What were the greatest engineering projects of all time? In the first of a new series, E&T visits a World Wonder.
The world had never seen anything like it. The Great Pyramid at Giza was the greatest engineering achievement since the dawn of'time. Completed around 3600BC, at 147m it was the tallest building ever constructed and remained so until 1300AD when Lincoln Cathedral's spire soared 160m into the air. No other edifice has held the record for 'World's tallest building' for so long.
Even today the statistics are'mind-boggling: Two and a'half million blocks of rock, weighing on average three tonnes each; a project duration spanning two decades; a labour force of as many as 100,000 workers.
The big question for engineers is could we build the Great Pyramid today? Well, we couldn't do it the way they did it'back then as the cost would be'too prohibitive ' but we could have a stab at it using concrete. You'd need about 200'million cubic metres of the stuff, but there is at least an economic model for such a project, in the form of the Hoover Dam.
You'd need to first build local concrete production plants capable of generating and delivering an endless stream of it to the construction site. Factor in labour, design, materials and other project essentials, and you're looking at an overall cost of at least '300m in today's money.
But who wants a concrete pyramid? The genuine article was crafted by gifted masons who expended billions of man-hours on the project, and the result was a work of art as well as an incredible feat of engineering that would be one of the defining achievements of humanity as an emerging race of engineers.
As with all great engineering projects, the Great Pyramid was build to last. As the old saying goes: 'the Pyramids don't fear time; time fears the'Pyramids.'