Building A Brand-Spankin’ New…Pyramid?

by Grace Handy

We see them in the back of grinning tourists’ photos. We learned they were built for pharaohs thousands of years ago and are pretty incredible infrastructure-wise. In fact, the Great one is a wonder of the world. We know they are located in the same country as all of that political unrest and turmoil. But—what if pyramids came back into cultural focus as construction of a brand new one became headline news?

With our current hyper-speed world of instant gratification, a project such as the construction of a pyramid seems lengthy and tedious. Even with modern-day technology and resources, building a pyramid would be an enormous task that would take years and cost millions, if not billions, of dollars.

Peter Der Manuelian, the Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University, approximates construction of a pyramid today would take one or two decades and cost hundreds of millions of dollars. “Factoring in labor, materials, and transportation costs alone would be staggering,” he said. Acquiring stone for construction would create a demanding task in itself. “The stone would have to come from a quarry nearby, which although would be facilitated with modern bulldozers and cranes, would still be difficult,” Der Manuelian said.

James Turnbull, a construction engineer from Boston, estimates pyramid construction would cost around a billion dollars and take twenty years to complete. Paying for labor, he thinks, would be the most costly factor in the project. Turnbull said, “More so than cost of materials, the biggest issue is the hired labor. Just think how much it adds up to if you pay tens of thousands of workers, say, $25 an hour for twenty years of work.” The materials needed for the project aren’t cheap either, especially the traditional limestone used in ancient pyramid construction. “Nowadays, the price of limestone or sandstone is more than the price of granite,” Turnbull said.

Although constructing a pyramid today would be a pricey and time-consuming endeavor, at least workers could take some satisfaction (as an ill-fated celebrity has recently) in shouting, “winning!” as each limestone slab is put into place.

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