Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1428, (31 January - 6 February 2019)

Ahram Weekly

The Egyptians built the Pyramids

Despite the rumours that sometimes still circulate about the Great Pyramids, these wonders of the ancient world were undoubtedly built by the ancient Egyptians themselves, writes Zahi Hawass


A bird’s eye view of the Great Pyramid
A bird’s eye view of the Great Pyramid

It was recently announced that a Russian project called “Isis” under the supervision of the KGB had found a mummy of a space creature 13,000 years old and mummified it using the same mummification techniques used by the ancient Egyptians during the period of the former Soviet Union.

This was used to claim that aliens built the Pyramids and the information was found in a search of KGB files. Russian intelligence has made a documentary to prove the existence of this “space mummy” found in the Giza necropolis, and it is said that Victor Ivanovich, the former Kremlin scientific advisor, was the one who found the files.

This information is false and has no truth to it at all, since there was no Russian expedition working in the Giza area during the 1960s. There was no mummy found inside the Pyramids at Giza, and there was no project called “Isis”. This is all media hype which has no factual basis. How was it ascertained that the alleged mummy was 13,000 years old, and how was the existence of the alien mummy explained in the first place?

I think that the reasoning behind this announcement only shows that Ivanovich is unreliable and unstable. No Russian mission worked in the area during these years. There was a mission working in affiliation with a Russian university in the Eastern Cemetery recording the tombs, but this did not unearth any new ones.

We have become acquainted with such ridiculous news regarding the Great Pyramid of Khufu, and I always say in my lectures that if someone stands in front of the Great Pyramid without reading about or understanding the ancient Egyptian civilisation, then they will not believe that ordinary people could have built this ancient wonder. They would not know that this was the national project of the Egyptians at the time.

There have been a lot of false claims made about the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The first is that the builders only worked for four months during the flood season. The second is the belief, based on a reading of the ancient Turin Papyrus, that Khufu only ruled for about 23 years. The third is the misconception that there are 2,300,000 stone blocks in the Pyramids. The fourth is that the stones used to build the Pyramids were brought from quarries in Tora.

All of these ideas have no scientific basis, and they will be tackled in this article.

One of the most important pieces of evidence that proves that the builders of the Pyramids were Egyptians has been the discovery of the tombs of the Pyramid builders, which proved to the world that the Egyptians were the real builders of these ancient wonders. It also showed that they were not slaves, since they chose their burials next to the Pyramids and even prepared their tombs and funerary equipment. The excavation of the tombs also found that some of the tombs were built in a pyramid shape, proving that the idea the pyramid shape was exclusive to the king was not true.

The pyramid shape was associated with the god Re, and everyone who could afford to build a tomb was allowed to build it using the attributes of the divinity. The main difference between king and subject was that the king built his pyramid using stone, while the workers used mudbrick to construct their tombs.

In addition to the tombs, dwelling areas were also discovered, along with huts, bakeries, and spaces for drying fish. The excavations also showed that the labourers worked all year round in moving the stones, and that they had one day off for every 10 days of work. Well-established families from all over the country would send workers as a donation to their king, and in return they did not have to pay taxes.

The upper cemetery was reserved for the artists who sculpted statues, and some were overseers of the work in the complex. The lower cemetery was for the workers who moved the stones. To feed the workers around 13 cows and 15 sheep were sent every day to the site. It was previously believed that the workers depended mainly on onions, garlic and barley, but in fact they also ate meat on a daily basis.

A study was conducted to analyse the bones found in the cemetery, and this revealed that the men and women working there had various back problems from moving the stones, and that women were also involved in the construction of the Pyramids, mainly in nursing workers, working in food preparation and drying fish. An estimated 10,000 workers were involved in building the Pyramids based on the material evidence found.

As for Khufu’s reign, there is a scene engraved in a quarry in the Western Desert that shows the king in year 27 of his reign. The recently discovered Wadi Al-Jarf Papyrus also mentions year 26 of the king’s reign. When these two new pieces of evidence are put into consideration, it is now believed that the great king may have ruled for between 30 and 32 years.

The opinion regarding the number of stones used to build the Pyramids has no evidence behind it. It is apparent, however, that the people who have said that 2,300,000 blocks were used did not know that the base of the Pyramids are built of solid rock, meaning that the ancient Egyptians dug down until they reached a depth of about eight metres.

The base of the Pyramids would have had the largest number of blocks; therefore, we believe that the Great Pyramid was built with no more than one million blocks, each weighing between half a ton and two-and-a-half tons.

Finally, regarding the misconception that the blocks were brought from quarries in Tora, it has been proven that the stone blocks that built the Pyramids were cut from the Giza Plateau itself, which was actually one of the considerations that the architects used to base their decision before choosing a site for construction. Only the casing of the Pyramids used white limestone blocks from Tora.

These false facts about the construction of the Pyramids may have led some to believe that the ancient Egyptians could not have moved all these blocks and that only space creatures could have completed such a task. In addition to the size of the Great Pyramid, with a base of 230 metres and taking up an area of about 13 acres, it has been claimed that if the stones were cut into small blocks, they would cover one third of the Earth and could build a wall around France.

Sadly, this information is also misleading, and it has led many to believe in false facts, even attributing the Pyramids to the ancient city of Atlantis, aliens or Jews.

COUNTERING FALSEHOODS: I lived for many years next to the Pyramids myself during some of the best years of my life, and over the years I encountered people who believed in these false facts.

One of them was that the Jews were the true builders of the Pyramids, even though all the linguistic and archaeological evidence proves that the Jews were not in Egypt during the construction of the Pyramids. In all the tombs in the cemetery of the Pyramid builders, not one Hebrew name or artEfact has ever been found.

When former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin came to Egypt and visited the Pyramids complex, the Egyptian journalist Hoda Tawfik asked him when he was standing in front of the Sphinx, “do you still believe that the Jews built the Pyramids?” Begin answered by saying that the ancient Egyptians were the real builders of these ancient wonders. The Israeli newspaper Maariv also wrote about the discovery of the tombs of the Pyramid builders and said that this ended the theory that the Jews had built the Pyramids.

There is also the story of three foreigners, one American, one British, and the third an Egyptian living in Europe, who promoted the idea that the Pyramids were built in alignment with the stars in the Orion belt about 15,000 years ago. At a conference in Chicago recently, this idea was declared to be completely false as a way of ending its unfortunate popularity. I explained that this theory was not true, and that there was a lack of evidence to support the existence of any civilisation before the Pharaonic civilisation in Egypt.

However, some then claimed that there was evidence under the Sphinx showing that its construction dated to 15,000 years ago. They wanted to drill down next to the Sphinx to prove this, which I refused. However, when the Sphinx was in danger due to the water table rising, we had to conduct a drilling project to save it. The team made 32 drill-holes around the Great Pyramid to a depth of 20 metres, and these showed that there was nothing underneath the Sphinx, and that it was built from solid rock.

There is also the Edgar Cayce group that believes that the US clairvoyant Edgar Cayce once lived in the lost city of Atlantis, and when it was destroyed he came to Egypt with a box that contained the technology used by the ancient Egyptians to build the Pyramids. The group believes that this box is buried underneath the right paw of the Sphinx.

I once lectured to this group in the company of Egyptologists Ahmed Al-Sawi and Nassef Hassan at the Mena House Hotel near the Pyramids, and we presented all the evidence that discredits this theory. I even once gave a lecture in Virginia in front of all the members of the group, providing them with all the evidence needed to prove that their theories were not true. But sadly, this theory is still alive amongst these members.

There are also people who believe that the Pyramids were once granaries used by the Prophet Joseph to store wheat in order to avoid any starvation that might occur due to the low flood level of the Nile.

There are many other ridiculous theories about the Great Pyramid that are beyond the scope of this article. When the Egyptian TV host Amr Adib once asked me the reason behind all these beliefs, I said that such people were trying to associate their dreams with this great monument, since it is the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World and a lot of people try to use the fame of the Pyramids to become famous themselves.

There is even a weekly show in Los Angeles about the aliens who built the Pyramids.

BUILT BY THE EGYPTIANS: Here I would like to provide all the evidence needed to prove without a shred of doubt that the Pyramids were built by their own people, the ancient Egyptians, and that all the other allegations have no factual basis.

First, there are about 124 pyramids in Egypt belonging to the kings and queens of the Old and Middle Kingdoms. The Pyramid of Khufu is one of these, and it has 14 architectural features associated with a complete pyramid complex, with each feature having a certain function in reviving the soul of the dead king.

These features include a valley temple, causeway, and mortuary temple. The causeway, which was 710 metres long, is currently underneath the modern village of Nazlet Al-Semman. There were also living quarters for the priests, the builders’ living area, and the workshops that produced the various artifacts inside the temple and prepared the food and drink to be given as offerings in front of statues of the king. Sadly, the people who spread false rumours today do not know about these features and only talk about the Pyramid itself.

Second, graffiti has been found inside the Great Pyramid left by the different teams working on the construction. The graffiti was found within the five inner chambers and was recorded. The first room is called Davison’s Chamber and does not include any graffiti. The second chamber is called Wellington’s Chamber and has graffiti on the north of the western wall representing the name of the king in a cartouche along with the name of one of the work groups, “the white crown of Khnum Khuf”, and bears the year 17 of the king’s reign.

The opposite eastern wall has the remains of the king’s cartouche. The third room is called Nelson’s Chamber, and it contained the name of another group called “Medjedu”, which is one of Khufu’s names, specifically his Horus name. The fourth chamber, Lady Arbuthnot’s Chamber, contains the name “Horus Medjedu” and the white crown group more than once. The fifth room is called Campbell’s Chamber and has the group name “the friends of King Khufu”.

This is the room that some German individuals recently entered through the efforts of an Egyptian who lives in Europe and tried to prove that the Pyramids were 15,000 years old and that they can be attributed to the people of Atlantis.

Third, the tombs to the west of the Great Pyramid, dating from the Fourth until the Eighth Dynasty, include many texts from the priests who oversaw the cult of the dead king, in addition to the workers, and was referred to as “Akhet Khufu”, meaning “Khufu’s horizon”.

Fourth, the queens’ pyramids to the east belonged to Khufu’s wife and his mother Hetephres, in addition to the tombs associated with the royal family.

Fifth, there is the discovery of the Wadi Al-Jarf Papyrus on the Red Sea not far from Suez at a port known as the Port of Khufu. The papyrus is in the form of a journal that belonged to the head of the workers, a man named Merer, who was in charge of a team of 40 people. These were responsible for transporting the stones from the quarries in Tora to the Giza Plateau on a ship along the Nile. There was also another channel dug up to the west, so that the dock would be close to the construction site. The remains of the ports of Khufu and Khafra have been found.

Merer also mentions the overseer of the works in “Ra-She” and the entrance to the Plateau as being called “Ankh-haf” and that the entrance received granite blocks that came from the southern quarries of Aswan, together with limestone from Tora, basalt from Fayoum, and alabaster from Hatnub. The workers would sign the first letter of their names as proof of their attendance at the site. Merer also mentioned that the Pyramids area was called “Ankh Khufu”, meaning “Life to Khufu”, and the Great Pyramid was called “Akhet Khufu”, meaning “Khufu’s Horizon”. He also mentions the year 26 of Khufu’s reign.

I consider this papyrus, which was found by French scholar Pierre Tallet, to be one of the most important discoveries of the 21st century.

Sixth, the Wadi Al-Jarf Papyrus includes evidence that proves that Khufu lived in his palace next to the construction site. I once wrote an article regarding this topic based on an inscription found in the tomb of Senejem-ib from the Fifth Dynasty, which mentions that the king Djed-ka-ra lived in his palace next to his Pyramid. Therefore, I said that the Pyramids were the national project of all Egyptians. How could the king have lived in Memphis? Especially as it would have taken a long time to inspect the construction site since there were no horses in Egypt at the time.

Seventh, as I mentioned earlier, the discovery of the tombs of the Pyramid builders proves that the workers were Egyptians. We have also found various titles in the tombs that give insights into the administration and management of the project, such as “inspector of the eastern corner of the Pyramid” and “inspector responsible for the port”, along with many titles belonging to priests and artists who were part of the workforce.

Eighth, there is the discovery by a French team of the Hatnub quarries north of Tel Al-Amarna. These quarries were used for the alabaster needed to make statues and for the flooring of temples. The team found the name of Khufu, along with a method for moving the blocks from the quarry to Giza.

Ninth, there is a papyrus dating to the Middle Kingdom known as the Westcar Papyrus that discuses a tale relating to Khufu. The story goes that the king wanted to know the secrets of Thoth, the god of wisdom, and of writing so he could build his Pyramid. Khufu’s son pointed him in the direction of a magician called Gedey, who was known to have cut a goose’s neck and brought it back to life. He knew the secret of the god Thoth, he said.

The magician was brought to the king, and Khufu asked him to cut someone’s neck, but he refused. Khufu brought a prisoner, but the magician said that the prisoner was still a human being. So, a goose was brought, and the magician performed his trick. When the king asked about the secret of the god Thoth, he said, “this secret will be known to the sons who are born from a woman in Heliopolis, and they will rule Egypt.”

Tenth, there were priests of the Pyramid of Khufu even as late as the 26th Dynasty, and these were responsible for reviving the spirit of the dead king.

All of this evidence shows that the real builders of the Pyramids were the ancient Egyptians themselves. They are also recorded in a book, “Giza and the Pyramids”, co-written by myself and the American Egyptologist Mark Lehner.

Anyone who tries to prove that the Pyramids were built for other purposes than the burial of the king is guilty of falsehood. I think that we should not respond to any of these false theories anymore, with which people are trying to steal what we hold dear to our hearts, namely the Pyramids and the Pharaonic civilisation.

add comment

  • follow us on