Nearly 5,000 years old, a monument known today as the Shunet el-Zebib is the only surviving example of a series of monumental cultic buildings built by Egypt’s earliest kings. Over the centuries, it has been ravaged by the elements, attacked by animals and insects, and structurally compromised by human interventions. Its current-day survival seems almost miraculous.
Shunet, one of the most mysterious of ancient Egypt’s monuments was recently in danger of imminent collapse. Experts agreed that unless steps were taken immediately this massive mud-brick structure would not remain standing much longer. Teams of local masons experienced in mud-brick construction were brought in. They laid new bricks that replaced missing sections and filled in holes in the walls, reinforcing the layers periodically with what they called “a special thin perforated sheet of plastic textile material, developed originally for applications in stabilizing earthen embankments during highway construction.”
This geogrid textile provided the horizontal reinforcement in the new construction, for which the original builders used layers of reeds. Through a system of simple mechanical ties, the geogrid also allowed new masonry to be securely attached to the original fabric of the walls.