These Lies Are Ancient History: 6 Enduring Myths Get Disproved
These Lies Are Ancient History: 6 Enduring Myths Get Disproved

These Lies Are Ancient History: 6 Enduring Myths Get Disproved

Patrick Lynch - October 28, 2016

These Lies Are Ancient History: 6 Enduring Myths Get Disproved
AncientWorldWonders (Pyramids at Giza)

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 ‘slaves 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.

These Lies Are Ancient History: 6 Enduring Myths Get Disproved
YouTube (Depiction of Atlantis)

18 – The Lost City of Atlantis

We can blame Greek philosopher Plato for this particular myth. He wrote about a city called Atlantis in around 330 B.C. and said the founders were half human, half god. According to Plato, Atlantis existed 9,000 years before him and consisted of a group of islands with an abundance of silver, gold and other precious metals. It also supported a range of exotic flora and fauna.

In the modern era, we have the notion that Plato spoke of Atlantis as a utopian civilization but in reality, he described it as a technologically advanced but morally bankrupt empire that tried to take over the world by force. One version of the story suggests that the ancient Athenians stood up to the Atlantis Empire. Another version says the Gods became angry with the nature of the empire and sent a night of terrible fire and earthquakes that caused Atlantis to sink to the bottom of the ocean, never to be seen again.

Speculation over where Atlantis could be found has been rife for centuries. Dozens of places have been suggested as possible locations including the Atlantic Ocean, Turkey, Germany, Bolivia, Antarctica, Malta and the Caribbean! This is despite the fact that Plato outlines where the city lies. He said it was in the Atlantic Ocean beyond ‘the pillar of Hercules’. This would place it near the Strait of Gibraltar yet no trace has ever been found.

There is a possibility that a real island inspired Plato to create his tale. A contender is the archipelago of Santorini in the Aegean Sea which was devastated by a volcanic eruption approximately 3,600 years ago. There was a highly advanced Minoan civilization living on the island at the time and it disappeared at around the same time period as the eruption. Santorini was an island at that point in history but was destroyed by the volcanic eruption which also set off tsunamis and blew an immense amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The result would have been cold, wet summers which ruined the harvests and led to the rapid decline of the Minoans.