Egyptologists have been able to explain how the ancient Egyptians transported heavy cargo from the quarries to building sites using barges, but the question of moving the 2.5 ton stones across the desert has, until recently, plagued scientists and mechanical engineers alike. Researchers at the University of Amsterdam conducted several experiments and concluded that the ancient Egyptians must have dampened the sand for the sleds-large slabs with upturned edges–to slide over it without it digging into the sand ahead.
The research revealed that sand with just the right amount of moisture can double its stiffness. Thanks to microdroplets of water that bind grains of sand together through capillary action, friction and the force required to drag the sled are cut in half. An ancient artwork found within the tomb of the Middle Kingdom nomarch Djehutihotep confirms the new scientific findings. The image includes a representation of a slave pouring liquid into the sand in front of the sled.