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Egypt Artifacts

Tombs of workmen found near Pyramid

Hazel Heyer, eTN Staff Writer  Jan 20, 2010

Egyptian archaeologists unearthed a number of tombs that belong to builders of Khufu’s pyramid. They were found in the area around the workmen’s tombs on the Giza plateau, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni said. He added the tombs were found by an Egyptian excavation team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).

The tombs are dated to the 4th Dynasty and belong to workmen who built the pyramids of Khufu (2609-25840 BC) and Khafre (2576-2551 BC). “This is the first time we uncover tombs like the ones that were found during the 1990’s, which belong to the late 4th and 5th Dynasties (2649-2374 BC),” said Hawass, pointing out that this site can be considered one of the most important discoveries of the 20th and the 21st centuries, as they shed more light on the early period of the 4th Dynasty. They believe rumors that the pyramids were constructed through slavery.

“These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates 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,” added Hawass.

The most important tomb is the one belonging to Idu. It is rectangular in structure with a mud brick outside casing covered with plaster. It has several burial shafts cased with white limestone, as well as niches in front of each shaft.
According to Adel Okasha, supervisor of the excavation, the upper part of Idu’s tomb had a vaulted shape, symbolizing the eternal hill from which human creation began, according to the Memphis religious tradition. This shape, said Okasha, is strong evidence that this tomb dates back to the early 4th Dynasty. The shape is similar to those of tombs located beside Snefru’s pyramid in Dahshur.

On the western side of Idu’s tomb, the mission uncovered another set of workmen’s tombs as well as coffins. To its southern side, another large tomb - a rectangular shaped tomb built from mud brick with several burial shafts, each one containing a bent skeleton along with pot shards. They were found at the front part of a one kilometer-long necropolis. Hawass said this discovery highlights the religious life of ancient Egyptian workers who built the pyramids.

Evidence uncovered also revealed the families in the Delta and Upper Egypt sent 21 buffalos and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed the workers. The families who sent these were not paying their taxes to the Egyptian government, but rather helped out in one of Egypt’s national projects. The number of workers did not exceeded 10,000, said Hawass, contradictory to Herodotus, who recorded the number of workers at 100,000.

This discovery demonstrates that the workers came from influential families of the Delta and Upper Egypt. Workers rotated every three months, and those who were buried there died during the construction process.

Hawass further said that according to science and archaeology they cannot accurately date the construction of the pyramid. Limiting it to a specific season is wrong as it was based on incorrect information that the construction process was only executed during the three months of the flood. The transportation of the granite, basalt and limestone blocks used in the construction was only conducted during the flood season, but the construction work was not limited to this season, and lasted the whole year. The blocks used in the construction of the body of the pyramid were brought from the Giza plateau itself.

The discovery of the cemetery of the pyramid builders occurred in 1990 when a horse stumbled upon a mud brick structure ten meters away from necropolis to the south of the wall. The necropolis consists of two levels connected by a ramp. The burial site has different shapes and styles of tombs, some have pyramid shapes, while others are vaulted and some contain false doors.

Tombs of workmen found near Pyramid
eTN stock photo

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