Monday, January 11, 2010

Free workers built Great Pyramids, says archaeologist

Updated on : Monday. January 11, 2010

CAIRO: New tombs found in Giza support the view that the Great Pyramids were built by free workers and not slaves, as widely believed, Egypt's chief archaeologist said on Monday.

Films and media have long depicted slaves toiling away in the desert to build the mammoth pyramids only to meet a miserable death at the end of their efforts.

"The tombs are very small and poor. There is no inscriptions. Only this man "Edeo", maybe the workman, helped him and had a piece of limestone and he wrote his name on it as the overseer of the workman who built the pyramids. Those people what they can afford is to save chunks of limestone and granite and basalt of what is left over of building the pyramid and they used it in constructing their tombs, because the upper cemetery that we discovered are for artisans, the technicians, the draftsmen and the craftsmen," Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.

He said the collection of workers' tombs, some of which were found in the 1990s, were among the most significant finds in the 20th and 21st centuries. They belonged to workers who built the pyramids of Khufu and Khafre.

"Based on the hieroglyphic inscriptions that we found, titles in heliographic saying: 'the overseer of the pyramid builders', 'the overseer of the workmen who move the stones', 'the draftsman', 'the craftsman', all of these are written in hieroglyphic. The lower cemetery are actually for the workman who moved the stones," Hawass said.

Hawass had earlier found graffiti on the walls from workers calling themselves "friends of Khufu" -- another sign that they were not slaves.

"What has been discovered this week is some tombs for one of the workers chief called "Edeo" and the workers whom worked under his supervision. They were buried down small tombs beside his cemetery, in addition to another cemetery without any name belonging to one of the workers chief and nearby it are the discovered tombs. The shape and the form of these tombs show that they date back to the fourth dynasty. Moreover its location nearby the (grand) pyramid indicates that this place is where they started building the workers tombs - workers who participated in building King Khufu's pyramids certainly," he explained.

The tombs, on the Giza plateau on the western edge of Cairo, are 4,510 years old and lie at the entrance of a one-km (half mile)-long necropolis.

Hawass said evidence had been found showing that farmers in the Delta and Upper Egypt had sent 21 buffalo and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed the builders, believed to number around 10,000 -- or about a tenth of Greek historian Herodotus's estimate of 100,000.

These farmers were exempted from paying taxes to the government of ancient Egypt -- evidence that he said underscored the fact they were participating in a national project.

The first discovery of workers' tombs in 1990 came about accidentally when a horse stumbled on a brick structure 10 metres (yards) away from the burial area.

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