Building the Old Kingdom pyramids was a gigantic task. The Great Pyramid at Giza contains about 625 million tons of stone. The individual blocks weigh between 2 and 15 tons. To complete this pyramid during Khufu’s Reign, the blocks must have been produced at a rate of one every two minutes each day for 23 years! Some scholars believe this theory to be untrue, while others argue at its possibility. The stonemasons who quarried, shaped and smoothed the blocks must have formed a highly skilled workforce.
Many of the blocks were quarried close to the pyramid site. Granite from Aswan and fine limestone from Tura were brought by barge to the edge of the desert. The blocks were then lashed on to sledges. They were dragged over wooden rollers, which had to be kept damp to prevent friction. Mud-brick ramps were probably used to get the stones up to where they were needed.
Some believe that his pyramid at Giza was built by slaves, but this is not true. One hundred thousand people worked on it for three months of each year. This was the time of the Nile’s annual flood which made it impossible to farm the land and most of the population was unemployed. Pharaoh provided food and clothing for his workers and was kindly remembered in folk tails for many centuries.
Inside each Old Kingdom pyramid is a series of stepped buttress walls around a central core. Packing blocks were used to fill in the steps. Then the casting stones were added. These walls were fitted closely to form the smooth outer walls. The casing stones were mainly pale Tura limestone so the pyramids would originally have looked white. The capstones at the very top of a pyramid was covered in gold.