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The growth of Egyptian civilization began before 4000 BC when Egypt became an empire. One important stage of its rise was the construction of the pyramids between 2658-2135 BC. The period of the prosperity was The Old Kingdom during which the architecture and engineering were influenced by Mesopotamia standard of calculations that was adopted from Babylonian mathematicians and astronomers (Garrison 23). However, Ancient Egypt developed its technological level much more than of the Mesopotamia of the same period (Garrison 24). The advancements in engineering had a great influence on Greek civilization and on the world in general. Many modern scientists are still amazed by the achievements of Ancient Egyptian engineering.
Engineering in Egypt
Egyptian engineering developed from the need of irrigation. Irrigation was necessary to the survival of Ancient Egyptians as they had to provide water supplies (Garrison 25). One of the most remarkable irrigation projects was completed by the Theban Dynasty, which changed the basin in the Faiyum desert. They built dams and made the area of West of the Lower Nile a fertile land.
Ancient Egyptian engineering developed as the result of their environment. Kirby claims that Egyptian engineering was determined by 3 factors (33). The first was the huge source of human labor. The Egyptians were willing to work for the Pharaohs in the period of the year when the Nile did not let them work in their fields. The second factor was that great amount of workers were controlled by one man, the Pharaoh. His powers were almost limitless as Pharaohs called themselves both kings and gods. The last factor was that Egypt lands had huge resources of stone. Egyptians worked at quarries and were able to get and transport stone pieces from 2 to 30 tons (Kirby 33).
Pyramids and Temples
First pyramids appeared around 3200 BC. They were the large mud-brick burials of a Pharaoh Narmer and his ancestors. These tombs, called mastabas, were half buried into the ground. However, all the biggest pyramids were built by an architecture called Imhotep. He first used stone instead of mud to create a tomb for the Pharaoh Zoser. He also designed it much differently and higher than before. Unlike mastabas that were rectangular, Imhotep’s tomb had to be square and of 8 meters high. However, after several changes, he added four more levels and grew the tomb up to 70 meters (Garrison 29).
An important stage of Egyptian engineering was Meidum pyramid, from which Egyptians learned an important lesson. After some changes in design, the extra weight became too heavy at the base of a large pyramid. It would not have caused failure if this weight had been evenly distributed. The difficulties began when the second and third layers were in order to create an angle of 52 degrees. The weight of the thick third layer 3 created a pressure of 1,000 kg/cm2 which resulted in collapsing (Garrison 30). Ancient Egyptians have learned the lesson, and after the Meidum pyramid, the Golden Age of Egyptian pyramid building began. Thus, during the next dynasty, the pharaoh Cheops started planning the construction of one of the greatest pyramids (Garrison 31).
One of the most interesting questions for scientist is the way Ancient Egyptians transported and lifted stones for their pyramids. It can be said that they never lifted blocks using pulleys or ropes. The blocks were moved by using wedges, levers, or rockers. With the help of different tools, workers lifted stones fast and safely. Since it was hard to drag heavy stones through loose sand, the stones were transported mostly with the help of ramps (Garrison 33).
Contributions of Egyptian Engineering
Eggyptian engineering had long-lasting effect on Greek engineering. Ancient Egyptian engineering became a basis for the classical Greek mathematicians and philosophers of the Hellenistic Period (White 2). Even though Alexander crushed the Egyptian army, the influence of this ancient civilization made it possible for religion and worldview to spread in many countries (Derry 16).
The origins of modern western engineering achievements can be traced to the Greeks scholars, who in turn were influenced by Egyptians. Even though modern engineering is very different than in Ancient Egypt, the fundamental principles are still the same since the time of. Ancient Egyptians also used the basic design process that is used today. They defined goals, performed researches, specified requirements, and developed solutions for possible problems and designed prototypes. The development that allowed building the Great Pyramid of Giza can be traced to the first mastabas (Rasheed and Carter).
Egyptian engineers used the knowledge of geology in building their well-known Pharaonic monuments and other engineering constructions. They created the first geological maps that allowed them to construct mines, tunnels, and quarries. Only due to their great knowledge of geology, they were able to build pyramids that have stood for thousands of years. It was because they used to choose the most suitable means. Their use of large models enabled them to build huge unparalleled buildings. Such techniques were used to develop the Geotechnical Observational Method which is used nowadays (Agaiby, El-Ghamrawy, and Ahmed).
Many Egyptian achievements were used for building such constructions as The Qanat, water distributing system, the Parthenon, and the Great Wall of China (“History of Civil Engineering”). In addition, the Egyptians first used the formula of “pi” (π) which increases their advancements in engineering (Meisner).