Microstructural evidence of reconstituted limestone blocks in the Great Pyramids of Egypt

  • Barsoum M
  • Ganguly A
  • Hug G
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How the Great Pyramids of Giza were built has remained an enduring mystery. In the mid 1980s, French materials scientist Joseph Davidovits proposed that the pyramids were cast in situ using granular limestone aggregate and an alkali alumino-silicate-based binder. Hard evidence for this idea, however, remained elusive. Using primarily scanning and transmission electron microscopy, the authors compared a number of pyramid limestone samples with six different limestone samples from their vicinity. The pyramid samples contained microconstituents (µc's) with appreciable amounts of Si in combination with elements such as Ca and Mg in ratios that do not exist in any of the potential limestone sources. The intimate proximity of the µc's suggests that at some time these elements had been together in a solution. Furthermore, between the natural limestone aggregates, the µc's with chemistries reminiscent of calcite and dolomite--not known to hydrate in nature--were hydrated. The ubiquity of Si and the presence of submicron silica-based spheres in some of the micrographs strongly suggest that the solution was basic. Transmission electron microscopy confirmed that some of these Si-containing µc's were either amorphous or nanocrystalline, which is consistent with a relatively rapid precipitation reaction. The sophistication and endurance of this ancient concrete technology is simply astounding. Author's Abstract Ian N.M. Wainwright

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