6 Ancient Construction Secrets Revealed

6 Ancient Construction Secrets Revealed

architects of the past put together the structures


Today there are a whole host of amazing technologies that can be put to use to create gravity-defying skyscrapers and execute incredibly ambitious construction projects of all kinds. From wire rope slings that can safely handle huge loads to modular designs and even 3D printing, there is almost no construction concept that cannot be brought to life in the 21st century.

Even with all these cutting-edge creations sprouting up around the world, many people find ancient architecture even more breathtaking for the very reason that modern machinery was not at the disposal of the people that built it.

So how did architects of the past put together the structures that are still standing as we speak? Here are a few of the inventive, often incredible techniques they developed that have resonated throughout history and in some cases remained relevant right up to the present day.

1. People Power

One of the more problematic but impossible to ignore aspects of ancient construction is that in many cases the immense architectural feats were only achievable through the use of pure people power. More often than not, the workers who hauled huge stone slabs into place were coerced into the action rather than being fairly treated and remunerated.

From the tens of thousands of slaves that built the pyramids of Ancient Egypt to the convicts that were press-ganged into constructing the Great Wall of China, having access to a huge, disposable workforce made it much easier to manhandle oversized lumps of masonry into position before the invention of the combustion engine.

Description: Sphinx, Egypt, Hieroglyphs, Temple, Pierre, History

Egypt's pyramids stand today only thanks to hard labourpixabay

This does mean that when gazing at ancient buildings and monuments, we should aim not to overlook the fact that a lot of people died in their creation. Unfortunately, this is still an issue in some parts of the world in the 21st century, which suggests that the end goal of a building project is often valued to a greater degree than the lives of those responsible for fulfilling it.

2. Cement & Concrete

We might think of cement, along with concrete, as a relatively modern invention, and it's certainly true that we've perfected the use of this material to make some incredible things over the past century. But by looking back into the mists of time it becomes obvious that these materials have been around for an immense span of human history, not just the last few generations.

This leads neatly into the debate about how the pyramids of Ancient Egypt were built. Conflicting theories have been proposed over the years, mostly focusing on how the vast stones used in their construction could have been quarried, transported and positioned. A relatively recent idea is that the blocks are actually made from poured concrete, not stone. This has proved both decisive and divisive since it first emerged in the 1980s as the brainchild of scientist Joseph Davidovits. It was not until 2006 that a study confirmed the partial use of this technique in the pyramids' construction.

Much more recently, in the second century of the Common Era, the Pantheon in Rome demonstrated how far the understanding of concrete had developed in the intervening eons. Architects were able to vary the density of the concrete to allow the vast, free-standing dome that sits at the heart of this building to stay safe and stable. It remains in place to this day and serves to hint at the eventual importance that concrete would accrue in all construction projects.

Description: Pantheon, Rome, Architecture, Italy, Building, Travel

Light floods through the Pantheon's concrete domepixabay

3. Mathematics

Even with all the materials and manpower on the planet, it would have been impossible for ancient architects to build anything that could stand the test of time without the power of mathematics at their disposal. Relatively minor projects still require a vast number of calculations to be made and measurements to be taken. For something on the scale of a pyramid, the complexity and intricacy would be mindboggling.

Trial and error was certainly involved in perfecting many of the techniques and tricks mentioned so far. However, it was the civilizations that had mastered the art of wrangling numbers to do their bidding that managed to realize their architectural ambitions with the greatest success.

Take the Mayans, for example. Their development of a complex counting system, which emerged independent of the Arabic numerals that are used globally today, enabled them not only to chart the stars and create accurate calendars but also build monuments to their beliefs which had precise designs imbued with meaning.

Description: Chichen Itza, Mexico, Pyramid, Pyramid In Mexico

Geometric pyramids aligned with the stars and planetary motionspixabay

Meanwhile, the Ancient Egyptians deserve yet more credit in this case, with the geometry of the Great Pyramid at Giza pre-empting Pi, the Golden Ratio and the theories of Pythagoras, even if only by coincidence. The conclusion to draw is that whether ancient peoples understood mathematics innately or as a result of a cohesive system being in place, it played a central role in enabling architectural wonders to spring from the earth.

4. Stone Splitting

Being able to harness explosives and heavy machinery to extract and divide chunks of rock into workable pieces for modern projects somewhat trivializes what is on paper an incredibly arduous task. Envisioning how ancient peoples were able to cope with this is even harder, yet there is plenty of evidence to indicate how they did this.

Splitting stones to make them more manageable was not a fast process; it involved careful planning and a lot of patience. From Machu Pichu in Peru to Carnac in France, the use of tools to cut notches into stone slabs and force wedges into the cracks to create full-on fractures can be identified in long-abandoned ruins.

Of course, the cost of making a mistake with such a painstaking task was significant. This made masonry a valuable skill and one which took decades to learn. As stonework became more intricate, specialisms were developed and new approaches championed.

Stone splitting is a technique that has endured and is still practiced by enthusiasts, with videos demonstrating how a stone block weighing several tonnes can be tackled by one man with a hammer garnering millions of views.

Description: Rock, Cracked, Crack, Fracture, Weathered, Stone

Rock fissures provided ancient architects with a footholdpixabay

5. Drilling

Being able to make a hole in a material is incredibly useful in a construction context. 21st-century power tools make everything from hanging picture frames to laying foundations a breeze. Yet humans were able to achieve this manually tens of thousands of years before the discovery of electricity.

Drilling by hand initially relied on friction rather than the presence of a cutting edge to bore through wood, bone, and stone. Core drilling emerged 5000 years ago during the time of the Ancient Egyptians, once again proving them to be the bastions of brilliant building ingenuity. Augers with interchangeable bits were commonplace by the time that medieval kingdoms arose in Europe, while in third-century China the creation of churn drills allowed the solid rock to be swept aside in the search for metal ores.

Boring through stone proved useful for constructionpixabay.

This ability to drill wasn't just practical but also allowed for decorative elements to be added to stonework and other structures without relying on labor-intensive carving by hand. This informed many design trends and allowed a new form of cultural expression to emerge. From basic beads and charms to minutely decorated teeth, still in the mouths of their living owners, drilling's development can be seen in various contexts.

Description: Hole, Cave, Deepening, Stone, Dark, Texture, Structure

6. Metalwork

Being able to manipulate metals made it possible to develop new construction techniques and also create incredibly ornate installations within buildings that would speak to the wealth and power of the owner. This is as true today as it was when Greek architects constructed a pyramid on the island of Keros 4500 years ago.

Recent excavations have unveiled the extent of the metalworking knowledge that the craftspeople brought to the island with them, allowing for the creation of tools made from lead and copper.

Meanwhile, many other civilizations made use of metal in a more immediately structure role. Block ties used to anchor stone slabs to one another have been found in Rome, Angkor Wat and a number of different archaeological sites worldwide.

Description: Angkor Thom, Angkor Wat, Cambodia, Temple, Asia, Angkor

Imposing architecture of Angkor Watpixabay

Another thing suggested by the presence of metalwork in an ancient building is the necessity of long-distance trade and the concept of importing. A lot of these resources on which ancient architects relied, from the stone to the raw ore, were simply not available in the vicinity of the structures they were creating.

It's from this that a lot of the arguments surrounding famous monuments spring. From the pyramids of Egypt to Stonehenge in the UK, many of the most magnificent endeavors that are still with us today are seen as being far too large and complex to have been made before the invention of the iPhone.

The upshot is that conspiracy theories which seek to explain ancient architecture have sprung up to fill the gaps in our understanding that still remain. Claims of alien intervention may be entertaining to some, but ultimately they belittle the achievements of our ancestors and overlook the solid proof that human ingenuity has repeatedly toppled seemingly impossible obstacles throughout history.

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11 Great Books For People Who Don't Like Reading

If you don't like to read, this is the article for you.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again, I am no reader. My twin sister, on the other hand, is a huge curly-q bookworm.

I always see her flying through novels for pure pleasure. I'll be honest, the sight of it makes me cringe. My body won't stay still after I get through 20 pages (unless I'm hooked). You can consider me the girl who doesn't finish anything (like Professor Calamitous in Jimmy Neutron...I even have the short stature down).

Maybe my dislike of reading stems from teachers force feeding us excruciatingly boring summer assignments.

1984? Straight up diarrhea

Fahrenheit? Vomit vomit vomit.

Animal Farm? Excruciatingly yuck.

The only thing I enjoyed about Animal Farm was laughing at how awful the movie was. On the other hand, give me a young adult novel, and you can count me in. I guess I have Vikas Turakhia to thank for introducing me to J.D Salinger and provoking my drive to become a better writer--after he made me cry and gave me a B- for a report regarding a book about Polenta. High-School was a time... amiright?

Anyway, even though I am not a big reader, there are still a few books that have stuck with me throughout the years. Here is a list of novels I highly recommend to those who associate reading with chores...this time it won't have to be.

1. Looking for Alaska

"Miles Halter is fascinated by famous last words–and tired of his safe life at home. He leaves for boarding school to seek what the dying poet Francois Rabelais called the “Great Perhaps.” Much awaits Miles at Culver Creek, including Alaska Young. Clever, funny, screwed-up, and dead sexy, Alaska will pull Miles into her labyrinth and catapult him into the Great Perhaps." -JohnGreenBooks.com

2. Eleanor and Park

"Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try." -Goodreads.com

3. City of Thieves

Written by the writer and producer of Game of Thrones... enough said. Another book that I was forced to read thanks to Vikas Turakhia and one I will never put down.

4. Paper Towns

"Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life–dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge–he follows. After their all-nighter ends and new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues–and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees the girl he thought he knew." -Johngreenbooks.com

5. Franny and Zooey

"FRANNY came out in The New Yorker in 1955 and was swiftly followed, in 1957 by ZOOEY. Both stories are early, critical entries in a narrative series I'm doing about a family of settlers in twentieth-century New York, the Glasses. It is a long-term project, patently an ambiguous one, and there is a real-enough danger, I suppose that sooner or later I'll bog down, perhaps disappear entirely, in my own methods, locations, and mannerisms. On the whole, though, I'm very hopeful. I love working on these Glass stories, I've been waiting for them most of my life, and I think I have fairly decent, monomaniacal plans to finish them with due care and all-available skill." -Salinger

6. The Catcher in the Rye

"The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain too, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

J.D. Salinger's classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950's and 60's it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read." -Goodreads.com

7. The Westing Games

"A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing's will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger - and a possible murderer - to inherit his vast fortune, one thing's for sure: Sam Westing may be dead... but that won't stop him from playing one last game!" -Goodreads.com

8. Milk and Honey

"milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look. " -Goodreads.com

9. Room

"To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world....

Told in the inventive, funny, and poignant voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience - and a powerful story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible.

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it's where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it's not enough...not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son's bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, Room is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another." -Goodreads.com

10. Replica

"Two Girls, Two Stories, One Book"- Goodreads.com

11. Mother, Can You Not?

"In Mother, Can You NOT?, Kate Siegel pays tribute to the woman whose helicopter parenting may make your mom look like Mother Teresa. From embarrassing moments (like her mother’s surprise early morning visit, catching Kate in bed with her crush) to outrageous stories (such as the time she moved cross country to be near Kate’s college) to hilarious mantras (“NO STD TEST, YOU WON’T BE GETTING SEXED!”), Mother, Can you NOT? lovingly lampoons the lengths to which our mothers will go to better our lives (even if it feels like they’re ruining them in the process)." -kateesiegel.com
Cover Image Credit: 123RF

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11 Reasons Why Hiking Should Become A Pivotal Part Of Your Life

It's good for the body and soul.


I was lucky enough to grow up 10 minutes from a national park. This meant that some of my earliest memories were riding on my dad's shoulders through miles of beautiful trails. As a got older, the simple joy of enjoying the fresh air and getting away from the craziness of life that hiking offered only made me fall in love with it more. Now, whenever I have a rough day or just need a break from stress, the first thing that I want to do is hit the trails.

1. Fresh air

Emily Smith

Being cooped up inside for too long can take a toll on anyone. Being able to get out and breathe the fresh air and feel the sun shining can instantly boost anyone's mood!

2. Exercise

Emily Smith

Hiking is a great way to get those extra steps in, and many areas have different paths you can take depending on your fitness level.

3. No electronics

Emily Smith

I am so guilty of going on my phone way too much. Being outdoors allows a break from social media and time to focus on being in the moment and enjoying the amazing world we live in.

4. Scenery

Emily Smith

Hiking allows us to see some of the most gorgeous untouched pieces of nature. It is hard to not be amazed by how beautiful our earth is.

5. Vitamin D

Emily Smith

There is nothing that a little bit of sun can't cure. Being outside in the sun not only gives you a nice summer glow, but it can be so beneficial to our health! Vitamin D helps boost our immune system and gives us energy.

6. Way more fun than going to the gym

Emily Smith

Going to the gym and using the treadmill and other machines provide a workout but can become more of a chore than fun after a while. Hikes are an amazing workout that hardly feels like a chore. So, the next time you are getting tired of the same old routine at a smelly gym, think about taking a hike instead.

7. Stress reliever

Emily Smith

Being out in nature can be such a great break from the "real world."

8. Great way to spend time with friends

Emily Smith

The next time you don't know what to do with your friends, consider going on a hike! There are so many fun things to do, like bring a picnic or watch the sunset. It's a great way to switch up your typical routine of watching T.V. or Netflix.

9. Perfect way to exercise with dogs

Emily Smith

Instead of taking your dog around the neighborhood, switch it up and take them on a hike! It's a great workout for them, and oftentimes, a lot more enjoyable than the daily neighborhood route.

10.  It's free!

Emily Smith

What more needs to be said? Free fun is hard to come by nowadays, so going on a hike can help your bank account too!

11.  It's fun!

Emily Smith

What's not to love about the endless ways to enjoy hiking?

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