Pyramid construction with a rope roll. Theory of Franz Löhner

An overview: How was Khufu's pyramid built?

Building the pyramids step by step

A new method by Franz Löhner

Which steps were necessary from quarrying the stones to transporting them to the Giza plateau? How can the stones be transported up the flank of the pyramid and when was the building project completed with placing the pyramidion on the top of the pyramid?
Stone quarries and transport down the Nile - Transport on land - The pyramid building yard - Planning the construction project - Construction steps - Workers needed - Sources


Stone quarries and transport with boats on the Nile

The main bulk of the stones used for the pyramid was quarried on the Giza plateau itself. White limestone for the casing was brought with barges on the Nile from Tura further southeast and the heavy granite beams for the Kings chamber and the Grand Gallery were brought from the Aswan quarries 934 km on the river to the south.
Shipping the stone blocks down the Nile to Giza
Quarrying stones for the pyramid

Since Khufu's pyramid was the first where a lot of granite was used, Franz Löhner thinks, that iron tools were used, not as the accepted doctrine suggests copper tools. Copper tools can be used for limestones for certain purposes, but they wear down much to quickly to be of any use with the hard granite.
Cutting granite with iron tools


Transport on land with sledges on tracks and the rope roll

Stones had to be transported from the harbor and from the adjacent quarries to the building yard which was situated close to the pyramid. The ancient Egyptians didn't know the horse or the wheel yet and used sledges to transport stones. Franz Löhner thinks, that they build wooden tracks for the sledges, since that is much easier than hauling the sledges on bare rock, mud bricks or gravel.
Transporting the stone blocks using a sledge on tracks

For transporting materials on a slope of an angle of inclination of 5° or more it is expedient to use Löhner's rope roll. This device is made of wood and was installed every 75m or so on the auxiliary ramp that leads from the harbor to the building yard. Ropes were attached to the sledge, brought up to the rope roll, slung over the cross-piece of the rope roll and back. Two hauler teams (11 men each for a slope of 5°) don't walk up the slope - on the contrary, they walk downwards, pulling the rope which is turned round through the rope roll. In such a way they can add their own weight to their strength to pull the stone up.
Starting page English: Franz Löhner's rope roll
Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary


The pyramid 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.

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!
The pyramid building yard - the center of the construction project


Planning the construction project

First the form, size and exact alignment of the pyramid had to be planned and it was also very important, to choose the right building ground. Of course it was also imperative to choose a place as close as possible to the harbor at the Nile channel and to the quarries on the Giza plateau, so it was not necessaryto transport the stones too far. Then the builders of Khufu's pyramid also took advantage of a rock outcropping to both increase the stability of its core, as well as to reduce the amount of building materials needed for its construction. Egyptologists calculate, that 2'583'283m³ [7] to 2'326'501m³ [5] of limestone were used (volume of the pyramid including the rock core = 2'592'968.43m³).
The pyramid building yard - the center of the construction project
Alignment of the pyramids and controlling the shape of the pyramid


Probable construction steps

Construction activity starts on the Giza plateau: Preparation of the building yard
  • Planning the pyramid construction project
  • Choosing the building ground. This was very important, because major problems had developed while building other pyramids because the ground was too soft and yieldedGiza-Plateau bwfore the pyramid is built. Placement of underground passages
  • Alignment of the pyramid (perhaps the satellite pyramid G1d is built to help aligning Khufu's pyramid exactly to the north)
  • The base area and the outer fundament are leveled, the pyramid corners and the edges measured. For the corner stones a special bed is cut, so they can support and absorb the enormous weight of the pyramid that presses down and sidewards. The fundament is layed down with a slight gradient of 2-3° inwards [1].
  • Crevices or cracks on the plateau are filled and if necessary blocked up with large stones, so the basalt pavement could later be layed on a level surface.
  • In the center, the rock is left standing but is terraced, so a rock outcropping with steps is left in the middle [1]. This is important, because the rock core has a different coefficient of shrinkage than the stone blocks that are used for the pyramid body. If you don't consider this fact, the structure will develop displacements and fissures. To avoid this you have to interlock the building stones with the bedrock. So called headers are used, which are long stones reaching into the rock and tying them together.
  • The building yard (stone masons workshop, stone storage, repository, building sheds) and quarters for 4240 pyramid workers (see calculations) are erected.
  • Auxiliary ramps with tracks are built from the quarries and from the harbor to the foot of the pyramid. If the gradient is more than 5° it was worth using Löhner's rope rolls (Calculating the force and kinetic coefficient of friction necessary).
  • Egyptologists think, that first the underground passages and chambers were built before the construction of the actual pyramid was started [1].


Up to 7 meters height:
The blocks of the lowest 10 layers are the largest - 1m by 2.5m and 1-1.5m high, weighting 6.5 - 10 tons [2]. They were build up around the rock outcropping until at least 7 meters height.Hilfsrampe bis 7m Höhe an PyramidenseiteWhile building the first 7 meters it is not yet possible to anchor tracks for the sledges on the pyramid flank, because the sledges are too long to position them when starting. This necessitates an auxiliary ramp at the foot of each track. This ramp can be much steeper than is usually suggested for transportation ramps - for example with an inclination of 30° and a length of 12 meters - because gradients of more than 10° can easily surmounted with the help of Löhner's rope roll.

  Constructing the Khufu pyramid - the first 35 meters. Rope roll stations and heavy duty track system

Up to 10 meters height:
Franz Löhner thinks, that at the latest when building the 7th or 8th stone layer (height ≈ 8-9m) it would be worthwhile to dismantle those auxiliary ramps and haul the sledge directly up the pyramid flank. At the foot of the pyramid the abrupt change from plane ground to the 52° inclination had to be well planned.

At the beginning, when the largest volume of stones (30% of the total volume in the first 15 meters [1]) and very massive stones have to be transported, it is economical to work on all 4 sides of the pyramid (as shown on illustration). But even with only 5 tracks with the help of Löhner's rop rolls up the pyramid it is possible to build the pyramid in less than 20 years.

The outer stones were were bevelled to the right shape (with a 52° angle) already at the Tura quarry, then transported up the pyramid and always polished just after they were layed down on that particular stone course.

  Constructing the Khufu pyramid - the first 35 meters. Rope roll stations and heavy duty track system

Up to 35 meters height:
The construction of the first 30 meters of the pyramid is the most labor-intensive time, because over 50% of the total volume [1] was built, over 3 million tons of stone were used. On the southern side of the pyramid 5 tracks go up the pyramid flank (better even 5 tracks on each side of the pyramid). At each track 2 double teams work, they are hauling mostly large stone blocks [2]. Most of these blocks weight 2.5 to 3 tons [6].

The entrance is built and the construction of the Grand Gallery has started and at the same time the outer casing stones are polished. For the huge granite beams which weight up to 50 tons, a special track system is installed at the east or north of the pyramid - a heavy duty track system with stone blocks serving as counter weights. This special track goes all the way from the harbor to the pyramid foot and then up the flank.

Specially during this first phase of construction it would economical to work on all four sides of the pyramid (= 20 tracks), because like that the building will be finished much faster and earlier, in 10 to 15 years instead of 20 years.

  Constructing the Khufu pyramid - the first 35 meters. Rope roll stations and heavy duty track system

Finishing the King's chamber:
On this height much less workers are necessary, so the track systems are reduced to 3 pieces. Each track system has a rope roll station every 30-37m and another one up at the very edge of the pyramid plateau.

On 50m already 82% of the total volume is built [1]. The King's chamber and the Grand Gallery are nearly finished (the floor of the chamber lies on 43.03m [3]).

On 70m the stress-relieving chambers are finished and the last granite beam is brought up. Now the heavy duty track system can be dismantled.


Building Khufu's pyramid: from 50 to 70 meters height.

On 100 meters height:
Now the construction of the temple and the causeway can begin and also probably the building of the satellite pyramids. On 100m already 97% of the total volume is built [1]. Now smaller and lighter stone blocks are used, about 1m by 1m and 0.5m high and weighting about 1.3 tons [2].

On about 70m height the track systems are reduced to one track which is 89m long. There are still rope roll stations every 30-37m where the rope rolls are anchored to protruding outer stones and there is one more station up on the edge of the pyramid plateau.


Khufu pyramid: reduction to one rope roll track system up to 100 meters

Constructing the last meters of Khufu's pyramid:
On 130m there is only one track system in operation, it consists of a series of 4 rope roll stations with tracks between. It is important, that each time when the sledge passes a intermediate rope roll station the changing of ropes is done smoothly and while the sledge is still moving. Only in such a way the sledge doesn't have to be stopped and restarted every time (overcoming each time the static friction between sledge and tracks).

At the same time the construction of the temples and causeway is now pressed ahead, so they will be finished at the same time as the pyramid.



Building Khufu's pyramid - 130 meters height.

The apex (tip) of Khufu's pyramid:
On 146 meters where the pyramidion is put on the top. Working platform The last meters can be build with no extra problems, thanks to the rope rolls. For the last few stone courses the corner stones have to be cut with utmost precision and all stones have to be interlocked with care. Perhaps the last 10 meters of the pyramid was build entirely of white Tura-stones [1].

To be able to place the pyramidion on top of the pyramid the plateau has to be completely vacated and a meter below a wooden working platform is installed. The rope rolls are installed on the edge but somewhat off set to the side on Tura stone which have a special form. This rope roll station is the last of a series of stations installed on the flank very 30-37m height.

The pyramidion now can be brought up on the tracks on the pyramid flank in one continuous movement - over a distance of 186m. Then the pyramidion is set on the top of the pyramid. The polishing of the outer casing stones is also already finished, because this was done continuously during the whole construction process. Now only the working platform and the tracks have to be dismantled and then the protruding stones, that were used for anchoring the rope roll stations have to be removed.

Using Franz Löhner's methods the pyramid is finished once the pyramidion is put on top and no further construction steps are necessary!

We think it is possible, that the workers finished polishing all outer stones and then the pyramidion was pulled up the pyramid during a religious ceremony signaling the successful completion of the pyramid construction.


Pyramid workers

Using Löhner's rope roll you don't need the huge number of workers most Egyptologists suggest. Franz Löhner calculates a total number of 6'700 workers, which were necessary to build Khufu's pyramid (including preparation and planning, quarry work, transportation by ship and on land and building the 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 by Franz Löhner. The calculations are based on the minimum of workers necessary to finish the pyramid in 20 years time.
Detailed calculations how many workers were necessary to build the pyramid



These methods for building the pyramids were first published 1993 in the book "Der Bau der Cheops-Pyramide" by Heribert Illig and Franz Löhner.

[1] R. Stadelmann Die grossen Pyramiden von Giza / Die Ägyptischen Pyramiden
[2] D. Arnold Building in Egypt
Average size of the stone blocks was 127 x 127 x 71cm, so the weighted about 2.9 tons. More information
[3] D. Arnold Lexikon der Ägyptischen Baukunst
[4] P. Janosi Die Pyramidenanlagen der Königinnen
[5] G. Goyon Die Cheops-Pyramide
[6] V. Maragioglio und C. Rinaldi Architettura delle Piramidi Menfite. Le grande piramide di Cheope
[7] M. Lehner The Complete Pyramids of Egypt



Copyright 2006:

Franz Löhner

Concept and Design, English Texts:

Teresa (Zubi) Zuberbühler

Diese Seite auf Deutsch