Tombs of the pyramid builders discovered in Giza, Egypt

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An archaeological team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass has discovered several new tombs that belong to the workers who built the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre. “This is the first time to uncover tombs like the ones that were found during the 1990s, which belong to the late 4th and 5th Dynasties (2649-2374 BC),” said Dr. Hawass.

When we think of Giza we tend to think of the Giza Pyramids. However, while the pyramids were under construction, there was an extensive city to the south that supported the workers. It included houses, bakeries, magazines and a hypostyle hall.

This system of support for the workers also included burials for those who died at Giza. “These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves. If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king’s,” said Dr. Hawass.

The idea of the Giza Pyramids being built by slaves is a myth – it has never had any basis in archaeological fact.

One of tombs uncovered belongs to a man named Idu. The release says that it is a rectangular structure with a mud brick outside casing that is covered with plaster. It has several burial shafts, each cased with white limestone – there are niches in front of each shaft.

Adel Okasha, the supervisor of the excavation, explains that the upper part of the tomb had a “vaulted shape”, which symbolizes “the eternal hill from which the human creation began, according to the Memphis religious tradition.” This is seen as strong evidence that the tomb dates to the early 4th dynasty. This shape is also similar to those of tombs located beside Snefru’s pyramid in Dahshur.

More tombs, containing coffins, were found to the west of Idu’s resting place. Another tomb has been found to the south that is built of mud brick and has several burial shafts – each of which contains a skeleton and pottery sherds.

One of the most intruiging announcements from the research team was the discovery of evidence that revealed that the families in the Delta and Upper Egypt sent 21 buffalo and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed the workers.

It is obviously no surprise that people would send food on a regular basis. It's also no surprise that the food would be rich in protein - since that's something that you need if you’re going to be doing heavy manual labour.

The diet of the workers would be important for a project like this. After all, you can’t build the pyramids with a severely malnourished workforce.

But what do we know exactly about what they ate? Have there been written records found that provide such precise detail? Do we also have detailed info on the rations for grain and vegetables? If so can we tell if this diet ever changed?

Hawass pointed out that the families who sent these were not paying their taxes to the Egyptian government, but rather they were sharing in one of Egypt’s national projects.

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