Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

NOVA Online (click here for NOVA home)
Mysteries of the Nile
Site Map


thumbnail of levering obelisk diagram
Play Lever an Obelisk (75k)
(Shockwave required)

Lever an Obelisk
Perhaps you don't think too much about using "The Advantage," but there's no way you can live through a day without utilizing it in some way. No, we're not talking about a type of computer, or a brand of clothing, or even a credit card. We're talking about mechanical advantage—more specifically, about one of the most basic of all machines that makes use of mechanical advantage: the lever.

Arm diagram Levers are everywhere. The light switch on the wall, for example, and the stapler on your desk. You use levers when you shift gears on a bike and when you hit the brakes. A doorknob is a type of lever. And then there's your body. Your body contains many, many levers—wherever there's a movable joint there's a lever.

This activity is about the lever as a basic tool. The ancient Egyptians used levers in building the pyramids. Although it is not known exactly how they erected the great obelisks, it's a pretty sure bet that they used levers in some way.

Diagram of levering up an obelisk In the following activity you're asked to lift one end of a relatively small obelisk three feet. You have a lever, a movable fulcrum, weights, and supporting stones at your disposal. Your goal is to lift the obelisk using as few of the weights and support stones as possible.

Good luck.



Explore Ancient Egypt | Raising the Obelisk | Meet the Team
Dispatches | Pyramids | E-Mail | Resources
Classroom Resources | Site Map | Mysteries of the Nile Home

Editor's Picks | Previous Sites | Join Us/E-mail | TV/Web Schedule
About NOVA | Teachers | Site Map | Shop | Jobs | Search | To print
PBS Online | NOVA Online | WGBH

© | Updated November 2000

Support provided by

For new content
visit the redesigned
NOVA site