Stories of Your Life and Others | Page 14 of 279

Author: Ted Chiang | Submitted by: Maria Garcia | 59189 Views | Add a Review

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le digging with hammers and picks would be impractical: even if they were tunneling horizontally, they would make no more than two fingers' width of progress a day through granite, and tunneling upward would be far, far slower. Instead, they employed fire-setting.

With the wood they had brought, a bonfire was built below the chosen point of the vault, and fed steadily for a day.

Before the heat of the flames, the stone cracked and spalled. After letting the fire burn out, the miners splashed water onto the stone to further the cracking. They could then break the stone into large pieces, which fell heavily onto the tower. In this manner they could progress the better part of a cubit for each day the fire burned.

The tunnel did not rise straight up, but at the angle a staircase takes, so that they could build a ramp of steps up from the tower to meet it. The fire-setting left the walls and floor smooth; the men built a frame of wooden steps underfoot, so that they would not slide back down. They used a platform of baked bricks to support the bonfire at the tunnel's end.

After the tunnel rose ten cubits into the vault, they leveled it out and widened it to form a room. After the miners had removed all the stone that had been weakened by the fire, the Egyptians began work. They used no fire in their quarrying. With only their dolerite balls and hammers, they began to build a sliding door of granite.

They first chipped away stone to cut an immense block of granite out of one wall. Hillalum and the other miners tried to help, but found it very difficult: one did not wear away the stone by grinding, but instead pounded chips off, using hammer blows of one strength alone, and lighter or heavier ones would not do.

After some weeks, the block was ready. It stood taller than a man, and was even wider than that. To free it from the floor, they cut slots around the base of the stone and pounded in dry wooden wedges. Then they pounded thinner wedges into the first wedges to split them, and poured water into the cracks so that the wood would swell. In a few hours, a crack traveled into the stone, and the block was freed.

At the rear of the room, on the right-hand side, the miners burned out a narrow upward-sloping corridor, and in the floor in front of the chamber entrance they dug a downward-sloping channel into the floor for a cubit. Thus there was a smooth continuous ramp that cut across the floor immediately in front of the entrance, and ended just to its left. On this ramp the Egyptians loaded the block of granite. They dragged and pushed the block up into the side corridor, where it just barely fit, and propped it in place with a stack of flat mud bricks braced against the bottom of the left wall, like a pillar lying on the ramp.

With the sliding stone to hold back the waters, it was safe for the miners to continue tunneling. If they broke into a reservoir and the waters of heaven began pouring down into the

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Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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