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Pyramid Builders

Why did pyramid builders remain in dangerous flood zone?


A team of archaeologists from the University of Texas have discovered that Heit el-Ghurab, an administrative centre where the workers who built the pyramids of Giza lived along with accountants and managers who organised them, was hit by 10 floods in 45 years, perplexing researchers as to why they would continue to remain in such a flood prone area.

Heit el-Ghurab was a bustling centre during the time of pharaoh Menkaure, who is thought to have reigned between 2532 and 2503 BC, and was surrounded by houses, workshops and bakeries. 

Excavations on the town began in 2001, and analyses done on layers of muds and sands and the relics found within them, revealed that the town had been hit by three major floods in 26 years during the reign of the previous pharaoh, Khafre.  The first destroyed the town, while the others caused widespread damage. However, under the reign of Menkaure the devastation multiplied, reaching a total of at least ten floods, some of them flash floods which brought mud and rocks hurtling into the town and its buildings. Menkaure ordered the construction of a 70-metre-long defensive barrier called the Wall of the Crow but the flooding continued.

Researchers are stumped as to why the ancient Egyptians continued to rebuild the city in the same flood prone area. "It doesn't make any sense" says Butzer.  People do build houses in flood areas, but not if the houses continue to be destroyed on a regular basis

It is particularly perplexing considering the ancient Egyptians knowledge and understanding of the weather, said Stefan Kröpelin of the University of Cologne in Germany. "Generally they were much more sensitive – they knew the weather was changing and they reacted." Even the foundation of the Egyptian kingdoms may have been driven by climate, Kröpelin said.

For now, these questions remain unanswered. Perhaps further excavations and studies will reveal why the location of the city was so important that they were willing to risk their lives and homes to keep it there…

By April Holloway

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April Holloway is a Co-Owner, Editor and Writer of Ancient Origins. For privacy reasons, she has previously written on Ancient Origins under the pen name April Holloway, but is now choosing to use her real name, Joanna Gillan.

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