For centuries, the Pyramids of Giza have been timeless symbols of Egyptian culture. But who actually built them? For years, we did not know for sure. But archaeologists recently discovered an ancient village near the pyramids. Close by there was also a cemetery where pyramid builders were buried. From studying these places, archaeologists can now confirm that the pyramids were not built by slaves or foreigners or space aliens. Ordinary Egyptians built them.
It took about 80 years to build the pyramids. According to archaeologists, about 20,000 to 30,000 people were involved in completing the task. The workers had different roles. Some dug up the rock, some moved it, and some shaped it into blocks. People also worked on different teams, each with its own name. On a wall in Khufu's Great Pyramid, for example, a group of workers wrote “Friends of Khufu”. Teams often competed to do a job faster.
Life for these workers was hard. “We can see that in their skeletons”, says Azza Mohammad Sarry El-Din, a scientist studying bodies found in the cemetery. The bones show signs of arthritis, which develops from carrying heavy things for a long time. Archaeologists have also found many female skeletons in the village and cemetery. The damage to their bones is similar to the men's. Their lives may have been even tougher. Male workers lived to age 42 - 45 but women to only 30 - 35. However, workers usually had enough food, and they also had medical care if they got sick or hurt.
The work was challenging, but the laborers are proud of their work. “It's because they were not just building the tomb of their King”, Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass. “They were building Egypt. It was a national project, and everyone was a participant”.
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