sabato 1 settembre 2012



Herodotus (500BC) (Stories II, 123):  “… As for me in respect of any story that is as a rule important that I write what is narrated by each second as I heard it …..”

Herodotus (500BC) (Stories II, 124):  “… And a hundred thousand men worked continuously at a time, each group for three months. It passed through the people 10 years of hardship in the construction the road work is certainly not much less than the pyramids, for what seems to me … 10 years were then used to construction of this underground room and on the height at which they arise the pyramids, which he built as his tomb on an island, after having conducted around a channel derived from the Nile. To say the pyramid itself who spent 20 years until it was built; …  and quadrangular …. polished stone, and connected in the most perfect, none of stones is smaller than 30 feet”.

Herodotus (V sec. BC) (The Stories II, 125):   
“...This pyramid was built like this: tier after tier … they raised the stones … with machines made of short wooden lengths, lifting the stones from the ground up to the first tier of steps. When a stone had been raised on the first (tier) it was placed above another machine made of short wooden lengths, that was on the first tier, and from this it was lifted to the second tier and placed onto another machine, many were the steps so many were the machines, that (could be) only one, so easy to carry, from tier to tier”.



The “short woods machine” described by Herodotus, used to elevate blocks of stones for the construction of the pyramids in Egypt, was described as very light, so light in fact that the workers could have easily moved it from one step to the next of the pyramid.

The Egyptians did not know much of complex machines like those of the Greeks and Romans, nonetheless they knew of machines such as the balance or shaduf (used for agriculture), which used a system of counterweights to shift the weight near or on the central pivot.

As a result of our research carried out on several manuscripts from the de Architettura of Vitruvius, the architectural treatise of Francesco di Giorgio, we have not found any machine that might have such characteristics, but we noticed that in the codices of Leonardo da Vinci, there are two drawings which depict a machine that can match the descriptions given by Herodotus.

Described in Folio 818v of Codex  Atlanticus, are different machines to raise columns, in particular one of these describes the elevation (lifting) of a column by oscillations, that is, by inserting in the central pivot of the machine some thick woods, thus helping to ‘elevate’ the column.

Folio 29r in Codex Madrid I depicts the same machine built with raw woods and ropes. The operation is the same as the previous design, but this machine designed by Leonardo seems to have very ancient origins, in fact it is very different from the other designs that appear in Codex Madrid I.

The drawing depicts a machine capable of lifting a large stone column.  The machine is used by balancing a column on the central pivot where all the weight of the object was concentrated.  By swinging the column to the right of the central pivot it created a space for a length of wood, thus contributing to the elevation desired. By swinging it again, to the left side, a new space was created this time to the right of the pivot, by inserting another length of wood the column was lifted a notch.

Since a similar machine had existed in ancient times we can show that with a small modification, the machine becomes very similar to that described by Herodotus. Most of the stones used in construction of the pyramids have a weight of between 2 to 3 tons, probably not far from the weight of the column depicted. But these are only hypotheses, that is why we did a test.

The machine was designed to scale and tested during February 2011 with a cube of concrete weighing about 300 kg. Beyond our optimistic forecasts the machine (built to scale) not only enabled us to lift the concrete block, but made its application so easy that it was possible for a child of only 6 years to lift the stone.
Gabriele Niccolai