PYRAMID schemes have long been predatory plagues on the investment landscape.
Shyster sharks fleece Peter to pay Paul on a grand scale, until the sordid pyre finally implodes.

Sadly, though, there's still no shortage of punters for whom a Folies Bergere line of dancing dollar signs remains the most beguiling sight in the world — until one final high kick reveals there really is nothing underneath.

But one particular pyramid scheme has been a notable exception — the original one.
Why the ancient Egyptians got the pyramid bug is unclear. The early ones were stepped pyramids, so there was talk of stairways to heaven and so forth. But get the bug they seriously did.

The apotheosis of the pyramid builder's art was hit with the Great Pyramid of Giza — the pyramid of King Khufu — built circa 2500BC.


The amount of stone in this truly astounding edifice is roughly the equivalent of all the stone buildings combined in the central London City area.

While the stones averaged 2.5 tonnes apiece, some were up to 50 tonnes — transported from an Aswan quarry 800km away.

Modern engineers still can't figure how they managed to piece it all together — especially given its internal labyrinth of shafts and chambers.

But the point is that, for quite a while, pyramid building was Egypt's hot industry and trigger to a tiger economy.

Recent evidence suggests that — contrary to the legend they were built on the blood and bone of armies of slaves — they were mainly constructed by locally employed labourers, masons, artisans, engineers and architects.

Underpinning this mammoth workforce was an equally mammoth support industry, ensuring the lads had all the necessaries for another hard day's graft.

Accommodation had to be provided — for spouses and families also. Bread had to be baked, beer brewed, gazelle stewed, and Sky Sports connected. Well, actually, they already had Sky Sports — bigger than Super 15 was watching and tracking the cyclical stellar panorama of the night sky.

Life was good, the cotton high, and young dudes couldn't stay up too late snorting lotus pollen and stealing chariots because they had to be on deck bright and early or else. Pyramids had to be built!


Why? The theory the great pyramids were simply gargantuan burial tombs (although they gave a nod in that direction) doesn't stack up. All the real serious royal entombing with accompanying crucial preparation for the afterlife took place in the Valley of the Kings, some distance away.

Whatever, for centuries construction of these behemoths powered the Egyptian economy
into top-dog position.

In themselves, the pyramids contributed hardly a jot to quality of life.

Apart from being ultimate status symbols for their instigators, they more or less just sat there, not even giant sweat shops for malformed track pants.

Their main benefit was simply as catalysts for concerted community activity and skill-building.

They acted as trade training hubs from which young artisans gravitated into wider society, much as our own railways workshops acted as seeder grounds for apprentices.

Our own rail network had rich utility for the wider economy. But the mega resources necessary for the pyramids' construction eventually outstripped economic benefits, bankrupting the country.

However, the original pyramid scheme shares have come good. Despite recent hiccoughs, the pyramid tourist industry has been an Egyptian golden goose.

The presumptive Pharaoh of the Far North, Shane Jones, may hark well. Commendably, he wants his self-identified ne'er-do-well nephews off the couch and driving spikes for a Marsden Point rail spur.

Presently, the couch is still winning.

But should he recall how King Khufu's grand design hugely energised Egypt's broader economy, he might also consider driving the current railhead north through the Mangamukas to its long-proposed Kaitaia destination.

It'll not only get many nephews off couches, but — unlike the original pyramids — also return immediate economic benefits.

For starters, by reducing the intimidating fleets of road-wrecking juggernaut logging trucks.