Cultural Postcards + Near East

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Heritage: Fixing Egypt's Stepped Pyramid with... socks
The company, Cintec, have a team of experts, specializing in stabilising and restoring historic buildings, in charge of stabilising a neglected 3,500 Egyptian step Pyramid of Djoser, located in Saqqara, a sacred burial ground, after the pyramid suffered major earthquake damage. In charge of the seemingly impossible task is Dennis Lee and his team, who are currently trying to save the Third Dynasty Pyramid, considered the first large stone building in the world.

Fixing Egypt's Stepped Pyramid with... socks
One of the world's oldest pyramids in Saqqara is crumbling, and one company has a 
new revolutionary technique to fix it; using socks [Credit: Cairo Scene]

Lead Cintec engineer Dennis said: “It was nerve-wracking. It’s not a crumbling wall in front of you, it’s right over your head.” He added, “It’s also very historic so you have to take everything very slowly. When I drilled the first hole there were 50 archeologists and people from the department of Egyptian antiquities watching. That made me nervous!”

The task at hand is very dangerous, considering that temperatures rise above 40 degrees celsius within the pyramid, and that it could collapse at any time. Fixing a pyramid has never been attempted before, especially when the plan is to stabilize the monument with grout-filled “socks”.

To reach the crumbling ceiling, Dennis placed air bags on a 28m scaffold, before drilling holes in the ceiling’s stones. The team inserted steel rods into the holes, each wrapped in a fabric “sock”. The method, invented by Cintec, has also been previously used to stabilise other well-known structures like Buckingham palace, mosques, and bridges.

Fixing Egypt's Stepped Pyramid with... socks
Lead Cintec engineer Dennis Lee is  in charge of stabilising a neglected 3,500 
Egyptian step Pyramid of Djoser [Credit: Cairo Scene]

Work on the pyramid began just after the revolution, but Dennis and his team were forced to stop due to rising unrest earlier this year. According to Dennis there are still three months worth of work left, and he is very eager to resume the project.

“There are catacombs and tunnels going on for 12km. It is a bit claustrophobic down there, but it is exciting. They found new tunnels while I was there and there are beautiful blue tiles in the burial chambers and hieroglyphics on the tomb doors.”

There is still no word on when the site will be safe enough for tourists to venture within, but hopefully this team will return to finish the job so that Egyptian have yet another opportunity to learn more about its ancient origin.

Source: Cairo Scene [June 30, 2014]

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