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Solving An Ancient Mystery

金字塔建造方法解密

(地球村時尚美語月刊優級文章2014年7月號)

The Great Pyramids of Egypt include some of the greatest engineering accomplishments in human history.  Yet, despite having been completed thousands of years ago, they continue to baffle historians and archaeologists.  Even modern engineers are at a loss to explain how the ancients were able to erect1 such enormous structures without the aid of heavy machinery.  Over the centuries, countless theories have been floated2, with few able to shed light on1 the mystery.
埃及金字塔是人類史上最偉大的工程成就之一。但儘管金字塔是數千年前就已完工的建築,至今仍讓歷史學家和考古學家大惑不解。就連現代的工程師都無法解釋,古人究竟如何在缺乏重型機具的幫助下建造如此龐大的建築。幾世紀以來曾流傳過無數理論,但大多數都無法解釋這個謎團。

金字塔建造方法解密圖片

Egypt is home to almost 150 pyramids.  Most of them were built as tombs for ancient pharaohs3 wishing to construct everlasting4 monuments in their honor.  The most famous pyramids occupy the Giza Plateau, a huge expanse of desert located near Cairo.  Giza’s largest pyramid, the Pyramid of Khufu, holds the distinction of being the only surviving construction comprising the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.  Likely built over a 10-20 year period by tens of thousands of workers, the 146-meter-tall pyramid was the tallest man-made structure upon its completion circa5 2500 BC, a title it held for some 3,800 years.
埃及境內有將近150座金字塔。大多數金字塔是建來作為古代法老的陵墓,法老希望能建造永恆不朽的紀念物以紀念自己的功業。最著名的金字塔位在吉薩高原,這片廣大的沙漠靠近埃及首都開羅。吉薩最大的金字塔「胡夫金字塔」,是古代世界七大奇蹟中目前唯一僅存的建築。推測是由上萬名工人,花費10到20年的時間建造而成,這座高146公尺的金字塔在西元前2500年左右完工時,是當時最高的人造建築,這個頭銜維持了3800多年。

Scientists have long theorized that the Egyptians built the Giza pyramids by extracting huge stones from a quarry6 and dragging them 800km across the desert to the construction site.  Then, they cut the stones using sophisticated wedges7 made of wood.  On average, these stones weigh about 1,300kg, while the heaviest stones weigh up to 8,000kg.  These numbers are especially impressive considering the long distances and massive weights involved, as well as the lack of modern machines.
科學家長久以來推測,古人建造吉薩金字塔群的方法,是從採石場開採巨石,拖行800公里穿過沙漠到工事地點。接著他們使用精密的木製楔子切割石塊。這些石塊平均重1300公斤,其中最重可達8千公斤。考量到漫長的距離和龐大的重量,加上缺乏現代機械,這些數字顯得格外令人欽佩。

The seeming impossibility has led to endless speculation among both experts and amateurs.  Popular conspiracy theories have emerged, often involving life forms from outer space.  According to one theory, so-called “ancient astronauts” routinely made contact with early human civilizations, catalyzing8 the development of technology, religion and culture.  Based on mysterious Egyptian wall paintings depicting strange creatures descending from the heavens2, some have pointed to possible extraterrestrial involvement in the construction of the pyramids, which may have served as launch pads or teleportation9 terminals for little green men3.
這件看似不可能做到的事,引發專家和業餘人士無窮無盡的揣測。有些頗受歡迎的陰謀論跟著出現,通常和來自外太空的生命體有關。根據其中一種理論,所謂的「古代太空旅行者」會定期和早期的人類文明接觸,催化了人類科技、宗教和文化的發展。以描繪從天而降的奇異生物的神祕埃及壁畫為依據,有些人指稱金字塔的建造可能有外星生物參與,而金字塔被當成火箭發射台或外星人的瞬間移動站。

Taking a more scientific approach, however, a team of scientists from the University of Amsterdam made headlines this May by announcing that they finally solved the ancient riddle.  The trick, say the scientists, is one very simple tool:  water.  They theorize that after the stones were placed on a sledge10, a large team of workers pulled it while a smaller team simply poured water on the sand directly in front of the sledge.  The Dutch team conducted a series of experiments showing that, while moving massive stones across dry sand would have been impossible, adding just the right amount of water, would make the grains of sand stick together.  This reduces sliding friction11 and keeps the surface of the ground flat.
然而有一群來自阿姆斯特丹大學的科學家,以較為科學的方法進行研究,於五月份時宣布,他們終於解開了這個古老的謎團,因此登上新聞頭條。科學家表示,埃及人靠的是一種很簡單的工具:水。科學家推測,將石塊放上木橇後,會由一大群工人拉動木橇,同時有一小群工人負責朝前方的沙地倒水。荷蘭的研究團隊進行了一連串實驗,顯示要在乾的沙地上移動巨大的石塊是不可能的,但只要加上適量的水,就能讓沙礫黏在一起。這種方法可減少滑動的摩擦力,還有使地面保持平坦。

Although nobody has a time machine to prove the physicists right, there is strong evidence to support that the Egyptians used this technique to build the pyramids.  “The Egyptians were probably aware of this handy12 trick,” a team representative said.  “A wall painting in the tomb of Djehutihotep clearly shows a person standing on the front of the pulled sledge and pouring water over the sand just in front of it.”
雖然沒有人有時光機可以證明這些物理學家是對的,但有十分有力的證據,證明埃及人運用這個方法來建造金字塔。科學團隊的代表表示:「埃及人很有可能知道這個簡便的方法。傑胡提霍特普墓中有幅壁畫,可清楚看出有人站在木橇前方,正在倒水弄濕前方的沙地。」

Regardless of how they were built, the ancient Egyptian pyramids will undoubtedly loom over the landscape of mankind’s imagination for years to come, inspiring wonder in all who visit.  For modern humans, the structures serve not only as mausoleums13 for the dead pharaohs that lie entombed14 within, but as monuments to human achievement and ambition.
不管這些古老的埃及金字塔究竟是如何建造的,未來無疑仍將佔據著人類的想像空間,讓所有前往參觀的人由衷讚歎。對現代人來說,這些建築不僅是死去法老永眠的陵墓,同時也是紀念人類成就和雄心壯志的遺跡。

Vocabulary
1.   erect (v.)   建造;建立
2.   float (v.) (謠言等)流傳
3.   pharaoh (n.)法老
4.   everlasting (adj.)永久的;不朽的
5.   circa (prep.) (拉)大約在...
6.   quarry (n.)採石場
7.   wedge (n.)          楔子
8.   catalyze (v.)       催化
9.   teleportation (n.)心靈傳動移動
10.     sledge (n.)             雪橇
11.     friction (n.)摩擦力
12.     handy (adj.)簡便的
13.     mausoleum (n.)               陵墓
14.     entomb (v.)埋葬

Phrases, etc.
1.   shed light on (v. phr.)闡明;解釋
2.   the heavens (n. phr.)  天空
3.   little green men (idiom)  外星人

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