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C.W. Post Egyptologist Bob Brier Identifies Cause of Cracks in Great Pyramid


Rita Langdon,Associate Provost and Director of Public Relations
C.W. Post Campus,
Long Island University

Huge stone support beams inside the Great Pyramid at Giza cracked when the pyramid was nearing completion 4,500 years ago, an Egyptologist from the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University has reported, resolving a century-old mystery about when and why the cracks occurred.

C.W. Post Senior Research Fellow Bob Brier, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin and a team of software specialists at Dassault Systems in Paris determined the cause and timing of the cracks using 3-D modeling software that measures stresses in buildings, cars and airliners. The team found that the cracks occurred when three things happened: one wall of King Khufu’s burial chamber settled about an inch and a half; stone rafters in a room high above the burial chamber slipped by about half an inch, and the height of the pyramid reached 119 meters or 392 feet.

The team concluded that the pyramid’s architect, Hemienu -- alarmed that the cracks imperiled the whole structure – cut a tunnel into a sealed space above the burial chamber to assess the damage, and filled the cracks with plaster as a “tell-tale” that would indicate if they were widening. Presumably to Hemienu’s great relief, the beams held and the pyramid was completed.

Brier and Houdin will present their findings at the Microsoft Innovation Management Forum in Redmond, Wash. on Oct. 21, 2008.

The existence of the cracks in the burial chamber beams has been known since the 1880s, but the team is the first to determine what caused them and when. While conducting field work at the pyramid in 2008, Brier achieved another first: He found and photographed a room high in the pyramid which had never been noted before.

The findings about the cracks and the discovery of the room occurred as Brier and Houdin were testing Houdin’s theory of how the pyramid was constructed. Houdin has concluded that huge stone blocks were hauled to the top of the pyramid by means of a ramp corkscrewing up the inside of the pyramid. Previous theories have held that an external ramp was employed, but no evidence of such a large structure has been found.

Brier and Houdin are the authors of “The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man’s Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt’s Greatest Mystery,” which was released on Oct. 14, 2008 by HarperCollins. The book explains how Egyptian workers moved 5,000-pound blocks into position hundreds of feet above ground level and details the 20-year effort by architects, mathematicians, boat builders, stone masons and metallurgists that resulted in one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Brier and Houdin will be featured in “Unlocking the Great Pyramid,” a National Geographic Channel special scheduled for Nov. 16.

Brier is the author of seven books, including “The Murder of Tutankhamen,” and hosted the “Great Egyptian” series for the Learning Channel.

Posted 10/21/2008

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