For International Archaeology Day, Peter James introduces his upcoming book Saving the Pyramids: Modern Engineering and Egypt’s Ancient Monuments, to be published in 2018 by University of Wales Press.
As MD of Cintec International, Peter James has worked on projects around the globe, strengthening and restoring historically significant structures from Windsor Castle to the parliament buildings in Canada. After fourteen years working on Egypt’s historic buildings, Temples, and, most recently, the world’s oldest pyramid, he gives us an insight into some of the more common theories surrounding Egypt’s ‘collapsing’ pyramid…
As we celebrate International Archaeology Day across the globe, I find myself reflecting on one of my greatest accomplishments as Managing Director of Cintec International. Welsh born, I have cemented my company’s roots in Newport, South Wales. However, my career has taken me across the world to restore the most magnificent of monuments to their former glory, including the world’s first pyramid – the Step Pyramid of Saqqara.
The background to my publication lies in 1992 where a seismic event devastated the historic structure and monuments of Historic Cairo. Whilst it was not a large earthquake, being 5.8 on the Richter scale, it had a disproportionate effect on the area. Many of its landmark structures were badly damaged as a result of the foundations being built on poor soil conditions, the early building techniques and the materials used in their construction.
I was contacted by a UNESCO consultant who was tasked to assist in the structural preservation of some of these monuments. He was aware of my company’s achievements in the field of structural restoration and invited myself and my site manager to meet him.
After a round of meetings and practical demonstrations of our capabilities with the antiquities, we were given the task of stabilising our first mosque in Cairo, Al Ghuri. The project was a great success and was followed by another seven mosques and maqaads in a three year contract. Eventually, this was increased to twenty-two historic structures.
With the confidence of the Ministry of the Antiquities, I was asked to assist in restoring a Pharaonic Temple in the Western Desert known as Hibis. This was after an attempt to relocate the temple as a result of disproportional settlement due to water conditions. The contract was for a further three year period and was completed in conjunction with Arab Contractors.
It was at this point I had become fully immersed in ancient construction theories and modern restoration. More interest was shown by the authorities in our abilities to problem solve and we were asked to restore a part of the burial chamber of the Red Pyramid. This was achieved in a few months and attracted the attention of the media in the guise of National Geographic, who filmed the repair.
I was then asked to visit the Step Pyramid to assess the damaged ceiling of the burial chamber, located twenty-nine metres above the sarcophagus in an eight metre by eight metre vertical chamber.
Many international consultants and specialists had visited the pyramid and a solution to stabilise the ceiling was still to be found. This required thinking outside of the box and I was able to provide a solution using another of our patented products, known as Waterwall. It was designed to absorb explosions from improvised explosive devices using water. However, when large spans were required we needed air supports to carry the additional deflection due to the weight of the water. This specialised material could be fabricated, assembled and used without imposing additional weight to the structure. It was just the break we needed to restore the first high-rise structure in the world.
I hope the above introduction has given you an insight into how I came to restore some of the world’s most important historic monuments. My theories on Egypt’s ancient pyramids are at the heart of my book and I go into great detail on how the repair of the oldest pyramid was completed. The decoding of the construction from a builders point of view is examined and explained and is contrary to many of the existing theories by others. My book provides a new outlook on an age old theory and I hope you will join me in embracing modern theories to preserve the past.