The Mystery of the Pyramids
Linse, Pat, Shermer, Michael, Chesworth, Amanda, Callahan, Tim, Friedhoffer, Bob, Gilmore, Michael R., Skeptic (Altadena, CA)
EVERY YEAR 2 MILLION TOURISTS TRAVEL TO NORTHERN AFRICA TO A LIMESTONE PLATEAU a few miles west of Egypt's mighty Nile river. There they gaze in wonder at ancient ruins that have amazed people for almost 5000 years--the Pyramids of Giza.
The ruins at Giza have been a tourist destination since the time of the Roman empire. Interest in the pyramids and the culture of ancient Egypt reached new highs in Europe when Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Egypt with his army in 1789. Although his military objective failed, his second objective was a stunning success. He had also brought a small army of scholars, surveyors and artists with him to study the ruins of Egypt. The excitement their work produced in Europe inspired still more research and exploration. One of the discoveries of the Napoleonic expedition was the famed Rosetta stone that allowed the ancient picture writing of the Egyptians to be read for the first time in 1,500 years. (See the box on the bottom of page 98 for more Rosetta Stone information)
The ability to read what the ancient Egyptians had to say about themselves provided the most accurate view of ancient Egyptian society that anyone had seen for many centuries.
Today ancient Egyptian culture continues to fascinate us. Scholars studying the ruins still make worldwide headlines with every major discovery. Countless books, television documentaries, and even a number of blockbuster films have featured ancient Egypt. There is even a pyramid (symbolizing durability) printed on the back of every U.S. one dollar bill.
Tim Callahan writes regularly for SKEPTIC magazine. He is also an artist and works in the film industry as an animator.
Amanda Chesworth is a Canadian living skeptically in Albuquerque NM. She has a B.Sc. in interdisciplinary sciences and enjoys freelance science writing and rock hunting in her spare time. Her "mission in life" is to promote scientific literacy through writing and educating.
Bob Friedhoffer is a magician whose performances use magic tricks to teach the principles of science. He has written many books that show you how you can also do science magic using everyday household items.
Michael R. Gilmore is a 20-year veteran of the space program and a Fellow of the British Interplanetary Society. Applying low-light-level television to astronomy he tracked Apollo and other spacecraft for NASA, and he has worked for Rockwell Space Division and TRW Space and Technology Group.
Pat Linse is one of the founders of the Skeptics Society and a creator of both SKEPTIC and JR. SKEPTIC magazine. She illustrates, writes for, and edits JR. SKEPTIC magazine.
Dr. Michael Shermer is Publisher of SKEPTIC, Director of the Skeptics Society, host of Science Talk on KPCC radio (the NPR affiliate for Southern California), and the Consulting Producer and co-host of the Fox Family television series Exploring the Unknown.
Why do People Seem So Fascinated By Pyramids?
The sheer size of the pyramids alone was enough to attract attention and inspire wonder. For much of its history the largest of them, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was the tallest structure in the world. In the ancient world only the legendary lighthouse at Alexandria was said to have been taller. It was not until 4,500 years later in 1889, with the invention of steel beam construction, that the Eiffel tower of Paris, France rose higher.
The Great Pyramid is still one of the most massive structures ever built.
Just how big was it?
The Great Pyramid was 480 feet high. Imagine 48 fiat-roofed houses stacked one on top of another. it is said to have been built from 2 1/2 million blocks of limestone, each averaging 2 1/2 tons (5000 pounds). Imagine 2 1/2 million cars squashed into blocks and piled into a pyramid. That's big!
The pyramids were already 1,000 years old during the time that the biblical story of Moses and the exodus from Egypt was thought to have taken place. …