Science SundaySkepticism

Science Sunday: Why We can Feel Confident that the Egyptian Pyramids were not Granaries

A certain politician has remarked recently that it is his personal theory that the pyramids of Egypt were built by a Biblical figure to store grain.  Leaving aside the issue of having personal theories we are proud to bandy about without expertise in a given subject matter, how do we know this politician is wrong?  We are good skeptics here, so we can always be wrong.

To begin with, do we actually have any idea what granaries in Egypt were likely to look like?  Yes we do, because we’ve found models of the things.  We know that these models are of grain storage, because, well, they often contain actual grain, sometimes with labels for what the grains are.  The Egyptians wrote things, and thanks to the Rosetta stone, we can read what they wrote.


model of a granary, image from wikimedia commons

Could the pyramids have been just some weird, extra massive granary?  Well, if so, they would probably have been the most inefficient storage containers ever for, well, anything, not just grains.  It’s not like they are massive hollow pyramids.  There are a few rooms and some air shafts, and that’s it. The amount of actual usable space inside the pyramids is very small in comparison with the size of the structure.



Diagram of the great pyramid, from wikimedia commons


Our intrepid politician has further claimed that the spaces inside the pyramids were designed to be hermetically sealed.  I’m not sure how that is possible given stone cutting construction of the time, but I am not an expert on hermetic possibilities of stone cutting. Regardless, one needs good ventilation for grain storage.  The pyramids are not noted for good ventilation, in fact, conservation efforts have had to be undertaken because, among other things, the influx of tourists has raised the humidity inside the pyramids to 85%.  Even without tourists, I can’t imagine grain being aerated properly in small rooms inside a massive stone structure with only a few shafts here and there for air flow.

In conclusion, the Bible is still not sufficient reason to hold personal theories about reality.   Critical thinking skills and evidence are still required.


Featured image from Wikimedia Commons

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Elizabeth is a professional belly dancer, a flaky computer scientist, and a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She lives in Georgia (the state of the U.S., not the country) but is nonetheless somehow not a combination of stereotypes from Gone with the Wind and Deliverance. Her personal blog is Coffeefied. Operafied. Fluffified. Beglittered.

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