17 -Slaves Built the Pyramids
This is one of the longest lasting myths in history as evidence to debunk it was only found in the 1990s. Until that point, it was assumed that the Egyptians used slave labor to build their magnificent pyramids. The myth goes back to at least the 5th century B.C. which is when the Book of Exodus was probably completed. The book explicitly states that the Israelites were slaves in Egypt. Although there is no mention of the pyramids in Exodus, it was widely believed that these slaves were the builders of the remarkable ancient structures.
Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian, was writing at around the same time as the completion of Exodus and he wrote that 100,000 slaves were used to complete the pyramids. However, he didn’t mention Israelites at all. This evidence was all that was needed to keep this myth alive for over 2,400 years. History books mentioned the whole âslaves built the pyramids’ thing as fact while Hollywood movies depicted the Egyptians as cruel tyrants who whipped their slaves. In 1977, Menachem Begin, the Israeli Prime Minister at the time, raised a few eyebrows by suggesting that his forebears built the pyramids, not the Egyptians.
The myth was dispelled thanks to archaeological excavations of the sites near the pyramids at Giza which began in the 1990s. This huge project started after a tourist found some graves belonging to the pyramid builders in 1990. The digs found tombs dedicated to Egyptian citizens who had worked on the pyramids. A large proportion of these tombs date back to the 4th Dynasty (2575 – 2467 B.C.). The Great Pyramid of Giza, built for Pharaoh Khufu, was completed near the middle of the Dynasty in 2530 B.C. While the tomb shafts were relatively modest and the bodies had not been mummified, there were jars full of beer and bread for the afterlife. The way the bodies were positioned and the proximity of the tombs to the pyramids strongly suggest these builders were not slaves.
Further archaeological evidence revealed that the workers were actually recruited from poor communities in Egypt and worked in three month shifts. Herodotus’ figure was also way out as there were approximately 10,000 workers who ate reasonably well. It took around 30 years to build a pyramid and while evidence suggests these workers died fairly young, they were definitely not slaves. While the work was tough, it was probably still a better life for these laborers than what awaited them back in their impoverished homes. They were also honored for their work which would have been a big incentive back in ancient Egypt.