Thursday, February 23, 2006
I have always wondered why past civilizations built massive buildings and temples. We have been told that they were tombs and passages to the after life, or the result of showy rulers who wanted to be remember for all eternity.
We don't build such things anymore. Our architecture has evolved to a more utilitarian style: pack as many people as possible into our shrinking city areas. In addition, it would be really hard to convince thinking citizens that a 100 ton piece of granite needs to be moved hundreds of miles because some capricious ruler decides to build his or her own house for the after life ahead of time.
Although our achievements of the 19th century would seem that much capricious to anyone looking back: "put a man on the moon," "spread democracy all across the globe," and many others.
Ayn Rand would argue, rightly, that our contemporary monuments of achievement, which are comparable to those ancient structures, are the shorelines of our major cities (New York, comes to mind) with their massive display of wealth and the produce and accomplishment of "advanced" civilizations.
So my questions still stands: why would anyone commission the construction of a pyramid, and specially at such massive scales as the Great Pyramid in Egypt or the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacan, Mexico. What drove these two civilization, separated miles and ages apart, to build these similar solid-geometrical-stone things is anybody's guess. And, again, why a pyramid? A cube would be much easier to build.
Anyway, there are quite a few web sites and books about this particular topic. I found the following resources to be of particular interest:
And, again, why a pyramid? (A cube would be much easier to build.)
No, not at that scale. Lifting huge stones without the use of modern technology means dragging them up earthen ramps. With a pyramid, the base structure provides part of the ramp. No such luck for a cube.
In addition, a cube is much less stable over long times - perhaps all the enormous cube buildings have just crumbled? :-)
I prefer to think that our current societies inherited the cube building mastery (even if all ancient samples are gone): our skyscrapers sometimes look like nothing more than giant steel and cement rectangles--of course, these rectangular hollow shapes allow for maximum cubicle building potential :)