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Ancient mystery solved: Scientists used wet clay to move pyramids

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Scientists have come one step closer to solving a centuries old mystery as to how the pyramids really were built, according to The Christian Science Monitor on Friday. Traditionally it has been thought that the ancient Egyptians used leverage with huge fulcrums to move the rocks onto the pyramids, one stone at a time. But now after this amazing discovery, scientists believe that the Egyptians used wet sand with just the right amount of water (a clay-like mixture) on the surface to shrink the mounds of sand and enable the huge boulders to be moved with much less force.

The new scientific theory is based on an ancient drawing entitled, "Sliding friction on wet and dry sand," which shows a worker who is in front an ancient dredge and wetting the sand. Based upon the new theory, scientist Daniel Bonn of the University of Amsterdam conducted an experiment with wet sand using a miniature version of "the Egyptian sledge in a tray of sand." Dr. Bonn discovered that it was much easier to move the 100 gram weights across wet sand than it was to move them across dry sand that had formed a heap in front of the sled. This was because the water made the sand more rigid and reduced the size of the heaps of sand. Dr. Bonn explained his theory:

"When the sand was dry, a heap of sand formed in front of the sled, hindering its movement; a relatively high force was needed for the sled to reach a steady state. Adding water made the sand more rigid, and the heaps decreased in size until no heap formed in front of the moving sled and therefore a lower applied force was needed to reach a steady state."

Bonn claims that his newly discovered method of building pyramids reduced the size of the workforce needed for the construction of the pyramids because each person was able to move more weight using the wet sand. It is interesting to note that even in ancient times people were interested in efficiency and building massive structures with the least amount of labor. Bonn pointed out that his theory can be used to build sandcastles as well:

"This is great for sand castle building, and also, it turns out, for sand transportation."

Everyone has heard the old saying, "You can't push a wet noodle." But when it comes to pushing a boulder across wet sand using force, it is a totally different story. Do it enough and you might end up with a pyramid in your backyard. What would that do to your property values?

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