Egypt discovers tombs of pyramids’ builders
A report by Associated Press (AP) explained that the thousands of men who built the last remaining wonder of the ancient world ate meat regularly, worked in three months shifts and were given the honour of being buried in mud brick tombs within the shadow of the sacred pyramids they worked on.
The newly discovered tombs date to Egypt’s Fourth Dynasty (2,575 B.C. to 2,467 B.C.) when the great pyramids were built, according to the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Zahi Hawass.
Graves of the pyramid builders were first discovered in the area in 1990, he said, and discoveries such as these show that the workers were paid labourers, rather than the slaves of popular imagination.
“These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves,” said Hawass in the statement. “If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king’s.”
Evidence from the site, Hawass said, indicates that the approximately 10,000 labourers working on the pyramids ate 21 cattle and 23 sheep sent to them daily from farms in northern and southern Egypt.
He added that the workers were rotated every three months and the burial sites were for those who died during the construction.
The report argued that discoveries like these reveal other aspects of ancient Egyptian society besides just the stone monuments and temples of priests, rulers and nobles, explained Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo.
“It is important to find tombs that belong to lower class people that are not made out of stone and tell you the social origin and wealth of a range of people,” she said.
Workers’ tombs from the Fourth Dynasty were typically made of mud brick and shaped like cones and covered in white plaster, probably echoing the nearby limestone-clad pyramids of the kings.
The most important new tomb discovered, according to Hawass, belonged to a man named Idu and the statement described it as rectangular in structure, with a plaster covered mud brick outside casing.
The tomb also featured burial shafts encased in white limestone.
Further grave sites were found around the main tomb, including burial shafts containing skeletons and clay pots.