was most probable reused. Large-sized wood had to be imported (for example cedar from Lebanon) and was much sought-after, so it was surely reused. There are not many findings of wood, but we know, that the Egyptians were excellent carpenters and joiners.
Building rails and tracks was well within the capabilities of the ancient Egyptians. Even without tracks it is possible to transport stones on sledges, but much more effort and much more haulers are needed (see remarks further up).
Statue of a winged human-headed bull being hauled on a sledge (from the palace of Sennacherib, Niniveh, about 700 BC) 
An interesting detail is shown here: The logs just in front of the sledge are not lain across but lengthwise. The ropes are attached to the sledge on the outside, one in front and one in the back. The frieze is one of several panels, all showing how the statue was first quarried and then transported to the palace. On the illustration of the whole frieze you can also see a wagon which is hauled by two men - but the heavy statue is hauled on the sledge! So although the Assyrians knew how to build wagons, they preferred sledges for heavy work. The wagon was not stable enough, the weight probably would have broken the axle of the wagon right away.
Pulling a colossal statue on a sledge from the stone quarries of Hatnub. From a wall painting in the tomb of Djehutiotep (Djehuti-Hetep or Djehuty-hotep) at Deir El Bersheh (El Bersha). Large illustration of the wall painting . Hieroglyphic text
The men standing in front of the statue is pouring a liquid from a jar onto the ground in front of the sledge. The accepted doctrine is, that this liquid is water, but Franz Löhner thinks, that watered oil was used to lubricate the tracks and the skids of the sledge. The hauling ropes are attached to a thicker rope at the front of the sledge in the same way Franz Löhner suggests. Three other men are carrying yokes with two jars of watered oil each, while other men walk behind the statue, behind them three men are carrying what appears to be a large lever or wooden beam.
The monolithic statue was probably 6.81m high (written in
an inscription on the left is the size of 13 cubits, 1 cubit = 0.524m
) and weighed 58 to 60 tons . Four teams in
pairs with 43 haulers each (= 172 men) are shown. If we take 12kp for
each man, then the 172 haulers will exert 2'064 kp. As a coefficient of
friction μs we calculate 0,03 (2'064
: 60'000 = 0,03), which is a realistic value if the skids of the sledge
and the tracks were lubricated with oil.
Illustration of the sledge transporting stones 1
F. Löhner's answer:
These methods for building the pyramids were first published 1993 in the book "Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide" by Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner.
 R. and D. Klemm
Steine und Steinbrüche im Alten Ägypten
www.cheops-pyramide.ch Copyright 2006 Franz Löhner and Teresa Zuberbühler