The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids of the complex in El Giza, Egypt, and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Most historians believe this colossus structure was constructed over a period of more than 20 years, for the Pharaoh Khufu, who was buried in a tomb inside. Recent developments – such as the discovery of boats at the pyramid’s base – give an insight into how this advanced civilisation may have been able to build such structures more than 4000 years ago.
However, it was revealed during Channel 4’s “Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence” how a series of intact scrolls could shine a light on the age-long mystery.
The 2019 documentary detailed how archaeologist Pierre Tallet found a number of ancient scrolls of papyrus in a cave in Wadi al-Jarf.
He said: “Since the very day of the discovery it was quite evident that we have the oldest papyrus ever found in the world.
“It came step-by-step – very, very small pieces at first – then only last week we got very big rolls of papyri [which were] completely preserved.
“This is a new way to see the building of this pyramid because we don’t know so much about the way it has been built and those documents are providing very precious information about the way the workers were able to build such big constructions.”
The series went on to reveal how Dr Tallet has spent almost half a decade trying to understand what the scrolls tell us about the ancient Egyptians.
The narrator added: “It has taken Pierre four years of painstaking analysis to decipher the papyrus fully.
“But it reveals, in detail, how sailors worked on the pyramid’s construction.
“The author was a man called Merer.
“He was an overseer in charge of a cargo boat and a team of 40 elite workmen.
“He describes how his team’s daunting job was transporting the pyramid’s precious white casing stones along the River Nile – the only first-hand account of the building of the pyramids.”
The diary of Merer, a middle-ranking official with the title “inspector”, is thought to date to the 26th year of the reign of Pharaoh Khufu and describes several months of work with the transportation of limestone from Tura to Giza.
Though the diary does not specify where the stones were to be used or for what purpose, given that it dates to what is widely considered the very end of Khufu’s reign, Dr Tallet believes they were most likely for cladding the outside of the Great Pyramid.
The period covered in the papyri extends from July to November.
The documents explain how every ten days, two or three round trips were done along the river and about 40 boatmen worked under him.