People of ancient Egypt on a daily basis had to move around and transport massive pyramid stones and statues which weighed on average 2.5 tons placed on large sleds across deserts in hot scorching weather, that too without any modern mechanical ingenuity. Now a new research shows how adding a little amount of water in the sand greatly reduces the sliding friction, which was a clever trick adopted by the people of Egypt to cut the workforce in half. To construct a sandcastle on a beach, you cannot use dry sand. The water helps to bind together the grains of sand and holding the castle in shape. The same method applies to the transportation over sand. With the right amount of water, the Egyptians were able to easily transport tons of stone over long distances by sliding them on wet sand.
One international team which was headed by Daniel Bonn of the University of Amsterdam tested the sliding friction of wet and dry sands by pulling a miniature weighted sled across the surface of a tray of sand. In the case of dry sand, a heap or bump would form in front of the sled making it increasingly difficult to pull the sled. However as water was added the sand smoothed out and pulling the sled became extremely easy. The heaps would decrease in size until it smoothed out under the sled.
Bonn stated while talking to the Washington post that he had been utterly surprised by the reduction in the amount of force that was needed to pull the sled. He stated that the force required decreased by 50 percent after adding the water and hence the Egyptians only needed half the men to move the weight around. However much like in the case of sand castles, excess water isn’t good also. In the cases of very high water contents the binding force cannot truly bind with the amount of water hence the sliding friction increases again. It is said to be a delicate balance to make sure that the amount of water is just right.
Bonn stated that the perfect amount of water content falls between 2 to 5 percent of the volume of sand. Any lesser and it won’t work, any more than this and it won’t work either. Despite the efforts of the international team, it seems that the answer had been right in front of us or hidden in plain sight. An image is depicted in the tomb of Djehutihotep in which it can be clearly seen that a worker is pouring water in front of the sleds to carry a huge statue. The sleds at that time were nothing more than planks of wood with curved endings.
Bonn states that the Egyptologists had been studying the act as a ritual of purification and never thought it may be for some other region. Well now we can finally answer all the questions we had about how the people of Egypt moved such heavy stones without the aid of modern technology.
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