A Welsh engineering firm that has been involved in restoration work at Buckingham Palace and the White House is helping to save the world’s first pyramid in Egypt.
Enlisted to restore the ceiling of the burial chamber of the Pyramid of Djoser, also known as the Step Pyramid, which was at risk of collapse following an earthquake in 1994, Cintec International, the British structural engineering company behind the works, is now in the second stage of the advanced process which began in January 2011.
Other contracts in Egypt include 13 historic mosques and buildings in Cairo, a temple in the Western Desert and the Red Pyramid near Giza.
The company, based in Newport, Wales, has maintained structures such as Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Ironbridge Gorge and countless castles and churches in the UK. It has also worked on the White House and the Chicago Board of Trade Building in the USA and the Canadian Parliament Building using its highly advanced and innovative engineering systems.
The latest stage of the pyramid work, which is worth £1.8m, follows the stabilisation of the ceiling using specialist Cintec airbags, and involves testing a lime grout mixture compatible with the interior of the pyramid and pointing this around the jagged stones in the ceiling to stabilise individual stones.
These stones are then drilled and a specialist anchor inserted 4m or more into the structure to knit the stones together, thus preventing further collapse and protecting the structure for hundreds of years.
Peter James, MD Cintec International, said: "As well as preventing its collapse, the aim of the project is to allow the public inside the pyramid’s burial chamber, allowing the iconic structure to be fully appreciated once again having been closed off for many years."
"Having been inside the pyramid myself, it is evident just how significant these works are in restoring the burial chamber. It is important that every care is taken to ensure each stone is stabilised before the drilling takes place.
"The Step Pyramid project is of particular importance to us as the entire structure could be destroyed at any point due to the damage on the ceiling and roof caused by the earthquake."
Cintec was selected by the High Council of Egyptian Antiquities for the work. The famous structure was originally built in the 27th century BC for the burial of Pharaoh Djoser - a warrior who reigned in the Old Kingdom in the third dynasty for 19 years - by the mystical architect Imhotep. Mummified remains were excavated in the 1930s.
The earthquake led to the partial collapse of the burial chamber ceiling, as well as raising the prospect of the pyramid’s central chamber collapsing.
Cintec uses innovative methods to protect threatened historic buildings, including stainless steel structural reinforcement anchors which are surrounded with a special fabric sock and inserted into the body of the structure. The anchor is then inflated using a special filling.
Another method is the Waterwall - self-inflating water-filled bags used to treat damaged ceilings. Both methods are being used on the project to repair the ceiling and protect the structure from further damage - all without changing its appearance.
Peter James said: "We are always looking for new methods to support and maintain historical landmarks across the globe. We recognise the importance of both historical and religious structures to their cultures and hope to continue to develop advanced reinforcement systems that will preserve archaeological structures for future generations."