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They Laboured…

There are thousands of mysteries surrounding the pyramids, and one of them is Who built the pyramids? In 2010, researchers discovered the tombs of the workers who had built the pyramids. Then, a lot of information came to light, prompting the global community to reject some old ideas.

A team of archaeologists led by Zahi Abass Hawass, an Egyptian archaeologist, Egyptologist and former Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs, unearthed multiple tombs in Giza in 1990. They claimed that the tombs belonged to the workers who had built the pyramids in Khufu and Khafre in BCE 2,649-2,374, years before the birth of Jesus Christ during the reigns of Dynasty IV and Dynasty V. Thousands of workers had built those pyramids over the years. Historians are of the opinion that a new urban civilisation developed near Giza because of those workers; as houses, bakeries, theatres, etc. were constructed for them. Even graveyards and tombs of those workers were built right next to the pyramids of the Egyptian Emperors. According to Hawass, one thing becomes clear after the discovery of these tombs is that those who had built the pyramids were not slaves. Earlier, people used to believe that the Egyptian rulers had used slaves to build the pyramids.

Once, Greek Historian and Geographer Herodotus (BC 484-425) stated that the Egyptian Emperors had recruited slaves to build pyramids. Later, a number of historians backed the opinion of Herodotus. A section of Egyptologists claimed that the Jewish slaves had built those pyramids. Perhaps, they got this idea from the Old Testament Book of Exodus. However, Amihai ‘Ami’ Mazar, an Archaeologist and a Professor at the Institute of Archaeology of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, refused to accept this claim, stressing that Jews did not exist when the pyramids were built in Egypt.

The idea that the workers who had built the pyramids were slaves was dispelled after the discovery of their tombs. Hawass explained that the tombs of the workers were built next to the Emperors’ pyramids. Hence, it is evident that slaves did not build those pyramids. Slaves would not be buried next to the Emperors, argued the archaeologist. Hawass claimed that those who had built the pyramids were wage labourers recruited by the Emperors. One of the tombs of the workers found next to the pyramid of an Emperor was that of a man named Idu. According to Hawass, the tomb of Idu is the most important one, as it is rectangular in structure, with a plaster-covered mud brick outside casing.

Adel Okasha, the head of Egypt’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and a member of the excavation team, informed the media that the top of each tomb was like a vault. Those were made as per the religious beliefs of Memphis. After considering their shape, archaeologists came to the conclusion that they were made during the rule of Dynasty IV. A similar tomb has been found next to the Bent Pyramid of Snefru at the Egyptian village of Dahshur.

To the west of Idu’s tomb, there are several other tombs, with coffins inside them. There is also a tomb made of mud bricks to the south of Idu’s tomb. One can find several holes inside this tomb, and each of them contains a skeleton and broken parts of earthen vessels. As there was no gold, jewels or valuables inside those tombs, they have not been targeted by smugglers for thousands of years. Interestingly, archaeologists found skeletons, and not mummies, inside those tombs. It means the bodies of workers were not mummified. While the heads of those skeletons kept inside the tombs were facing west, the feet were facing east. This is how bodies were kept as per ancient Egyptian religious norms.

Archaeologists also found some pottery fragments inside the workers’ tombs. Research works on them began after the discovery of tombs of the workers who had built the pyramids. Historians are trying to know how those workers lived, how their financial condition was, etc. They have revealed that the residents of the delta and northern parts of Egypt used to send food items to those workers on a daily basis. According to the researchers, the workers used to receive only nutritious food so that they could work hard. Locals were well aware of the fact that it would not be possible for weak workers to take on a huge workload. Research on food items that the workers used to consume on a daily basis is still going on. It is not yet known whether they used to drink milk or eat meat or any grain. Hawass has claimed that residents, who used to send food to these labourers, no longer had to pay taxes to the Emperor. They enjoyed tax exemption for helping the Emperor implement national projects.

Meanwhile, Hawass has revealed that the workers used to do a three-month shift and take leaves after working for three months. Interestingly, many skeletons have signs of arthritis. Researchers believe that they had arthritis due to the extra workload. Signs of other diseases have also been found in those skeletons.

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