Pyramids build by ‘freemen’

DFN: So, "The 10 Commandments" presented an inaccurate picture of ancient Egypt? Surprise, surprise, surprise.

Pyramids may have been built by free men, not slaves
By Yuval Azoulay, Haaretz Correspondent and Reuters

Tombs discovered in recent years near the Great Pyramids in Egypt may reveal that the builders of the famed monuments were free workers, rather than slaves, as is commonly thought. The discovery of the tombs also showed that the workers received pay, food and lodging near the construction site, the Egyptian Antiquities Ministry said yesterday.

Egyptian archaeologists said they found evidence of settlements near the pyramids of Khufu and Khare, at Giza near Cairo.
Popular culture has 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 new tombs, which are approximately 4,100 years old, may dispel these myths.

"These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves," Zahi Hawass, the chief archaeologist heading the Egyptian excavation team, said in a statement.

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 about 10,000 builders.

The builders were rotated every three months and those who died on the job were buried in these tombs.

The first of the laborers’ tombs were uncovered in the early 1990s and were studied for many years by scholars from around the world. The cone-shaped tombs were built mainly of mud-brick and covered with white plaster. Scholars have said the plaster may have been added to imitate the royal pyramids.

Such discoveries reveal aspects of ancient Egyptian society, and can show the social origins of the lower classes, Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology and the American University of Cairo told The Associated Press.

Tel Aviv University Egyptologist Dr. Raphael Ventura said yesterday he was not surprised at the reports on ancient labor conditions.

"Those who study the subject properly know that slaves did not build the pyramids and certainly not the Israelites, as many mistakenly think," he said. However, Ventura and other Egyptologists said the reason people worked hands was the good deed of building a tomb for the king.

"They felt it was their duty to come when they were called," leaving their farms and fields during the Nile’s flood season, he said.



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