Nine years ago, French architect Jean-Pierre Houdin became obsessed by the centuries-old mystery of how the Great Pyramid was built. For ten hours a day, he labored at his computer to create exquisitely detailed 3-D models of the interior of the Great Pyramid. After five years of effort, the images rotating on his computer screen provided evidence of an astonishing secret. Corkscrewing up the inside of the Great Pyramid is a mile-long ramp, unseen for 4,500 years. The pyramid was built from the inside. This revelation casts a fresh light on the minds that conceived one of the wonders of the ancient world.
A specialist on Egyptian mummies, Brier relates that he receives many a missive purporting to have solved the mystery of the Great Pyramid’s construction. In one day’s e-mail, a plausible idea caught his fancy. Unlike theories that aliens lent Egyptians a helping hand, this message dwelt on the central engineering problem concerning the type of ramp the tomb’s architect used. Brier’s communication came from coauthor Houdin, a French architect who devoted years to studying the problem. Rather than immediately bowl readers over with Houdin’s proposal, Brier cleverly entices them by alternating Houdin’s quest with the trial-and-error development of pharaonic pyramids. Photos and computer-generated graphics illustrate the authors’ explanation of designs and building processes, in the course of which they describe defects in the theories that the ramp was a mile-long straightaway or an external corkscrew. Houdin adopted an inspiration of his father’s, that the ramp was indeed a corkscrew, but one that rested inside the pyramid. His search for supporting evidence, culminating in a public presentation of his theory in 2007, fills out a book to fascinate pyramid fans.