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If you wanted to know what went into building the Great Pyramid of Giza, even the most renowned archaeologists couldn’t tell you — until now, that is.

Knowledge is power. And nothing is more powerful than unlocking a mystery that has confounded scientists and historians for centuries. But that is exactly what construction management expert Craig B. Smith has done. Solving the riddle of exactly how the Great Pyramid of Giza—Khufu’s Pyramid—was built, how long it took, and how many laborers were needed, Smith brings his fascinating exegesis to Lafayette on Wednesday, Oct. 25. Delivering the annual Resnik Lecture, Smith will reveal these secrets in his presentation, Stair Steps to the Gods: Building the Great Pyramid at Giza at 7:30 p.m. in Colton Chapel.

Open to the public, the free lecture is the centerpiece of a two-day residency at Lafayette Oct. 25-26 in which Smith will interact extensively with students.

The importance of communication skills will be a key theme in his discussions with students. He will speak in several classes, including Engineering Professionalism and Ethics, Project Management, Advanced Writing, an introductory seminar in history dealing with the atomic bomb and atomic diplomacy, and an interdisciplinary First-Year Seminar examining major monuments of western architecture, including the pyramids. He will also share time with students at meals and in informal sessions.

Smith is president of California-based Holmes & Narver, Inc. (H&N), an international leader in architecture, engineering, and construction management. To help him decipher the Giza mystery, Smith assembled a team of top Egyptologists and construction managers from H&N and its sister company in the A/E industry, Daniel, Mann, Johnson, & Mendenhall (DMJM). Together this team delved into several hotly debated questions about how the Great Pyramid was built. Smith, whose theories are featured in a soon-to-be-released BBC documentary and a Discovery Channel special, explains.

“The Great Pyramid is a singular landmark within the human experience,” Smith says. “For more than 4,300 years it stood as the largest man-made structure on Earth. Architecturally, it’s stunning — a testament to the ancient Egyptians’ grasp of mathematics and spatial concepts. The precision of its configuration is phenomenal, and the interior is every bit as exceptional. It is a structure without equal.

“But how were these ancient constructors—who had only the simplest of implements at their disposal—able to so accurately level the site? How did they construct this immense structure with such precision? How were they able to stage such an incredible undertaking? Assemble vast amounts of material from all over the Egyptian kingdom? Marshal, feed, and house thousands of workers? Schedule the work for timely completion? This project would challenge the resources of many countries today, yet the ancient Egyptians completed it in an unbelievably precise and expeditious way. And when you find out exactly how they did it, you’ll be stunned.”

Smith knows whereof he speaks. DMJM and H&N have worked together on megaprojects around the world, projects that rival the Great Pyramid in size, scope, and manpower. These projects, some of which involve construction valued at up to $2 million per day, include the Alameda Transportation Corridor in Los Angeles, the Seoul Metro in Korea, and the renovation of the Pentagon.

One such project on the architecture and engineering industry’s horizon is the Second Bangkok International Airport in Thailand. At its peak, the project will need more than 60,000 laborers to level the site and construct the airport. Of course, in order to accomplish this, the program and construction management team must figure out exactly how they can feed, pay, and transport 60,000 workers. And that is a key element in construction and program management. But DMJM and H&N have all of the advantages of modern technology: site-leveling lasers, global positioning satellites, sophisticated computer scheduling programs, robotic equipment. The Egyptians, on the other hand, didn’t even have pulleys or iron tools.

But Smith and his team took modern methods from today’s state-of-the-art construction and program management philosophy and applied them forensically to the Great Pyramid. Placing themselves in the minds of the ancient Egyptian architects, Smith’s team of experts dissected the construction process to see exactly what was and was not possible given Egypt’s construction acumen, weather conditions, wealth, harvest cycle, available tools—every factor that could possibly affect the project.

Creating the kind of critical path schedule used in modern megaprojects—a schedule that contains all essential project steps in their necessary order—the team came to some remarkable conclusions. For example, the great historian Herodotus posited that 100,000 slave laborers toiled for decades to erect the structure. The team discovered something very interesting: Herodotus was flat-out wrong. The image of thousands of Egyptian slaves being whipped by harsh taskmasters is a fiction from the cinema.

By examining available resources—from food and water to beer and housing—Smith’s team concluded that the surrounding area could not possibly have supported 100,000 workers. By using computer modeling, and data from noted Egyptologist Mark Lehner’s recent excavations at the Giza Plateau, the team clearly established that a group of 4,000–5,000 artisans worked year-round for almost a decade to complete the Great Pyramid at Giza. But how did they do it?

Many historians, archeologists, and Egyptologists have proclaimed numerous theories on exactly what process was used for construction. From building a large ramp to levering to scaffolding to alien intervention, theories abound as to how a structure of this size could have been built in that ancient time. Dr. Smith and his team focused on one of the most controversial mysteries of the Great Pyramid—design of the ramp on which mammoth stones were moved.

By drawing on their own construction and earthmoving experience, and analyzing pyramids built before the Great Pyramid, the team quickly became acquainted with the body of knowledge that the Egyptian architects and builders would have had. Using computer modeling, the team then surmised that there was only one feasible, practical method available that would have allowed for such a behemoth structure to be constructed at that time. And that is exactly what Smith will reveal in lecture at Lafayette.

The Resnik Lecture is sponsored by the Farber Memorial Endowment Fund, created by the late Jack Farber, Lafayette Class of 1931. The lectureship was established in memory of Judith A. Resnik, one of the astronauts who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986.

Categorized in: Academic News