Alternate title: How to Build an Earthbag House That Will Last as Long as the Pyramids. I can’t say for sure that the pyramids were built this way, but this video describes a reasonable theory of how the blocks of the pyramids were made with natural materials from the Giza Plateau – limestone, kaolin clay, sodium carbonate, lime and water. According to the video, the mixture consists of 95% limestone aggregates, 5% rock making binder and between 12%-17% water. The same methods could be used to create rock hard earthbags with incredible durability. And it’s simple enough that anyone can do it. It’s ancient technology after all.

There’s a great deal of very interesting information about this by Professor Joseph Davidovits and other researchers at the Geopolymer Institute. Here are a few quotes from their Archeology page.
“The pyramids stones are man-made (synthetic, artificial), cast in situ.”
“The Great Pyramid of Kheops is comprised of about 2.5 million blocks, most weigh two tons and could have been hauled by no less than sixty men. But some weigh up to seventy tons and these are to be found, not at the base of the pyramid, but some forty meters high. Since the ancient Egyptians did not yet have the wheel, they would have needed more than two thousand men to haul each block.”
“How could the Ancient Egyptians have cut these stones, which are extremely hard, with only the most primitive of tools? At best they would have been able to use copper saws, and copper is a softish metal, incapable of hewing the hard limestone blocks from which the early pyramids are constructed.”
“If the stones were carved, as most people believe, where are the fragments of broken stone left over? Limestone frequently splits on being cut. 5 million tons of limestone blocks must have produced millions of broken blocks and fragments. Yet, not a trace of them has ever been found.”
“The pyramid casing stones are light in density and contain numerous trapped air bubbles, unlike the quarry samples which are uniformly dense. If the casing stones were natural limestone, quarries different from those traditionally associated with the pyramid sites must be found, but where?”
“In natural stones, we expect to find elements that had the time to crystallize. However, silicates in pyramids stones are completely amorphous (not crystallized). This allows us to think that we are in presence of a cementitious process. The silicates were formed in a very short period of time.”
“This photo shows a sample of the casing from the ascending passage of Kheops great pyramid… the cross section is characterised by the presence of organic fibers and air bubbles that do not exist in normal situation, especially in a 60 millions years old limestone from the eocene era!”
“Barsoum’s team took a fresh look at 15 samples using scanning- and transmission-electron microscopes. The samples contain ratios of elements, such as calcium and magnesium that do not exist in nearby limestone. The imaging also revealed regions of amorphous structure. Both observations suggest that other substances were added to make a concrete mix.”
“The famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, USA, is supporting Prof. Davidovits’ re-agglomerated stone (concrete) pyramid theory. At MIT, Professor Hobbs and two colleagues and students are experimenting the construction of a small scale pyramid using the method recommended by Davidovits.”

This video helps explain the geopolymer process. In this video Professor Davidovits explains how they made a man-made sample of re-agglomerated stone and then submitted it for laboratory analysis. The laboratory said it was natural stone. For more details, go to the Geopolymer Institute YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/kadamix to see more videos such as: Bricks made at low temperature, low energy, low cost http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjeVeDVtghc&feature=related,

If the microscopic, x-ray and nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy analysis doesn’t convince you, think about the Colosses of Memnon, which these same geopolymer scientists believe were cast of amalgamated/agglomerated stone in a similar manner as the pyramids using geosynthesis (limestone treated like a concrete).
“In antiquity, the statues commanded respect; the Colosses of Memnon are monoliths: they are made from a single block of stone weighing nearly 1000 tonnes and standing on a pedestal of 550 tonnes. They are 20 metres high, equal to a seven storey building. The stone from which they are made is quartzite, which is practically impossible to carve.”
“None of the great quartzite blocks bear any trace of tools that is so common in the sandstone and granite quarries: a material that is so hard, so refractory in the face of sharp tools cannot, it is true, be worked by the same methods as ordinary sandstone nor even of granite. We know nothing of how the blocks of such a rock were squared, how their surfaces were dressed or how they were given the beautiful polish that can still be seen in some places… Did the sculptor, in the middle of engraving a hieroglyphic character, strike one of the flints or pieces of agate that are encrusted in the material, the line of the character continued in all its purity, and neither the agate nor its enveloping stone bear the slightest crack.”

Summary: Whether or not the pyramids were made with geopolymer cast stones could be debated endlessly. However, the key point for natural builders is geopolymer scientists have developed recipes using natural materials and simple production techniques that can be utilized in rammed earth and earthbag construction. This is an exciting new field of opportunity in my opinion. Please refer to the publications by Professor Joseph Davidovits and other researchers at the Geopolymer Institute for complete information.


Comments

How the Pyramids Were Built — 23 Comments

  1. So you think composite blocks answer the tough questions, do you? Many of the blocks, especially in the New World, are not composites; they are blocks of stone, whose perfect fit is not explained by mixing up a batch of them. You have also failed to address the issue that pyramids do not consist merely of piles of blocks. They have chambers and channels, perfectly cut, of a size much smaller than humans can enter, and which change direction. Were they built first and then installed, or was machinery used. Simplistic modern answers do not even come close to answering the mysteries.

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  6. A good point – at least the residue or ruins or whatever left behind will still be limestone (as opposed to concrete). In theory, if could be used again by someone else.

    Doug

  7. This is a fascinating idea, and I’m looking forward to testnig it myself (limestone and kaolin are relatively easily available locally). It does raise one significant question though, in that one of the ecologically sound aspects of building with earth is that the end product will, given enough time without maintenance, go away. The whole “once nobody is using it anymore, it eventually goes back to the earth” thing is one of the appeals (to me at least) of building with earth. If this is, in fact, the technology that built the pyramids, we have some terrific evidence at Giza that buildings built with geopolymers may be permanent in ways that concrete can only dream of. Something to ponder.

    Doug

    • That’s an interesting viewpoint. The way I see it is the loose limestone used to be solid limestone and we’re returning it to it’s natural state to repeat the cycle. It will eventually crumble apart and be like it is now. How long that would take is anybody’s guess.

  8. Hi! this is really awesome! Do you know if there is some kind of idiots guide on how to build a home out of this material? and what states it would be legal in? im sure it probably wouldnt be considered up to code in california…they are strict…

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  12. Watch for my upcoming blog post Earthbag Stone Dome. We’ve been planning a bedroom dome in the backyard. This would be a great opportunity to experiment with geopolymer cast stone to make the first ever earthbag stone dome. The mountain range near our home consists of limestone, so the materials are readily at hand.

  13. More interesting information here: The Pyramid Heretic http://www.philipcoppens.com/davidovits.html There’s a good diagram of the building process.

    “Professor Davidovits is an internationally renowned French scientist, who was honoured by French President Jacques Chirac with one of France’s two highest honours, the “Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Mérite”, in November 1998. ”

    “Furthermore, his idea that some Egyptian artefacts, specifically some vases, were geopolymers, has been accepted by Egyptologists. Thus, it is accepted that the Egyptians had the necessary chemical and technical knowledge (of copper, alkalis and ceramics) to mould them in this way. Davidovits argues: “So if the Egyptians knew how to make such a high-quality cement for vases and statues, what was there to stop them adding aggregates such as fossil shells to produce a high-performance reagglomerated limestone? Clearly, nothing.”

    “In 2006, research by Michel W. Barsoum at Philadelphia’s Drexel University confirmed Davidovits’ conclusion that samples of stone from parts of the Khufu Pyramid were microstructurally different from limestone blocks.”

    “he has shown that several stones have weathered unnaturally: one single block was sometimes left unfinished for the day, and thus hardened over night, before being brought to the desired height the following morning. This meant that one block was made in two phases, with slightly different materials and created under different circumstances. Six millennia later, it means that sometimes the lower section of a stone has weathered badly, but the higher section has not, even though the stones next to it, did not reveal such lower weathering. Such weathering is not conform to the traditionalist point of view of quarried blocks. ”

    “At several places in the Great Pyramid, remains of 4500 year old cements are found, and are still in excellent condition. This ancient mortar is far superior to the cement used in modern buildings, as well as the cement used to restore the ancient Egyptian monuments, much of which has already degraded and cracked after only fifty years. “

  14. Watching that gives the feeling of infinite possibilities as to what could be made with such materials.

    I’ve been very interested in building my own water tower or lookout tower. That is, something 30-50ft in height that can hold several hundred pounds in weight at it’s top. But with a slightly larger base, much like any guard tower would be able to.

    Can you provide any tips on how to do this with earth bags Owen? With enough rebar, can legs be made with filled mesh bags covered in limestone?

    • Have you seen my Tower House design?
      http://earthbagplans.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/earthbag-tower-house-2/

      The techniques needed to build like this are already well known and accepted practice by using cement or lime to stabilize the fill material. But the techniques likely used to make cast stone for pyramids are definitely intriguing. This would take earthbag building to a whole other level. Your house would literally turn to stone after a few months. I’m still reading up on this. It’s looking more and more promising. Use the same technique as shown in the video except the fill material is put in earthbags. The edges of the bags can be tamped to form a taper if desired.

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