Reinventing The Egyptian Pulley

by Stephen W. Blakely
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The Egyptian Pulley is a precision, two component mechanism fabricated from high strength materials -- and is a novel, plausible solution that the Old Kingdom Egyptians could have employed to lift the 2.3 million Great Pyramid stones.

Novel Features of the Egyptian Pulley

  • Compressive Loading: The design involves only compressive loading of its two components, unlike cantilever or beam type cylinder techniques.
  • Pulley Efficiency: The (roughened) rope groove prevents the rope from slipping, efficiently changing the rope's direction (like a true pulley).
  • High Strength Materials: The materials of construction are high compressive strength materials -- limestone, granite, or copper.
  • Matching Diameters: The design involves close matching of the cylinder diameter and cradle inner diameter, thereby spreading the load and reducing wear.
  • Polished and Lubricated: The mating surfaces of the cylinder and cradle are polished smooth (sealed with natural resin, as needed) and lubricated to assure low rotational friction.
  • Rope Protection: The rope groove protects the rope, like a conventional pulley sheave, in two ways: from surface abrasion; and, critically, by maintaining the cross-sectional integrity of the rope --  its twist structure.
  • Axial Translation: The design allows axial translation of the cylinder (within the limits of the axial length of the cradle) thus eliminating rope deflection and related rope and Pulley stresses -- meaning that the pullers do not have to maintain a perfect in-line pull position.
  • Cylinder Capture:  The cradle design allows for effective “capture” of the cylinder so that is stays in correct position during high loads and does not slip out of the cradle.

The Great Pyramid -- Application Benefits of the Egyptian Pulley

  • Large Diameter Rope Use: The high compressive strength of the Egyptian Pulley allows the use of a large diameter, high strength pull rope.
  • Rope Easy to Grasp: Pullers can easily grasp a large diameter rope. 
  • Small "Footprint": The relatively small size of the Egyptian Pulley as employed to lift a pyramid stone means multiple Egyptian Pulleys could have been utilized -- to meet the stone lifting rate required.
  • Pullers on Horizontal Surface: The Egyptian Pulley allows the pullers to be positioned on the top, horizontal surface of the pyramid during construction.
  • Easily Transportable: The Egyptian Pulley (weighing less than 250 pounds total) can be readily disassembled and easily transported and repositioned.

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