While the Pyramids of Giza, the iconic relics of the old Egyptian kingdom, have withstood the test of time, surviving thousands of years, they remain enigmatic in their own way. Archeologists from the world over continue to speculate how these massive structures were built at a time when technology was limited.
Nearly 2.3 million blocks of granite and limestone with an average weight of two tons were moved across the desert from the banks of the Nile and pushed on top of each other to raise the mountainous structure. What’s even more astounding is the fact that the bank of the Nile today is far away from the pyramids.
A new study offers a unique clue about how these massive limestone blocks were transported. It was a channel that emerged from the Nile and cut through the desert stretch of the pyramids, easing the transport of these blocks 4,500 years ago.
“It is now accepted that ancient Egyptian engineers exploited a former channel of the Nile to transport building materials and provisions to the Giza plateau,” researchers said.
Led by a team of researchers from Collège de France, the team found evidence of the Khufu branch, a fluvial channel that enabled navigation to the Pyramid Harbor complex. They used pollen-derived vegetation patterns to reconstruct 8,000 years of water flow variations on the Giza floodplain.
The work has its roots in the discovery of papyrus fragments at an ancient harbour near the Red Sea in 2013 that had details about Khufu’s reign and efforts to transport limestone to Giza through the Nile. The scroll contained details of the mega move by an official named Merer and his men.
The team drilled in the desert near the Giza harbour along the proposed route led by Merer and collected five sediment cores from a depth of 30 feet. They analysed the pollen grains for plant life and discovered 61 species of plants and ferns from the area which is a desert today. The findings showed the major ecological changes the region has been through.
Using the data from this pollen, the team estimated water levels in the area and also found the region was underwater nearly 8000 years ago. It dried up over the next few thousand years. The team found evidence of the channel that was deep enough to transport and not high enough to flood.
However, as Egypt became drier, the channel was lost and became unusable, but by then the construction was likely completed.
Researchers have in the past proposed that ancient engineers from Egypt could have made artificial channels of rivers through the desert to ease transportation. However, there was limited evidence to support the theory.
In the new research as well, the team pointed out that there is a paucity of environmental evidence regarding when, where, and how these ancient landscapes evolved.