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How the Great Pyramid Was Built


·        How the Great Pyramid Was Built is a significant book for students, scholars, and the general public. The author explains the history and the development of the pyramids from the mastaba to the step pyramid to a true pyramid. Craig Smith was motivated to write this book because of his engineering background, and he has accomplished something quite remarkable. By looking at the Great Pyramid as a straightforward construction project--something never done before to this level of detail--he has independently confirmed what archaeologists have recently come to believe about the size of the workforce.

-Dr. Zahi Hawass, Ph.D., Secretary General, Supreme Council of Antiquities


·        Cross-over, whether it is in music or archaeology can create a new experience, a new understanding.  It takes someone from another field of expertise to see what the experts don't see. This book compels me to go back to Egypt to see the pyramids again and anew.

Unlike much contemporary work done by non-Egyptologists, Craig Smith's book is as solid as the great pyramid of Khufu and fascinating at the same time. It uses the best scholarship from ancient times to today to lay the foundation. The building blocks are the analytical skills of an engineer, the passion of a historian, and the wonder of a visitor to the pyramid who asks, " How did they do it?" How did they plan and build the great pyramid? Craig Smith sets out to answer the question for himself and for us. In doing so, he sets straight a lot of myths and misconceptions. The historical overview alone is worth the price.

Craig Smith takes us back to the people that dreamed of, designed, and built the pyramids in a way that allows us to identify with individuals. I believe that if Zahi Hawass were the great Khufu, then Craig Smith would have been his vizier Hemiunu, who was responsible for building the Great Pyramid for his pharaoh.

Craig Smith has constructed a pyramid of a book.  It is tribute to all those ancient Egyptians who labored to build one of the greatest public works projects the world has ever known.

-Elizabeth Brooks, Ph.D., Director Emeritus, Humanities and Social Sciences, UCLA Extension


  • The Great Pyramid has been the subject of speculation for centuries, some of it literally galactic in tone. Craig Smith's down-to-earth analysis is written in an entertaining style, accessible to generalists and specialists alike.

-Albert Dorman, FASCE, FAIA, Chairman Emeritus, AECOM Technology Corporation


  • Although how the Egyptian pyramids were constructed is unknown, there are technological and physical constraints that allow engineers to imagine how it was done (without invoking helpful aliens). First, throw out the wheel and the pulley, for the ancient Egyptians lacked these tools; second, estimate the labor force required; and third, establish a schedule that ensures the pyramid will be ready to receive the pharaonic mummy. Within these parameters, Smith, a public works engineer by profession, produces a fascinating scenario for the erection circa 2550 B.C.E. of the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Smith assumes that a project manager directed affairs; he reasonably speculates that this was Khufu's vizier, Hemiunu. Smith converts material descriptions and mathematical calculations into an almost audible narrative, so that readers hear Hemiunu think aloud as he reflects on the defects of previous pyramids and plans out a monument to impress the gods and astound posterity. This impressive, accessible analysis is an absolute necessity for the basic Egyptology collection.


-Gilbert Taylor, Booklist Magazine, December 1, 2004, pg 632      

Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved.


  • A world-class engineer explains for the first time how the Great Pyramid was actually built.

Going beyond even the expertise of archaeologists and historians, world-class engineer Craig Smith takes an in-depth look at the Great Pyramid of Giza as a massive engineering and construction project. How would the ancient Egyptians have developed their building plans, devised work schedules, managed laborers, solved specific design and engineering problems, or even improvised on the job? The answers are here, along with dazzling, one-of-a-kind color photographs and beautiful hand-drawn illustrations of tools, materials, and building techniques the ancient masters used. In a walking tour of the construction of the Great Pyramid, Smith explains how the Egyptians looked carefully at earlier pyramids before planning this masterpiece; never again would they replicate its grandeur and perfection. In his foreword to the book, Egypt's undersecretary of state for the Giza Monuments explains the importance of understanding the Great Pyramid as a straightforward construction project. 32 color photographs, 50 b/w illustrations.

-Smithsonian Institution Press


  • This is a great book.  It is well-written, covers a fascinating subject in an interesting manner, and is clear enough for non-engineers and scientists to enjoy.

Using modern engineering systems and concepts, Mr. Smith explores, in depth, the many issues involved in building the Great Pyramid at Giza.  He covers the design, the materials and their transport, the actual construction, and the labor. As an added bonus, the author provides substantial information about ancient Egyptian life and death and explains how their culture affected the design and construction of the Great Pyramid.

Throughout the book, Mr. Smith lays out the known facts (with attributions), the conclusions he draws from those facts, and with it, most importantly, the reasoning that leads him to his conclusions.

For anyone who has ever wondered how an ancient society, lacking most modern tools and knowledge, was able to build a structure on this grand scale and have it last for 4,000 years, this book is the book for you.

-John B. Molloy, Customer Review from Amazon


  • The reader will have one question in mind after finishing How the Great Pyramid was Built: is this a book about ancient Egypt, utilizing the tools of project management?  Or a book about project management, using the Great Pyramid as an extended example?  However, the answer is probably moot.  Both project managers and Egyptophiles will gain excellent insights from reading Craig Smith's book.  Dr. Zahi Hawass, the Director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities in Egypt, provides the foreword.  The analysis of the necessary infrastructure and the organization of the workforce is thorough and engrossing.

This book is not for the alternative theorist, but rather for the historically- and  logically-minded reader. One minor quibble: Smith appears to assume that the Egyptians knew that a triangle with sides of unit length 3, 4, and 5 would form a right triangle, whereas Richard Gillings (Mathematics in the Time of the Pharaohs) firmly rejects the notion.  Still, they would seem to have had some sort of square or carpenter's ell.  The first chapter, a general historical survey of ancient Egypt, does not add anything new, but is a good reminder for the casual reader and serves to anchor the building of the Great Pyramid in its historical era.  All in all, a fascinating analysis that belongs on the shelves of both project managers and those interested in Egypt's most famous monument.

-Mark F.  Jenkins, Customer Review from Amazon


  • If you are a poetic soul who prefers that the mysteries of ancient Egypt remain mysterious, this definitely is not the book for you! With little preamble this experienced construction manager places himself in the position of the Pharaoh Khufu's vizier Hemiunu, and discusses in detail the design and construction of this last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

With the eye of an engineer, Smith covers the evolution of pyramid making, the design lessons learned by Hemiunu (who likely was involved with earlier pyramid construction)--for example, to lay horizontal courses to better distribute loads; use a mix of large blocks with small for greater structural stability; use corbelled ceilings for strength and beauty; etc. Next discussed are the tools and mathematical methods available to the Egyptians: Did they have the ability to make the precision measurements that are evident, and cut and move the millions of giant stone blocks? Well, yes. No aliens required, alas.

Then follows an overview of site choice, the structure that will be built, design choices, and an outline of how the building will proceed, in light of good "critical path" project management practices, which Smith argues Hemiunu very definitely followed.

Succeeding chapters go into detail on the major building phases, including site preparation, tool making and materiel acquisition, worker support infra-structure, the ramp system used to transport blocks to the work site, the construction of the interior passages, etc. These chapters are the meat of the book and make for interesting reading.

Lastly Smith analyzes the likely size of the workforce (much smaller than commonly thought, and backed up by archaeological digs in the attached worker village). Indeed Smith gives plausible straight-forward answers to several pyramid "mysteries," and to other questions simply says the answer is unknown. Such as: the 51.9 degree angle of the sides of the Great Pyramid: it's likely an approximation of a 3-4-5 triangle, which the ancient Egyptians were aware of (though Smith is a bit wishy-washy on this point); the 26.4 degree angles of the interior passages have no spiritual significance, but were simply the result of using practical 1:2 grade measurements by the onsite masons; that giant stone blocks are in fact manageable using teams of human laborers with simple sledges and ramps.

So: A very practical book written by an intelligent engineer, who argues that his ancient counterpart, the Vizier who actually built this pyramid for his Pharaoh, was just as practical and just as intelligent. And that his workforce, far from being millions of driven slaves, were some tens of thousands of paid workers motivated by national and religious pride. A good book, though I felt the longing for more photographs and drawings, which a more visually-oriented "touristy" book would provide. Look for such a picture book to supplement Smith's at the library.

-Google Groups:


  • Of all the mysteries that continue to fascinate mankind, how the pyramids were built remains one of the most intriguing. Theories, some plausible and some far-fetched, abound. Were the pyramids built by an alien race? Could such marvels really have been engineered and created by human hands? Did the Egyptians possess technology that helped them with this task?

Smith doesn't believe so. With research help from Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities and director of excavations at Giza, Saqqara and Bahariya Oasis, he sets out to prove that the reason Ancient Egyptians were able to build the Great Pyramid of Khufu to withstand the test of time was simple: they were motivated. As Dr. Hawass notes in his introduction, "every household in Upper and Lower Egypt participated in the building of the king's pyramid by sending workforces, food and supplies. They did this to help the king be a god; the pyramid was the ladder that the king would climb to the afterlife on his quest for immortality."

This fascinating statement sets the tone for the chapters to follow. Meticulously researched, this book is the ultimate resource on everything you've ever wanted to know about pyramids. Accessible to scholars as well as the general populace, How the Great Pyramid Was Built delves into in-depth detail on everything from what (and how much) the workers ate to the strict construction schedules they followed. Intricate illustrations, charts, tables and a number of full-color photographs make it easy to gain a thorough understanding of the way this extremely complex task would have been performed forty-five centuries ago.

For anyone who has ever been intrigued by the process the Ancient Egyptians must have followed to build their exquisite pyramids, this book will prove eye-opening. It's difficult to imagine the sheer number of people who would have had to labor day after day, watching as the pyramid grew from nothing into the gigantic structure it eventually became. Smith estimates that the workers' village alone "required more than 8 million mud bricks to reach full occupancy." With such staggering facts sprinkled throughout the book, Smith brings to life a long-ago era and the impressive achievements of ancient people who, even thousands of years later, continue to hold us enthralled with their way of life and belief system.

-Belle Dessler,


Extreme Waves

  • Smith, an experienced engineer and ocean sailor, covers the physics of waves and the effect on people of "extreme waves," those "greater than 2.2 to 2.4 times the significant wave."  He focuses on the effects of these waves in the open ocean as well as on their near-shore effects, as with tsunami and hurricanes. The latter have been extensively covered in such works as Horace M. Karling's Tsunamis: The Great Wave and Kerry Emanual's Divine Wind: The History and Science of Hurricanes. Smith's book is broader; he is accurate in his physics, and his interwoven stories are fascinating, detailing surfers towed out to 70 foot waves, the Sydney-Hobart sailing race, solo sailing, incredible sea rescues, and the loss of large cargo ships to earthquake, volcano, and storm effects both at sea and on coasts. Research on tracking and prediction is also discussed. Recommended for academic and public libraries, particularly in coastal areas.

-Jean E. Crampon, Science and Engineering Library, University of Southern California, Los Angeles in Library Journal, p. 86, October 15, 2006.


  • Rough seas, rogue waves, and tsunamis are fascinating but dangerous. In this excellent and readable overview, Craig Smith provides a splendid blend of descriptions of historical incidents, recent personal accounts, and scientific underpinnings.  Mariners, armchair enthusiasts, and those concerned with the safety of ships at sea and of coastal communities will enjoy the book and learn a lot from it.

-Professor Chris Garrett, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of Victoria.


  • Smith has produced another great book. His previous work, "How the Great Pyramid Was Built," analyzed the original construction of the Great Pyramid in Egypt using modern engineering principles and tools. His explanations and conclusions in that book were crisp and credible. Reading it was a pleasure. His new book, "Extreme Waves," demonstrates again his ability to take a complex subject and explain it to ordinary people, without losing them in a fog of technical jargon.

    Nearly two years ago a massive tsunami raged through the Indian Ocean, leaving at least 250,000 people dead. Although this may have been the deadliest "extreme wave" in recent memory, it is surely not alone. Every year, hundreds of vessels, large and small, are sunk by massive walls of water striking without much warning. Smith's book removes the mystery from these waves. He explains how they form, how they differ, where they can be expected, and how they destroy property and kill people.

    Smith is an engineer and a sailor and a fine storyteller. He uses these personal skills to weave together a great tale of huge waves crisscrossing the oceans creating havoc in the shipping lanes and mayhem on the shores. Many of the pieces of this story are made clear by Smith's skillful recounting of his personal sailing experiences or those of mariners who know "Extreme Waves" because they have encountered them in person. In other sections of the book, Smith aids our understanding by adding to the narrative useful examples taken from "real life" of ships sunk and lives lost. In still other portions, Smith lets the scientists and safety experts tell their stories in their own words.

    Although "Extreme Waves" is downright scary in places, this is not an "alarmist" tract, calculated to raise our fear level and keep us out of the oceans and off the shores. Using all the latest knowledge gained from satellites, ocean research, and shipping records, Smith explains the statistics of these waves and the safety issues that they raise. He offers concrete suggestions on how to resolve these issues. All-in-all, Craig Smith has delivered a great book on a very timely subject.

-John B. Molloy, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), Customer Review from Amazon

  • Smith, a sailor and author of How the Great Pyramid Was Built, intersperses occasionally dry explanations of the complex physics of waves with harrowing tales of modern-day maritime tragedies. He enumerates the many natural forces that create waves: the moon's gravity pulls on the oceans; Earth's rotation pushes them; the sun heats them; the wind tugs against their surface; earthquakes displace them. The resulting waves can propagate from one side of the ocean to the other: waves from one storm race outward to interact with waves from another, converging ocean currents force them even higher or flatten them out completely. The complexity of waves staggers the imagination. In modern times, Smith says, with the importance of shipping and the growth of off-shore drilling platforms, understanding waves is more vital than ever. We must especially understand extreme, or rogue, waves that can appear out of nowhere and tower over a hundred feet high. In a chapter on the 2004 tsunami, Smith recounts the harrowing experience of two scuba divers caught in the maelstrom and suggests California could be at risk for a future tsunami. Science is only beginning to understand tsunamis, hurricanes and rogue waves, and Smith's book is for readers who want a serious scientific look at what we're learning.
    -Publishers Weekly, reviewed 2006-06-26
    Copyright © 1997-2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


  • Have you ever stood on beach or a deck of a boat or ship and wondered "Where do the waves come from?" Craig Smith's Extreme Waves will answer the question in a factual and understandable way. He has captured the fury of ocean waves by his use of real incidents. But the most enjoyable part of reading Extreme Waves is Smith's running account of his experiences aboard his sailing boat Dreams. His Dreams stories allow the reader to visualize the ocean from a real everyday experience.

-Jerry Aspland, President Emeritus, California Maritime Academy and Master Mariner.


Lightning: Fire from the Sky


  • Never again will I be able to simply look out the window and enjoy the awesome beauty of a dramatic mid-summer thunderstorm. In LIGHTNING: Fire from the Sky, Craig Smith lays out a stark warning to all to beware the power and danger of this still only partially understood natural phenomenon. He underscores his message with chilling accounts of the real-life experiences of golfers, boaters, hikers, fishermen, swimmers, mountaineers, and everyday people who have come face-to-face with lightning's unpredictable, capricious and often fatal power. In making his compelling case for a critically needed global program of lightning education and awareness to avoid thousands of needless deaths, Smith provides practical advice on how to counter the risks of lightning--to personal safety and to the sensitive electronic devices that are such an essential part of modern life. While the full scope of lightning's mystery continues to elude our technologists, Smith takes us a long way on the journey of understanding its sources and mechanisms in straightforward layman's terms. His description brings us closer to this true wonder of the universe and its secret of "recharging the earth."

-Richard L. Thompson, President (retired), Caterpillar Diesel Engines.


  • Far from the beauty of lightning bolts is the sobering reality of the viciousness of the strike. Author Craig Smith explains it all in his latest book, LIGHTNING: Fire from the Sky. It is an interesting and comfortable book for all levels of scientific minds and, more importantly, for the lay person. Craig intersperses scientific information with many fine examples of what he is actually talking about! The main focus of this book is the damage and destruction that lightning can, and has done, to people, structures, electronics, boats, planes, and much more. He explores current and potential sources of warnings of impending thunderstorms and lightning strikes; organizations that are studying lightning, its effects, and how to prepare for it to avoid potential disaster.

Craig's particular concern is effect of lightning on humans. Lightning attacks humans with direct hits, flashbacks, and through other means. These strikes can cause immediate death or life-long physical damages to the body and brain. And while there has been lightning striking people most likely from the earliest days, the medical profession is still not knowledgeable about its dangers and effects so that often the patient is told that they're "fine" or "it's all in the mind," and then they suffer life-long debilitating physical and personal problems, their life stopped cold.

Lightning is, at best, unreliable and unpredictable. Included in the source is a good list to follow to help prepare the individual as well as the structures around us for a possible strike. Highly recommended for all readers as we all need more education and knowledge about the subject. Good illustrations and photos accompany text.

-Phyllis J. Scheffler, Librarian, Newport Beach Public Library.


  • LIGHTNING: Fire from the Sky is a comprehensive, entertaining and informative explanation of one of the most awesome forces in nature. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it on three different levels. First, as an avid hiker, sailor and golfer, I picked up valuable insights on what I should and should not do to protect myself when a thunderstorm approaches. Second, as an R&D professional, I appreciated Craig's ability to clearly explain complex subjects, from the physics of lightening to the physiological impact of lightning strikes on their victims. Finally, as a person, I was touched by the personal stories offered by survivors of lightening strikes, about how their lives have been changed forever, and their courage in dealing with these changes.

-Ric Rudman, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Electric Power Research Institute (ret.)


  • Lightning is a very complex business about which there is probably as much unknown (or poorly understood) as known (or relatively well understood). For example, we really do not understand the exact mechanism by which lightning is initiated in the cloud, and we only crudely understand how lightning decides what to strike on the ground. Nevertheless, we have a general qualitative overview of all lightning processes and a fairly good quantitative knowledge of some of these processes. In his book, Craig Smith takes us on an engaging trip through all aspects of lightning behavior at a level that all can understand. Of particular interest to me is his fine treatment of death, injury, and disaster by lightning, much of it told by the victims.

-Professor Martin A. Uman, Distinguished Professor, University of Florida


House of Miracles


·        I love the old men reminiscing about their lives and the foibles of the younger generation. In spite of their sometimes lecherous comments, you can't help but be charmed by them!

-M. Wells, California


·        A great story about intersecting lives and drama in the wild areas of Brazil.

-B. Monachino, New York


·        A wonderful tapestry of Brazil and its people--even a metaphor for humankind and humanity. Compelling themes and characters, especially Malaika, a god-person who leads Esteves (and us) to a higher level.

-W. Wiese, New Mexico


·        Wonderfully readable, the flow of writing has a beautiful rhythm to it.  Extremely vivid, graphic, touching on all the senses, spiced with humor.  A certain joie-de-vivre.  One can't help but love the musings of the old gentleman, his reveries, his observations, his stories.  And along with the singular rhythm of the writing as a whole, there is an exquisite rhythm and dynamic force within each individual sentence itself. 

-L. Kahn, Idaho


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