Assisted by the "Happy Gang," as they have styled
the enthusiastic laborers, Wyle and Rick Brown (center) begin erecting the
timber framing on the obelisk. Just getting the huge pieces of timber up
the obelisk proved challenging, as the Browns and Abdel Aleem, who directs
the laborers, cannot speak one another's language. As Wyle Brown told me
before they started, "The trick is how to keep everything in control without
offending Abdel!" But it went off without a hitch, and as I write this the
framework is now in position on the obelisk, ready for the rotation.
The Anastasi Papyrus, one of the few ancient sources
that mentions how the Egyptians might have erected large monuments, states:
"It is said to thee: Empty the magazine that has been loaded with sand under
monument of thy Lord, which has been brought from the Red Mountain." Based
on this and other evidence, Roger Hopkins is one of many who believe that
the Egyptians raised their obelisks by tilting them into enormous
compartments of sand. As they slowly released the sand from a small door at
ground level, they could guide the smoothly descending obelisk into its
turning groove, after which they would pull it erect with ropes. Here,
Hopkins (in white shirt) oversees the building of a mudbrick compartment
he'll use to test the theory with the two-ton obelisk.
Denys Stocks, middle, bears down on a large
copper drill bit as Hopkins and Mark Lehner operate the bow drill. While
other members of the team have busied themselves with the obelisk project,
Stocks and his crew of Egyptian laborers have experimented with copper tools
that the ancients are thought to have utilized. In a week's time, both the
bow drill and a copper saw, relying on the quartzite in sand to do the
actual cutting, have sliced down about an inch into solid granite. "There's
a one-to-three loss of copper versus granite, but nevertheless, it proves
that it can be done," said Stocks, who has studied and tested ancient
Egyptian tools for more than two decades.
Tomorrow: We will finish preparations for raising the obelisk, which might
begin in the afternoon—again, inshallah.