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Tombs CastFresh Light On Egypt Pyramid Builders

GIZA, EGYPT, June 22 (Reuters) - Restoration of tombs at the pyramids of Giza iscasting fresh light on the builders of the towering monuments, an Egyptianarchaeologist said on Thursday.

Zahi Hawass, director of the Gizaplateau where the pyramids are located, told Reuters work on tombs of workersand their supervisors, found by Egyptian archaeologists 10 years ago, hadrevealed two cemeteries designed as mini-replicas of the complex around thepyramids.

"This discovery proves thatthe builders of the pyramids of Giza were Egyptians and that they were notslaves as some archaeologists have claimed," Hawass declared.

"They prepared the tombs justlike they did for the pyramids complex, with the funerary temple to the east ofthe pyramids and a causeway leading from it to an offering basin at the foot ofthe causeway," he said.

"They prepared these tombs tolast forever just like they would do for the queens and kings. Slaves would notdo that."

The tombs, located to the south ofthe Sphinx at the eastern foot of the three great pyramids, were built at theend of the 4th Dynasty in the reign of the pharaoh Khufu (Cheops).

The upper-level tombs were builtof solid limestone for technicians, craftsmen and artisans, along with theirfamilies.

The lower-level tombs, made ofless durable mudbrick and rock such as granite and basalt left over from pyramidconstruction, were built for the workmen who moved the huge stone blocks usedfor the great pyramids 4,600 years ago.

Sometimes workers were buried withthe supervisors in the upper-level tombs.

Archaeologists have found cursesinscribed in the tomb of a man named Pety and his wife, warning unwantedvisitors that crocodiles would eat them if they entered the tomb.


Hawass said that among theskeletons found at the site, 12 had broken arms, with wooden boards placed onthem as splints. One was of a man with an amputated leg who lived for 14 yearsafter completion of the pyramid. The skull of a man who survived for two yearsafter that date showed signs of brain surgery.

"These discoveries prove tous that medical treatment took place at the time and workers received goodcare," Hawass said.

Workers were five to six feet(1.53 to 1.83 metres) tall and did not live past 35 years of age. Bilharzia, adisease still prevalent in Egypt that is caused by parasitic worms andtransmitted from water-snails, was the commonest cause of death.

Archaeological evidence showed theworkers wore clothes very similar to the traditional garb of Egyptian farmworkers.

"Men used to dress ingalabiyas, or flowing robes, tied around the waist and held sticks in theirhands just as peasant workers dress today," Hawass said.

He said the cemeteries andsettlements indicated that the workforce that constructed the pyramids wassmaller than the 100,000 workers estimated by some researchers.

"Around 20,000 workers helpedbuild the Giza pyramids based on the size of the settlements wediscovered," Hawass argued.

Near one causeway, archaeologistsfound an unfinished double statue of a man and a woman with the man's right footplaced in front of the left, reversing the normal pattern.

"In ancient Egyptian times,statues were built with the man's left foot placed in front of the rightsymbolising him leaving home to go to work, while the woman's two feet wereplaced side by side symbolising her place in the home.

"This discovery shows thatthis statue was constructed by an unprofessional craftsman and had a flaw, whichexplains why it was placed in the workers' tombs," Hawass said.

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