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Tombs of the unknown workers

Discovery indicates craftsmen built pyramids

Image of Workers

August 11, 1996
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EDT (1930 GMT)

From Correspondent Gayle Young

GIZA, Egypt (CNN) -- Egyptians are fast solving an age-old mystery: Who built the great pyramids of Giza, and how did they do it?

Historians have speculated that slave labor dragged the heavy stone blocks into place to fashion the gigantic structures. Still others have suggested the builders were aliens from outer space.

But six years ago, a tourist literally stumbled onto a major clue when her horse slipped on a buried structure south of the Giza plateau.

Archeologists investigated, uncovering the tombs of the workers who built the pyramids -- and they were neither slaves nor aliens.

Image of Pyramids

"People like mystery -- they don't like facts," says pyramids director Zahi Hawass. "Be we have the facts here."

Hawass calls the discovery the "most important," and said the discovery shows that the laborers who constructed the pyramids were, in fact, Egyptians.

The evidence suggests that about 15,000 skilled craftsmen were responsible for the massive construction project. They used blocks of stone from a nearby quarry, moving the stones on sledges up ramps that spiraled around the pyramids.

Written records suggest the workers liked beer, ate lots of bread and were generally well cared-for by the pharaohs whose tombs they were constructing.

"They had emergency medical service for workers," Hawass said. "If anyone had an accident, they would save them."

Image of moving stones Movie icon

In a recent experiment, archeologists used old techniques to restore the base of a small, 4,500-year-old pyramid at Giza. They used stones from the same quarry believed to have been used by the ancient craftsmen. (680K QuickTime movie)

Their work, like other investigations of the pyramids and the plateau around them, chips away at the myths and mysteries that have surrounded the tombs for centuries.


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