Like many young geeks, when I was a kid I wanted to be an archaeologist–and a paleontologist–when I grew up. Nothing sounded so exciting as discovering ancient cities, unearthing forgotten cultures, and also, if I had the time, naming a dinosaur after myself. Well, I eventually found other career paths, but I still love history and am always on the lookout for neat news in archaeology. This morning, I was not disappointed.
New archaeological research is changing the way we view our past. According to researchers in Egypt, it appears that the Pyramids might not have been built the way we thought. And no, I’m not talking about alien architecture here.
Since the 1990s, archaeologists have been working on an area near the great pyramids and now believe they have unearthed the tombs of the paid laborers behind one of the world’s most awe-inspiring constructions. For centuries, it’s been understood that slaves were behind the pyramids, but experts challenge that with these new discoveries, which date from the 4th Dynasty, or 2575 B.C. to 2467 B.C.
A few things that archaeologists have discovered include some surprising details. For instance, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, believes that there were approximately 10,000 laborers working on the construction of the great pyramids. It also took 21 cattle and 23 sheep a day to feed them. Hawass explains: “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.”
In addition, is appears that laborers only worked for three months out of the year, then being rotated out of the job. Hawass also believes that the individuals buried in the tombs are laborers who died during their term as builders.
Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at American University in Cairo, put the discovery in perspective: “It is important to find tombs that belong to lower class people that are not made out of stone that tell you about the social organization and the relative wealth of a range of people.”
[via MSNBC – Image via AP Photo]