The Great Pyramid of Giza was built circa 2600 BC and was the world’s tallest structure for nearly 4000 years. It consists of an estimated 2.3 million blocks with a weight on the order of 6-7 million tons. How many people did it take to construct the Great Pyramid? Vaclav Smil in Numbers Don’t Lie gives an interesting method of calculation:

The Great Pyramid’s potential energy (what is required to lift the mass above ground level) is about 2.4 trillion joules. Calculating this is fairly easy: it is simply the product of the acceleration due to gravity, the pyramid’s mass, and its center of mass (a quarter of its height)…I am assuming a mean of 2.6 tons per cubic meter and hence a total mass of about 6.75 million tons.

People are able to convert about 20 percent of food energy into useful work, and for hard-working men that amounts

Keep reading this article on Marginal Revolution.

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