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Story of the Pyramid builders revealed in 4500-yr-old papyri

Catch Team | Updated on: 20 July 2016, 23:26 IST

Ever looked at the pyramids and wondered how they were made? Maybe while polishing off a popcorn as you finished re-watching The Mummy, you had a fleeting sense of wonderment about the people behind the ancient monuments that have so enthralled generations? Of the very few things the Internet can't do, answering your questions on this is one.

For those answers, you'll have to turn to a bunch of ancient papyri which has just been put on display in Egypt.

Egypt's oldest papyri

In what's seen as an addition to every history-buff's bucket list, the Egyptian Museum in Cairo has begun displaying what's being claimed as the country's oldest papyri. Dating back 4,500 years, the papyri detail the life and times of the pyramid-builders. The items belong to the fourth Dynasty of King Khufu, also known as Cheops, for whom the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb. His rule of ancient Egypt can roughly be dated to the 26th century BC.

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AP reported Egypt's Antiquities Minister Khaled el-Anany as saying that the actual discovery of the papyri was in 2013 by an Egyptian-French mission. The team found the papyri inside caves in the port of Wadi el-Jarf, approximately 120 kilometres south of the town of Suez.

The mission was led by French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet and Egyptian Egyptologist Sayed Mahfouz. The items, el-Anany said, were "the oldest" papyri in Egypt. Out of the 30 papyri discovered, six have now been displayed at the Egyptian museum with the rest to be exhibited soon.

The lives of the pyramid builders

SputnikNews quotes El-Anany as saying that "the papyri talk about the daily life of the workers who used to work in the Wadi El-Jarf port. They are almost the same workers who constructed the Great Giza Pyramid of King Khufu." He also said that the papyri writings revealed how the port workers transported limestone blocks to Cairo for the construction of the Great Pyramid.

The same news report quotes curator Sabah Abdel-Razek saying that, "These discoveries should not be hidden in boxes. We need to attract the attention of the whole world to Egypt; that is why I decided to showcase the papyri because such relics will revive tourism in Egypt."

While a lot of the material was found to be accounting documents, one papyrus, said the researchers, was written by a middle-ranking official called Merer who was in charge of a team of sailors.

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San Francisco-based digital content site Seeker reported the head of Scientific Publication Department at the ministry, Hussein Abdel-Bassir saying that the particular document was "an everyday account of the sailors' work as they hauled limestone blocks from the quarries of Tura on the east bank of the Nile to the Great Pyramid at Giza plateau through the Nile and its canals."

Among the accounts that were kept were lists of revenue transferred from myriad Egyptian provinces for the food and wages of the pyramid builders. There was significant attention to detail at every step. Revenues were marked and written in red, while payments to workers were written in black.

News of the display of these papyri have already generated a strong buzz and enthusiasts of civilisational history are already waiting for the rest of the papyri series to be put on exhibit. Time for an Egyptian vacation? We think so.

First published: 20 July 2016, 23:26 IST
 
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