Archaeology, Archaeology Research

New Egyptian workers’ tombs

Undated photo released by the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities on Sunday, Jan 10, 2010 (AP)

CAIRO – Egyptian archaeologists discovered a new set of tombs belonging to the workers who built the great pyramids, shedding light on how the laborers lived and ate more than 4,000 years ago, the antiquities department said Sunday“.

Now I’m not an Egyptologist by any means, but like most archaeologists I’m more interested in every-day people than kings and queens. So this discovery, by Egyptian archaeologists, is pretty interesting. Essentially, the evidence appears to indicate that the people who were building the pyramids weren’t slaves, they were pretty well-off workers (they ate meat – seriously, medieval peasants didn’t have such a good deal!) who participated in the same type of rituals, albeit scaled down to their status, as higher levels of ancient Egyptian society.

To be fair, archaeological evidence has long suggested that most of the epic, monumental building projects of the worlds civilizations have not been constructed by slaves, but rather either by communities or apparently well-treated workers. I’ve always thought this rather logical – after all, do you really want a bunch of surly slaves producing your incredibly important monument? Or would you rather have people who were a) highly skilled and b) motivated to do a good job?

For a modern comparison, check out Austin’s Capitol building in the US. It was built with the help of prisoners, who apparently took the opportunity to be as awkward as they could get away with, including putting the window-sills on back to front!

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