In a new documentary, aired by Channel 4 on British television last week, archaeologists presented new evidence describing how the Great Pyramid was constructed. The new insight comes from papyrus discovered in the ancient port of Wadi al-Jarf, on the Red Sea.
Among the documents discovered there over the last six years, a joint French-Egyptian team unearthed the diary of Merer, an official involved in the construction of the Great Pyramid. The researchers were able to reconstruct three months in this ancient Egyptian’s life. The documents are more than 4,500 years old, and some of the oldest papyri ever found. They give us a glimpse into Egyptian life under Pharaoh Khufu and the only first-person account of the Great Pyramid's construction.
The Great Pyramid is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the last to remain intact. It took 20 years to build on the plane of Giza and was finished in around 2560 BCE. It is currently 139 meters (455 feet) tall and made out of limestone quarried in Tora, across the river from Giza, and granite from Aswan, located over 800 kilometers (500 miles) south. How the stone was transported to the site has long been a contentious point. At least until the papyrus was found.
Merer described how the limestone was taken from Tora on boats, one of which was uncovered at the foot of the pyramids. Stone blocks were ferried across the Nile in a series of purpose-built canals that delivered them as close to the construction site as possible. They were then rolled over on special tracks. The same type of boats might have also been used to transport the granite from Aswan.
The researchers also discovered that the port of Wadi al-Jarf played an important role. Copper was mined just across the narrow sea and transported to Giza through this port. It was used to make stonecutting instruments.
The Egyptian archaeologist and former minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass said in a statement that this is “the greatest discovery in Egypt in the 21st century.”
The Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for over 3,800 years. The incredible structure has both fascinated and puzzled experts but it seems we are finally getting a better picture of how it was achieved.