May 30, 2024

Scientists have discovered a long buried branch of the Nile River that once ran alongside more than 30 pyramids Egyptwhich may solve the mystery of how ancient Egyptians transported the massive stone blocks to build the monuments.

The 40-mile-long (64 km) branch of the river, which passed by the Giza pyramid complex among other places, was hidden under desert and farmland for millennia, according to a study that revealed the find on Thursday.

The existence of the river would explain why the 31 pyramids were built between 4,700 and 3,700 years ago in a chain along a now inhospitable desert strip in the Nile Valley.

The strip near the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis includes the Great Pyramid of Giza – the only surviving structure of the seven wonders of the ancient world – as well as the Khafre, Cheops and Mykerinos pyramids.

Archaeologists have long thought that ancient Egyptians must have used a nearby waterway to move the giant materials used to build the pyramids.

“But no one was sure of the location, shape, size or proximity of this mega-waterway to the actual pyramid site,” said lead study author Eman Ghoneim from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in the USA.

The international team of researchers used radar satellite images to map the river branch, which they named Ahramat – “pyramids” in Arabic.

Radar gave them the “unique ability to penetrate the sand surface and produce images of hidden features, including buried rivers and ancient structures,” Ghoneim said.

Surveys in the field and cores of sediment from the site confirmed the presence of the river, according to the study room in the journal Communications Earth & Environment.

The once-mighty river became increasingly silted up, possibly beginning during a major drought about 4,200 years ago, the scientists suggested.

The Giza pyramids stood on a plateau about a kilometer from the bank of the river.

Many of the pyramids had a “ceremonial elevated walkway” that ran alongside the river before ending at the Valley Temples, which served as harbors, Ghoneim said.

This suggests that the river “played a key role in transporting the enormous building materials and workers needed for the construction of the pyramid”, she added.

Exactly how ancient Egyptians managed to build such large and long-lasting structures has been one of history’s great mysteries.

These heavy materials, most of which were from the south, “would have been much easier to float down the river” than to transport over land, said study co-author Suzanne Onstine of the University of Memphis.

The banks of the river could have been where the funeral effects of pharaohs were received before their bodies were moved to their final burial place inside the pyramid, she suggested.

The river may also indicate why the pyramids were built in different places.

“The course of the water and its volume changed over time, so fourth dynasty kings had to make different choices than the 12th dynasty kings,” she said.

“The discovery reminded me of the intimate connection between geography, climate, environment and human behavior.”

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