If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll have noticed that this whole year we have featured an ancient engineering wonder every month, from the Colosseum to the pyramids. These historical structures are even more impressive when you consider the technology that they were working with. So how did they build those giant structures without the cranes and mechanics that are so common on a construction site today? Well they used many tools that show just how ingenious and resourceful they were.
For example, how did they move those giant stones across the desert to build the pyramids? The Egyptians hadn’t yet discovered the wheel, so it would have been difficult to transport massive stones from place to place. Well, based on wall paintings dating back to 1900 B.C., historians have speculated that the ancient Egyptians poured water over the sand to increase its stiffness and make if much easier to drag a stone across the desert. They hadn’t invented the pulley, a device that would have made it much easier to lift large stones into place. As far as how they actually put those giant stones in place, Egyptologists have suggested they used ramps going straight up the sides of the pyramid or ramping around the structure.
The Colosseum was built thousands of years later with far more technological advances in place. However, they also faced a different set of problems during construction. Rather than deal with sand, these builders had to construct drains to remove water from the construction site. After draining, the excavated layers of clay and dirt and began building a foundation. The foundation consisted of layers of mortar and stones, and the concrete was compacted by hammering. Once the foundation was in place, the contractors started building up using many different materials: travertine, tuff, brickwork and cement. These were used because of their respective qualities of lightness, resistance and ease of installation. The combination of different materials has also improved the resilience of the whole structure.
Although mostly destroyed, the Temple of Zeus was built around 435 B.C. This structure featured many columns composed of limestone and covered with stucco. Parian marble was used for making the sculptures inside the temple and Pentelic marble was used to construct the roof tiles. The project was abandoned and restarted multiple times, leading to various different building methods employed. Even with just the ruins left, it still portrays a vast and imposing structure.
More to come soon.