designed by the desert?

The great pyramids of ancient Egypt remain a mystery almost 5000 years after they were constructed.They are the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only ones that still survive. But what exactly inspired the Egyptians to build these massive monuments?

Boston University geologist Farouk El-Baz believes that ancient architects may have gotten the idea from conical hills that appear in Egypt’s Western Desert. According to El-Baz, the builders recognized how well a pyramid-shaped hill endured the desert’s destructive, eroding wind, by channeling it up the slope to drift away harmlessly at its peak. Since they wanted the pyramids to last, they built them in the same shape. And, says El-Baz, the Great Sphinx, too, may have been suggested by naturally occurring desert landforms, this time by wind-eroded rocks called yardangs, or “mud lions,” which, as his photos show, can look awfully sphinxlike.

So, did the desert really help design these icons of ancient Egypt? Not everyone agrees with El-Baz’s theory, but it sure beats the idea that the pyramids were designed by space aliens.

This article appeared in the October 2005 issue of the children’s science magazine Muse.
This entry was posted in articles, children's. Bookmark the permalink.