The Lost City of the Pyramid Builders
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
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NHNE: Special Article:
The Lost City of the Pyramid Builders
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
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Over the years, we have sent out a number of special reports and articles
that have systematically dismantled the idea that Atlanteans, extraterrestrials,
or some other highly evolved civilization (from Earth or elsewhere)
produced Stonehenge, the pyramids of Egypt, the giant stone heads of
Easter Island, or the other wonders of humankind's ancient world (see
below for links).
And the October issue of Discover Magazine adds yet another nail to
the coffin of Atlantean mythology. Itemizing the search for a lost city
that supported the ancient Egyptians who constructed the pyramids at
Giza, the cover story article offers yet more evidence that these ancient
monuments were produced by hard working and ingenious ancient Egyptians
-- without the help of extraterrestrials, or super-advanced Earthlings.
Significantly, Mark Lehner is the world-renowned archeologist in charge
of excavating the newly discovered lost city. And Lehner, as those of
you know who are familiar with the research we have done concerning
this topic, began his illustrious career as a champion of the Atlantean
worldview presented by the psychic readings of Edgar Cayce. That was
almost 30 years ago. Older, wiser, and much more experienced, Lehner
long ago abandoned all ideas that the massive monuments of Egypt were
created by Atlanteans, or any other high-tech culture. Indeed, along
with spending decades searching for a deeper understanding of how, exactly,
the ancient Egyptians built their remarkable monuments, Lehner has also
spent a good deal of time debunking the ever-popular (and never ending)
torrent of books, theories, and pseudo scientists that claim the splendors
of ancient Egypt are the handiwork of someone else...
--- David Sunfellow
RELATED NHNE LINKS:
EARTH CHANGES & MILLENNIUM FEVER (10/10/1997):
THE GREAT PYRAMID & THE SPHINX (11/25/1994):
EASTER ISLAND (8/25/1995):
HIGH-TECH ORIGINS CHALLENGED - AGAIN (3/7/1997):
A REVIEW OF SCALLION'S PREDICTIONS FOR 1995 (2/20/1996):
By Jack McClintock
DISCOVER Vol. 22 No. 10 (October 2001)
Has an American archaeologist finally found the home of the 20,000
workers who built the great pyramids of Giza?
The mysterious Wall of the Crow separates Egyptologist Mark Lehner's
dig from the pyramids at Giza. The hat is in the hole. Crouched on one
knee under the searing sun a few hundred yards south of the Sphinx,
his signature green felt hat on his head and a trowel sticking out of
his hip pocket, Mark Lehner sweeps dust with a paintbrush from the remains
of an ancient wall. His keen blue eyes and long, sun-reddened nose zero
in as he takes measurements with fervent exactitude -- and, today, ill-concealed
excitement. He adds another tiny mark to his precise drawing. Since
he unearthed this wall just a week ago, he has hardly stopped thinking
about it. Could it be the royal palace he's been seeking -- home of
those who ruled the workers who built the pyramids?
For nearly 30 years, Lehner, a respected authority on ancient Egypt's
Sphinx and pyramids, has labored to answer a perplexing question: Where
did the more than 20,000 people who built these mysterious monuments
live? He is convinced the people lived right here on the Giza plateau,
in a lost city that is among the world's oldest, dating from roughly
2500 B.C. So far, he's found plenty of evidence of their work -- but
thousands of houses, if they exist, still lie invisible beneath the
"We're finding the everyday structures that supported the pyramid-building,"
says Lehner, squinting against the sun, his hat providing the only shade.
"We know from tomb scenes that the people who lived here baked
bread, and now we've found the real thing -- real bakeries. We've found
real streets, real galleries, a great production complex organized in
long streets and corridors. We've found Egypt's oldest hypostyle hall,
oldest paved street, oldest faience works. It's the largest exposure
of an Old-Kingdom [2575-2130 B.C.] settlement, where Egyptians actually
carried out work, as opposed to just building tombs and monuments."
He pauses. "But why did we find enough bones to have fed 6,000
people a day if they ate meat daily -- which they probably didn't --
but no houses? Where were all the people? It's very strange, and very
cool that we don't know -- because that means we're onto something."
Just this week, after decades of digging and measuring, Lehner thinks
he may have found a royal residence, home of the ruler whom the laborers
served. But in an e-mail dispatch sent home to financial supporters,
he doesn't permit himself to use the word palace. So far it's just a
"double-walled, buttressed building." He has exposed only
a corner of it. He knows that Egyptian royal residences tended to be
oriented cleanly from north to south, as this building is, while the
rest of the complex is skewed significantly clockwise. If this structure
does turn out to be a palace, it will clinch Lehner's notion that there
was a workers' city at Giza -- no palace could exist without people
living nearby to sustain it. And this building is big. Very big. Lehner's
hat-shaded face shows surprise, hope, and excitement. "I'm very
intrigued by this," he says carefully. "It's possibly fairly
significant. It's very suggestive. I can't say, but it looks like a
Intellectual rigor and caution came slowly to Lehner. In the mixed-up
1960s and early 1970s, he was a rebellious drifter -- college dropout
and follower of the self-proclaimed psychic Edgar Cayce, who believed
that denizens of Atlantis helped build the pyramids in 10,500 B.C.,
stashed their ancient wisdom in a "Hall of Records" beneath
the Sphinx's forepaws, and vanished without a trace. Boomeranging aimlessly
around the United States, Lehner landed at Cayce headquarters in Virginia
Beach, where the powers decided, he says, "I was destined for Egypt,
to find the Hall of Records." The Cayce organization gave him financial
support so that he could study anthropology at the American University
in Cairo. Soon after he arrived, in 1973, he hopped the bus to Giza.
At first he was disappointed. "It was hot and dusty and not very
majestic," he recalls. Before long, he was spending all his spare
time on the Giza plateau, watching the sun rise and set over the pyramids
and the Sphinx. He became obsessed by the place and began to shed the
Cayce fantasies. "I became very familiar with Giza physically,
making notes on my three-by-five cards and taking pictures with my old
Leica," he says. "There were thousands of tombs of real people,
statues of real people with real names, and none of them figured in
the Cayce stories. I was finding survey holes in the stone, pottery
shards, and charcoal from cooking fires in the mortar between the stones
in the pyramids. When the Cayce people came to visit, I was increasingly
irritated to be with them. The bedrock reality just didn't match up
with their worldview."
As Lehner points out, we've known for generations who built the pyramids.
"The Egyptians built them -- the pharaohs -- Khufu, Khafre, Menkaure,
real people with real names and real lives. Why are people looking for
an alternative, for some advanced civilization? It doesn't get any better
than this. This is an advanced civilization."
That profound shift in his thinking, a vital step down the road to
becoming a scientist, didn't happen easily. It meant letting go of a
belief system he had relied upon, and the loss was wrenching. Over time
Lehner learned to put his trust in the scientific method. Today he calls
himself "a hard-assed skeptic" but remains friendly with former
Cayce comrades. He isn't a man to abandon old friends.
In 1979 the American Research Center in Egypt agreed to sponsor his
first major project: mapping the Sphinx. "Although it's the most
prominent of Middle Eastern monuments, it had never been carefully studied
until Mark went at it," says Peter Lacovara, curator of ancient
art at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta.
Lehner spent five years clambering across the 66-foot colossus, measuring
every stone with a folding rule and a tape measure, dropping his plumb
bob from every conceivable height. He carefully triangulated nearly
100 separate points on the face alone. "I was a good mapper, a
good artistic hand," he says, "and I really fell in love with
it." He produced a detailed scale drawing six feet long, and as
he unrolls it today on the dining room floor of the villa he rents in
Giza, he smiles. "I tell people, 'Pick a block, check it out, keep
me honest.'" He says no one has yet found an error. When the Sphinx
was restored, starting in the late 1980s, Lehner's map was invaluable.
Over the years Lehner came to know the Giza plateau intimately. He
learned its geology, its history, its archaeology, and used them all
to understand how the plateau had evolved. Originally it formed as a
shell embankment beneath the sea. When the waters receded 50 million
years ago, during the Eocene Epoch, the plateau became dry land. Today
it consists of a limestone plate called the Mokattam Formation: a high,
fossil-packed embankment to the northwest, on which the pyramids were
built, and a slope of alternating layers of hard and soft limestone
to the southeast, where the Sphinx lies.
On the advice of a friend, Lehner began approaching the plateau from
the south, rather than from the north and east as most tourists do.
He spent many afternoons on top of a windy knoll, contemplating the
layered, pitted landscape geologists had described. Eventually he had
read so much, talked to so many scholars, and lain awake so many nights
thinking how the monuments might have been built that a picture began
forming in his head -- "my epiphany in the desert," he calls
it. In his mind, he saw kilt-clad workers toiling in the quarries, cutting
through the softer layers of limestone blocks with copper chisels and
stone pickaxes. He saw granite-laden boats sailing down the Nile from
Aswan and into a canal-fed harbor. He imagined other boats bringing
finer limestone from Tura, just across the Nile, to encase the pyramids
in gleaming white. Lehner came to understand how thousands of years
ago someone else, Khufu's architect, might have envisioned this place:
where to place the quarries, the canals, the workshops -- the city.
Lehner knew that he would need further academic training and credentials
to continue his search, so he returned to the United States in 1985
to study for a Ph.D. in archaeology at Yale. In 1990 he took a job teaching
Egyptian archaeology at the University of Chicago, but Giza fever was
in his blood. The Cayce people had been right about Lehner -- he was
"destined for Egypt."
While he was teaching, his friend, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, now Director
of the Pyramids, began digging at Giza, less than a half mile south
of the pyramids. Over time, Hawass has discovered the graves of 600
skilled tomb builders and 82 larger tombs of overseers and artisans.
Skeletal remains inside told of men who had worked hard and died in
their thirties. Some had healed fractures, others had endured successful
amputations, suggesting sophisticated medical treatment. Hawass and
Lehner say this quality of care argues that they weren't slaves. "Why
do we think first of slavery and coercion?" Lehner says rhetorically.
"I think we think slaves because of our inherited biblical and
classical traditions. It is hard for us -- used to such individual liberty
and wage labor -- to conceive of life in a more traditional society.
We cannot assume they reacted, acted, thought, and felt the way we do
about obligations to the greater community." More likely, he says,
based on contemporaneous graffiti and roll-call records from later periods,
they were peasant laborers who rotated into and out of work parties.
Graffiti carved by workers in places that were never meant to be seen
show that they proudly named themselves "Friends of Khufu"
and "Drunkards of Menkaure." They had built the mighty leaders'
monuments -- and miniature versions for themselves.
Lehner grew increasingly restless in Chicago as Hawass's work revealed
a story much like the one he'd written in his imagination years earlier.
Knowing that workers had been buried next to the monuments they'd built,
he grew more certain that they must also have lived nearby. Although
Lehner had spent some time in Giza each year, digging a few 161/2-foot-square
"windows in the sand," as he calls them, it was not enough.
In 1995 he packed his trowel, put on his green felt hat, and headed
Back in Giza, Lehner threw himself into digging in the southeast corner
of the plateau, just south of the Sphinx and downhill from the workers'
cemetery. The site was one of the last unexcavated areas around the
base of the plateau, a spot where local residents tossed trash and stable
litter. Lehner's team collected, recorded, and studied everything: plant
remains, animal bones, ceramics, stones, charcoal, and pressed-mud sealings,
labels of quick-drying mud stamped with hieroglyphics. "They're
a real asset because generally there aren't many texts here, and they
provide names of kings, officials, institutions," he says. Sealings
collected here suggest that the site dates as far back as Khufu, builder
of the first pyramid. Unlike earlier explorers, who just plunged into
the sand with shovels or even tried to blow holes in the pyramids with
dynamite, Lehner is doing this dig by the book, preserving every tiny
piece of evidence. "We're getting a total information package on
the plateau -- environment, climate, migratory paths of birds,"
he says. "We've had specialists in hearths, in animal bone, in
ceramics, in lithics. We've salvaged 300,000 fragments of charcoal,
18,000 bits of labeled stone chips, 650 paleobotanical samples, 100,000
pottery shards." A thrilling moment for Lehner was finding where
the bread was made that fed the multitudes: "We found the bakeries,
the tail of the tiger -- this huge archaeological animal." After
he identified the bakeries -- small rooms where huge loaves were baked
in heavy, bell-shaped clay pots -- "we started chasing the walls,"
In another square, Lehner found a copper works with a small clay furnace,
then a few small chambers similar to workers' houses found at other
sites in Egypt. He found the hypostyle hall -- so called because of
its column-supported roof -- lined with low benches separated by troughs.
Everywhere they dug, workers found the butchered bones of cattle, sheep,
and goats. In 1998, Lehner cleared a 66-foot-square area and found a
series of galleries: long, narrow, corridorlike enclosures that were
complex structures with plastered walls. By this point Lehner's vision
had grown. "It's been a hypothesis of mine that all this is connected
to a palace," he says. "You don't just have production facilities
by themselves. They're always connected to a lord."
Despite all the discoveries, Lehner grew frustrated. His windows in
the sand provided only tantalizing glimpses. He knew there was more
to his quest than mud huts and palaces. Old-Kingdom Egypt had been poised
at a crucial cultural threshold, "moving from an informal, small-scale
village society to a complex bureaucratic state." Anything he could
learn about this transformation would shed light on the evolution of
one of the world's earliest nation-states. To fund a large-scale dig
-- uncovering an area the size of eight football fields -- Lehner had
to raise a lot of money, never an easy task, even for a project this
promising. When philanthropist Ann Lurie paid a visit to the site in
1999, she offered an impressive grant if Lehner could match it elsewhere.
He succeeded through the generosity of David Koch, Peter Norton, and
many other contributors. "Science is not cheap," says Bruce
Ludwig, a Los Angeles real estate investor who has supported Lehner's
work since the 1970s. "Mark is one of the few scientists who has
the ability to communicate to the layman and get us excited about what's
in his science."
Excavation began in the fall of 1999. By last summer, using a diesel-powered
front loader, hand trowels, and paintbrushes, Lehner's team had cleared
and staked a hectare, the equivalent of 400 of his 161/2-foot squares.
As the team continued to dig, Lehner's little snapshots in the sand
widened into a panorama -- more than a dozen bakeries, a pigment-grinding
shop, the copper works, and lots of bones. He found more galleries and
realized there were workrooms tucked in the back of living spaces. He
found an avenue and three main streets, one of them among the oldest
paved roads in the world. At either end, he uncovered two larger structures,
dubbed the Manor House and the Gatehouse, checkpoints from which anyone
entering or leaving the workrooms could have been seen. It was a two-year
marathon, Lehner says.
Sometimes, when the others are at lunch, Lehner can be seen pacing
alone in the sun, his arms folded across his chest and his head down,
just thinking. He has begun to visualize the stirrings of a nation-state.
If the site reveals how the Egyptians built the pyramids, Lehner believes,
it also tells a little about how the pyramids built Egypt. Only a grand
project like this one could have united a widely scattered agrarian
people and cemented them into a larger society.
But where are the houses? More than likely, Lehner says, they lie buried
beneath the soccer field on the edge of his authorized site or beneath
a densely populated town to the east. After all, he says, this dig has
uncovered only a corner of the lost city. Like the city, his enigmatic,
double-walled buttressed building -- a palace? -- appears to reach well
beyond the site's boundaries. How far does it go? What, exactly, is
it? What will it tell us about Egyptian history? Lehner is uncertain.
But, he says, smiling and removing his hat -- his thinning hair white,
a surprise above his youthful, suntanned face -- "I came here in
search of a lost civilization, and I did find a civilization, a major
part of which is lost. Truly, there is a lost city of the pyramids."
It may be a perfect irony that the man sent here to find Atlantis's
Hall of Records has actually spent two decades making Cayce's mythology
more difficult to believe. No one is more aware of it than Lehner himself.
He understands the human need for belief, having once felt that need
deeply. We invent other, more perfect civilizations, he says, because
"we feel lost in our own civilization." The civilization to
which he has devoted his life is advanced enough. He is content to spend
his days studying ancient Egypt, the real Egypt, where people ate bread,
drank beer, worked 10 hours a day in the broiling sun, broke their bones,
looked after one another, and created magnificent monuments to the kings
who thought they were gods. "I could devote the rest of my career
to this," Lehner says, and puts his hat back on.
LIFE IN ANCIENT GIZA
For generations, archaeologists have dug up the tombs and treasures
of the pharaohs all over Egypt. Mark Lehner has focused, instead, on
where and how the thousands of laborers who actually built the pyramids
lived, struggling to decipher the complex economic system that sustained
them over the 80 or so years they labored on this monumental task. Based
on Lehner's findings, Don Foley's conception (http://www.discover.com/oct_01/featlost.html)
depicts the basic structures of everyday life in ancient Giza. More
than 20,000 people may have lived in a city centered on a royal palace
near this workers' complex of streets, corridors, and rooms. "We
have a lot of tombs, but actual Old-Kingdom living areas are rare, and
this could be the largest," says Lehner.
In the background stand the pyramids of the pharaohs Khufu, Khafre,
and Menkaure, along with their temples, causeways, and walled enclosures.
Just south of the pyramids lies the man-made harbor where materials,
quarried as far away as Aswan, were unloaded after their boat trip down
Inside the production complex, workers toiled to produce the food and
tools needed to carry out their huge task. One can imagine a little
of their lives, Lehner says: "From tomb scenes, we infer they wore
wool or linen kilts for most of the year. They used copper and stone
tools. They ate emmer-wheat bread, lentils, honey, fish, sheep, pig,
and goat, and drank beer." Lehner's team has uncovered many bakeries
and even replicated "an archaic and unique way of making bread"
by baking loaves in clay jars in ashpits. His excavators have also found
a clay hearth for smelting copper, with ash and charcoal still inside
and a copper needle and fishhook nearby. The most elaborate structure
exposed so far is the hypostyle hall. Embedded in its clay benches are
flat stones on which columns, likely painted red, were set, probably
in order to support a partial roof. It may have been used as a place
to prepare food or as a dining area.
Slashing from east to west, below the harbor, is the Wall of the Crow,
with its massive, 33-foot-high gate through which, presumably, workers
entered the pyramid zone as they left the production complex. The narrower
"enclosure wall" extends to the left and then curves toward
the bottom, paralleling the streets and ending abruptly at the partially
uncovered building that Lehner believes may have been a royal palace.
RELATED WEB SITES:
Read a history of Lehner's work at the Giza Plateau, including articles,
annual reports, computer models, and Lehner's 1992 paper, at the the
Giza Plateau Mapping Project Web site:
For more photographs and a firsthand account of Lehner's work, see
his article "City of the Pyramid Builders" in Egypt Revealed
Magazine online at:
http://www.egyptrevealed.com/ 041501- cityopyramid_ builders.htm
To learn more about excavations at Giza, see the Ancient Egypt Research
Associates homepage at:
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