A collection of tombs that belong to workers who built Khufu’s pyramid has been discovered in the area of the workmen’s tombs on the Giza plateau, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni announced.
Hosni added that the tombs were found by an Egyptian excavation team led by Dr. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA). Dr. Hawass said that the tombs are dated to the 4th Dynasty and belong to workmen who built the pyramids of Khufu (2609-25840 BC) and Khafre (2576-2551 BC).
“This is the first time to uncover tombs like the ones that were found during the 1990’s, which belong to the late 4th and 5th Dynasties (2649-2374 BC),” asserted Hawass, pointing out that this group of tombs can be considered one of the most important discoveries of the 20th and the 21st centuries, as they shed more light on the early period of the 4th Dynasty, as well as contradicting rumors that the pyramids were constructed through slavery.
“These tombs were built beside the king’s pyramid, which indicates that these people were not by any means slaves. If they were slaves, they would not have been able to build their tombs beside their king’s,” concluded Hawass.
The most important tomb is the one belonging to Idu. It is rectangular in structure with a mud brick outside casing covered with plaster. It has several burial shafts cased with white limestone, as well as niches in front of each shaft.
Adel Okasha, supervisor of the excavation, said that the upper part of Idu’s tomb had a vaulted shape, symbolizing the eternal hill from which the human creation began, according to the Memphis religious tradition. This shape, said Okasha, is strong evidence that this tomb dates to the early 4th Dynasty. This shape is also similar to those of tombs located beside Snefru’s pyramid in Dahshur.
On the western side of Idu’s tomb, the mission uncovered another collection of workmen’s tombs as well as the remains of coffins, while on its southern side another large tomb has been found. It is a rectangular shaped tomb built of mud brick with several burial shafts, each one containing a bent skeleton along with sherds of clay.
Evidence uncovered also revealed that the families in the Delta and Upper Egypt sent 21 cattle and 23 sheep to the plateau every day to feed the workers. Hawass pointed out that the families who sent these were not paying their taxes to the Egyptian government, but rather they were sharing in one of Egypt’s national projects. The number of workers did not exceeded 10,000, said Hawass, contradictory to Herodotus, who recorded that the number of workers reached 100,000.
Hawass said that this discovery indicates that the workers came from top families of the Delta and Upper Egypt. Workers rotated every three months, and those who were buried there died during the construction process.
Dr. Hawass asserted that according to science and archaeology we cannot fix a time for the construction of the pyramid. Limiting it to a specific season is wrong as it was based on incorrect information that the construction process was only executed during the three months of the flood. The transportation of the granite, basalt and limestone blocks used in the construction was only conducted during the flood season, but the construction work was not limited to this season, and lasted for the whole year. The blocks used in the construction of the body of the pyramid were brought from the Giza plateau itself.
The discovery of the cemetery of the pyramid builders occurred in 1990 when a horse was stumbled on top of a mud brick structure ten meters far of the necropolis located to the south of the wall. The necropolis is composed of two levels connected by a ramp. It is composed of different shapes and styles of tombs, some are pyramid shaped while others are vaulted and some contain false doors.