[Article] Records of the pyramid builders: discovering eye-witness accounts of a legendary construction project

Pierre Tallet and Mark Lehner explain how combining text and archaeology can expose the secrets of an extraordinary building project.

‘The papyri run to over 30 rolls and are the archive of a 160-strong work-gang known as ‘The Escort Team of “The Uraeus of Khufu is its prow”’. It seems that the last part of this name refers to a ship and that the men were essentially sailors. There are two different types of documents, with less than half of them comprising logbooks detailing the activities of some of these men. I am still working on the other records, but they are mostly accounting documents registering food, tools, and everything that was issued to the team. The material is very informative about how people worked for the monarchy at this time, and forces us to reject the old idea that slaves built the pyramids. Instead, the team was well fed and well treated – these were specialists working for most of the year on pyramid-related projects, not a group assembled to labour on it during the annual Nile flood when farmers didn’t need to tend to their fields.’

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