Writing can take you places. Imagination is the realm in which The Hallowed Order of Writers live and conduct their business and pleasure. Yes, even non-fiction writers and those boring (*yawn*) textbook writers, all inhabit Imagination. When you write – whether for a history paper on the profane aspects of Saladin’s sacred government during the time of the Crusades or a recipe for your grandmother’s favorite style of kimchi – where does your mind take you? When I write, my mind takes me to far-flung regions of the world and beyond.
Take, for instance, this blog. As I was sitting down to write this blog, my mind went to the Pyramids of Giza. So I looked it up on Google and I found a map of the entire Giza complex from a bird’s-eye-view. Then I started to remember all the trippy little factoids that I’d picked up about this mysterious complex of pyramids. One of my favorites is how the three pyramids – Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure – are an identical replication of the three stars that make up the belt of the constellation Orion. They line up perfectly to scale, stupefying the mind as to how such an ancient civilization could accomplish such a feat without modern GPS technology or satellite imaging. Even more surprising, is how the pyramids were built at all.
There is a long-standing theory as to how the Great Pyramid (Khufu) was built by thousands of slave-labor hours over a period of years – even decades. Only now, is the theory being challenged with any kind of serious scholarship. The original theory goes that the pharaoh, Khufu, enslaved his populace and forced them to build the greatest pyramid to ever have been built by devising a series of rolling logs and ramps to transport the megaliths from great distances and then lift them ever higher as the pyramid was being built, block-by-excruciating-block. Interestingly enough, most Egyptian Egyptologists agree that Khufu most likely used artisan labor – paid, as opposed to enslaved – to build his pyramid. What is also worthy of notice is that the rolling logs and ramps theory is being questioned for the first time by somebody other than ancient astronaut theorists.
First, materials scientist Joseph Davidovits has proposed that instead of transporting giant eighty ton rocks across the desert the Egyptians may have used a primitive form of concrete that they mixed on site, molded to the exact shapes necessary to be the building blocks of the pyramids. Fascinating, but highly controversial because concrete wouldn’t be invented until much later in Antiquity.
Secondly, a French architect by the name of Jean-Pierre Houdin has proposed that instead of an exterior ramp wrapping around and ascending the pyramid that the pyramid builders utilized an interior ramp which would be much more economical and spatially pragmatic to engineers because the ramp could be made at a much lower grade of incline than the exterior one. The only problem with this theory is still the question of how megaliths were transported to where they needed to be on the pyramid itself. I mean, come on, getting an eighty ton rock from point A to point B is a logistical and engineering miracle in-and-of-itself but then getting that rock up to where your workers are currently placing the next stones is another herculean objective all by itself.
So then I started thinking about how incredible an undertaking it was to build Khufu’s pyramid. I’m with the Egyptian Egyptologists (say that fast twenty times) on this one. Slave labor is a blunt instrument at best and the precision crafting of each of the blocks of the Great Pyramid requires a work force that has a modicum of care and dedication. Also, I think ancient human beings deserve a lot more credit for their achievements than modern paleo-scientists are giving them. I look at the Mayan calendar, with its three cooperative systems of tracking time, and wonder at its level of precision compared with the far inferior Gregorian one of today.
So, where will your writing take you tomorrow?