Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Pyramid Builders Cemetery | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat- I still consider the discovery of the Cemetery of the Pyramid Builders to be one of the greatest archaeological achievements, and personally speaking this ranks as one of my most precious discoveries. This is because prior to the discovery of the tombs of the workers who build the pyramids on the Giza plateau – the location of the Great Pyramid of King Khufu, which represents the only intact wonder of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as the pyramids of his son Khafre and his grandson Menkuare – I used to find myself continually confronting the Jewish claims that the pyramids were build by Jews who were living in Egypt and who the pharaohs oppressed and used as forced labor to build the pyramids. I would cite the scientific evidence that there was no Jewish community present in Egypt at the time that the pyramids were built, and that monuments as wonderful and beautiful as these could not have been built using forced labor.

I would also confront those who claim that the true builders of this civilization were scientists from the missing continent of Atlantis. However following the discovery of the Cemetery of the Pyramid Builders, this question has been answered…and we now know where these workers – from different communities – lived, where they were buried, the style of their tombs, the kinds of funeral services that they prepared for themselves, and even their job titles and the kinds of work that they carried out during the construction of the pyramid.

However the great surprise in this cemetery was the discovery of conclusive proof that Pharaonic women also participated in the construction of the Pyramid side by side with the men, and that they were responsible for a number of tasks with regards to this. The Pharaonic women were responsible for baking bread, brewing beer, and cooking food for the laborers, in addition to performing other work such as grinding grain and all other household tasks.

Among the tombs discovered in the Cemetery of the Pyramid Builders was that of a woman named “Nefer-hetepes” who was a midwife. There were other tombs such as that of a Priestess of Hathor; Hathor being the Goddess of motherhood and protection in ancient Egypt who was worshipped by the ordinary people and the royalty alike. The women’s tombs reflect the comparable social ranking with men that they enjoyed in ancient Egypt. I still remember the day that we discovered the grave of one of the pyramid builder’s named “Petety” whereupon I found myself standing alone in front of the entrance of his tomb, on either side of which was written a text in which Petety cursed anybody who tried to enter his tomb. This curse read that “may the hippopotamus kill him, and the crocodile smash his bones, and the lion devour his flesh” in reference to anybody who attempted to enter the tomb. This is part of a well-known curse that the ancient Egyptians believed had magic properties and would come to pass if broken, and so they believed that the animals invoked would come to life and kill anybody who dared to trespass into the tomb.

What is even more surprising is that Petety’s wife had also included her own curse – opposite to her husband’s – in which she was not content to just invoke the hippopotamus, the crocodile, and the lion against those trying to enter her tomb. Petety’s wife’s curse read “may the snake spread its poison in the body of the trespasser, and may a scorpion also string him and poison him so that fire consumes his body, may the hippopotamus then split his flesh from his bones, and the crocodile devour his bones, while the lion devours his flesh.”

During my lectures, I like to use this to point out to the women in the audience that this is just more evidence that women – in all ages and places – are more dangerous than men when scorned…although of course women are not happy to hear this!