Rumours are circulating that the slaves who built the pyramids were those whom Moses liberated and led to the Promised Land.
The National Geographic denies this.
The pyramid builders, it says, were not slaves or foreigners. Excavated skeletons show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh’s supervisors.
The builders’ villages boasted bakers, butchers, brewers, granaries, houses, cemeteries, and probably even some sorts of health-care facilities – there is evidence of laborers surviving crushed or amputated limbs. Bakeries excavated near the Great Pyramids could have produced thousands of loaves of bread every week.
Some of the builders were permanent employees of the pharaoh. Others were conscripted for a limited time from local villages. Some may have been women. Although no depictions of women builders have been found, some female skeletons show wear that suggests they labored with heavy stone for long periods of time.
It took more than manual labour, though. Architects achieved an accurate pyramid shape by running ropes from the outer corners up to the planned summit, to make sure the stones were positioned correctly. And priests-astronomers helped choose the pyramid sites and orientations, so that they would be on the appropriate axis in relation to sacred constellations.
From stone pusher to priest, every worker would likely have recognized his or her role in continuing the life-and-death cycle of the pharaohs and, thereby, in perpetuating the glory of Egypt.