The Great Pyramid Is Just a Bit Wonky, Engineers Find

June 23, 2016 | Erica Tennenhouse

Great Sphinx with a pyramid behind it
Photo credit: Daniel Mayer/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ancient Wonder is ALMOST perfect.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest Wonder of the Ancient World, and the only one that remains largely intact. Exactly how such a massive and precise structure was built with the tools available more than 4,500 years ago remains a mystery. But archaeologists have now found that the base of this ancient structure is not quite square, reflecting a minor error in its construction.

In an effort to figure out the exact size and orientation of the Great Pyramid, a team led by engineer Glen Dash — who heads the Glen Dash Foundation for Archaeological Research — carried out a comprehensive survey of the pyramid’s base in 2015.

Determining the size of this structure has posed a challenge for researchers because the hard, white casing stones that clad the pyramid when it was first constructed have been mostly been removed.

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To trace the boundary of those casing stones, a team of archaeologists searched for surviving stones, as well as marks on the platform that would indicate where the original edges were.

They were able to find 84 points along the pyramid's original edges, which were marked on a grid system that is currently being used to map all of the features on the Giza Plateau.

With these points, the researchers estimated that the east side of the pyramid’s original base had measured between 230.295 and 230.373 meters, while the west side measured between 230.378 to 230.436 meters. Their statistical analyses revealed with 95 percent confidence that the discrepancy between the two sides was between 0.6 and 14.1 cm.

Though a noticeable difference, the error is small and does not diminish the ingenuity that would have been required to build this structural marvel. In his report on the survey, rather than focus on the miscalculation, Dash emphasizes that the pyramid was almost perfect.

"The data show that the Egyptians possessed quite remarkable skills for their time," Dash wrote. "We can only speculate as to how the Egyptians could have laid out these lines with such precision using only the tools they had."

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