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Pre-electrical literature?

  1. Sep 7, 2009 #1
    New to this forum, but from the looks of it I'll be probably be a steady hangaround.

    Now, I've just started my second year in engineering, and lately I've become more and more interested in the question "How did people do this without electricity, diesel and MATLAB?"
    So basically I'm on a search for material that could answer this, books, papers, videos, just about anything. Note that my primary interest isn't really how they actually built the pyramids, but rather how you could go about it if you wanted another one; the technical aspects of pre-electrical engineering.
    Of course, in the long run I will probably start doing some small work of my own in this field, just out of curiosity. But if anyone know a good description of, for example, how to build a crane, capable of lifting huge slabs of stone, out of wood and no iron nails it'd be great!
     
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  3. Sep 7, 2009 #2

    Danger

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    Welcome to PF, Devlan.
    The generally accepted theory of the pyramid building involves a lot of slaves, both as labourers and as lubrication. It isn't a really family-oriented scenario.
     
  4. Sep 7, 2009 #3
    Um, yea... I'm afraid my interest isn't much served by one-sentence simplifications, I want literature on the subject! And as I said, I'm not particularly interested in how exactly they did build the pyramids, or Parthenon of Athens, or the great wall of China or whatever. I want to learn how I, as an engineer, would go about building a huge cathedral with no equipment more modern than, say, 13th or 14th century tops. How do you construct a crane, that can hoist 3-ton blocks of stone ten meters up in the air, out of wood and rope and little else? That sort of stuff.
     
  5. Sep 7, 2009 #4
    I just googled "ancient cranes" and a lot of stuff came up.Whether or not it is what you want I don't know but I suggest you seek the help of Mrs Google.
     
  6. Sep 7, 2009 #5
    hi Devlan,
    i suggest you to check out ancient megastructure in national geography. don't blame me because i am suggesting you same as above. but when you say i am building the one, no one built before. you will come up with new ideas may be resource based. To build a pyramid they made slopes to carry the stone to top instead of crane because they have lot of dry mud, suppose if the same pyramid is built in island. the approach would have been different. so that age mega structures are resource based.
     
  7. Sep 7, 2009 #6
    Alright, alright, my bad, didn't remember the fact that I'm new on the forum and that a bit of clarification might be in order:
    I'm well aware of google, youtube and so on ad infinitum (except wikipedia, please spare me that crap) and I know how to use them, naturally searching the internet is what I'm doing. I have more than enough education and basic common sense to know that what you can build is limited by available resources; with all due respect, I do not need simple explanations on high school basics, I want to learn more about the technical details concerning pre-electrical engineering. Just an interest that got sparked from hearing remarks, time and time again, like "I really don't how they did it" in regards to ancient construction feats.
    I consider posting on forums another kind of internet search. I do it with the hope of not getting this huge load of popular history that comes with google and instead find those little shards of diamonds that people of the trade might be familiar with, but you might not know of or think of as a rookie. If you feel that I should be able to find all I want by using google, then you can happily lean back and ignore this thread, as I will undoubtedly find it in the long run!
    As for historical records, I've been a history buff for many years and I know my sources there, but it struck me that I know next to nothing on where to look for material like "Engineering Mechanics: Dynamics, sixth edition" on how to work without modern equipment.
     
  8. Sep 7, 2009 #7

    Danger

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    Devlan, I apologize if my original answer seemed facetious. It was not intended to be such. The last that I saw of pyramid building, back in my early childhood (okay, I'm kidding; it was on the history channel), they not only used slaves to haul the blocks up the ramps, but also tossed a few into the path of blocks and used their bodily fluids as lubrication. When I said that it wasn't a family-oriented scenario, it was just my way of saying that the full disclosure might not be palatable to some people.
    I certainly meant no offense to you by simplifying it. You must remember that members here range in age from about 11 years old to near infinity. Integral, for instance, has to scrape the dinosaur **** off of the stone tablet to read his birth certificate.
    I always assume a low level of education unless the poster indicates otherwise, which you have done in subsequent posts.
    Having never graduated high-school, I will now leave this in the hands of the experts.
     
  9. Sep 7, 2009 #8

    mgb_phys

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    The pyramid builders weren't slaves they were a mixture of specialist masons and engineers plus a lot of farmers drafted in for the flood season.
    Wether you regard them as taxed-labour like medieval serfs or as a government scheme to employ and feed peasants when they couldn't work - depends on the politics of the historian. But they were well looked after, there is a lot of evidence for medical treatment of workers and even of incentive schemes and employee of the month awards, individual work gangs wrote graffiti on bocks claiming they had lifted more than another gang and been given prizes.

    The numbers working on the pyramids are a lot less than used to be thought - the effort is about the same as for a gang of navies building a railway line in Victorian England, with not much more advance technology.
     
  10. Sep 7, 2009 #9

    Danger

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    Mgb, I remember now about the status of the primary builders. That was in the same History Channel report that I mentioned earlier. Those were the 'elite', so to speak, of the building culture. There were also slaves involved, many of whom were used to 'grease the ways'.
    You can almost equate it to design engineers and journeymen carpenters as opposed to a framer or other labourer. (And I'm not putting down framers when I say that; I have a lot of friends who do that for a living.)
     
  11. Sep 7, 2009 #10

    ideasrule

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    I'll add that I, too, would like to know the answer to this question. The meta-discussion about the pyramids is interesting, and by all means continue it, but let's not lose sight of our main goal.
     
  12. Sep 7, 2009 #11

    Danger

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    I remember from a few decades back that someone attempted to explain ancient construction using some sort of chemical (related to acetic acid, I think) that liquified granite and allowed it to be poured into moulds. I have no idea of whether or not that was debunked, but I haven't heard anything about it since then. I rather suspect that, had there been anything to it, the technique would currently be in wide-spread use.
     
  13. Sep 7, 2009 #12

    mgb_phys

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    There was a permanent staff of architects, engineers, surveyors, specialist masons etc and a rotating staff of a few 1000 peasants for muscle.
    Wether an individual peasant felt pride that they were working on a god's tomb, resentment at being drafted or glad of the work an food in the off season you can't really tell - probably just like today, everybody felt all of the above depending on the weather! They were certainly very well treated. http://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids.html

    The later 'valley of the kings' tombs are entirely professionals, but a lot less grunt work than pyramis.

    Medieval cathedrals and castles are a bit more professional, there were a few superstar architects working across europe, a set of master masons and carpenters that worked in a few towns and a relatively small number of general laborers that only worked part of the year. There is a series of very short building seasons between planting, harvest and when the weather gets too bad. These are all the seasons for fighting wars so ironically castles mostly got built in times of relative peace.
     
  14. Sep 9, 2009 #13
    Iron nails are very use full but an excellent alternative is notching connecting points and/or boring holes for wooden pegs. The downside is they are labor intensive, but they most certainly can be used for construction of a large crane. I am sure many techniques have evolved into woodworking, furniture and buildings in some parts of the world- as well as replica or evolutions of the tools. I've also seen a few videos of people demonstrating things such as one man replicating the construction of stone henge using simple machines such as this http://video.google.com/videosearch?q=making+stonehenge&hl=en&client=firefox-a&emb=0&aq=f# [Broken]

    “Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”
    -Archimedes
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  15. Sep 9, 2009 #14
    I'd suggest looking into the history of hydraulics. One thing that comes to mind is that Greek and Roman temples had automatic doors that worked hydraulically. I seem to remember that they also used hydraulic presses. Pretty amazing that they had doors that basically worked like Star Trek doors 1000s of years ago. Other cultures had similar technologies.

    Hydraulics and simple machines could certainly make a powerful crane.

    Also, while they didn't have electronics the ancients did use some of the same basic principles used today like automatic feedback.
     
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