Astonishing 4500-Year-Old records of the Stones Transportation of the Pyramids of Giza

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There are more than 100 pyramids present in Egypt. Some are extreme examples of engineering and some even could not be finished. There are about 10 pyramids in Egypt that could not be completed due to various reasons. There are a lot of theories about the construction and the transportation of the stones used during the construction of the Giza pyramid.

How Giza pyramid construction happened for that, still there is no archaeological proof but how and from where stones were transported, for that a big breakthrough got by archaeologist Pierre Tallet and Gregory Marouard in 2013 during the excavation of Wadi al-Jarf, the oldest port in the world.

During their excavation, they discovered a papyrus that contains a record of transporting limestone to the Giza. This papyrus became the oldest papyrus ever discovered.

Wadi al-Jarf

Oldest harbor in the world
Wadi al-Jarf – Oldest harbor in the world

Wadi al-Jarf is the present name of the oldest known artificial harbor in the world that developed about 4500 years ago. Probably brought into operation during the reign of king Snofru (ca. 2620–2580 b.c.e.) and particularly used by expeditions under king Khufu (ca. 2580–2550 b.c.e.).

The site of Wadi al-Jarf was occupied exclusively at the very beginning of the 4th Dynasty in order to reach by boat to the Sinai Peninsula, the main mining area operated by the ancient Egyptians. 

The port facilities at Wadi al-Jarf are quite extensive and multipolar. Port covered an area of ca. 6 km (3.7 mi.) from west to east, from the first foothills of the mountains of the Eastern Desert (Southern Gebel Galala) to the shore of the Red Sea.

More than 100 anchors belong to the first Old Kingdom found in their original context, and numerous storage jars. The jars have been linked with those of another site across the Red Sea, indicating trade between the two sites. 

An entire roll of papyrus, a few feet long and still relatively intact written in hieroglyphics as well as hieratic (the cursive script used by ancient Egyptians for everyday communication) providing insight into life during the Fourth Dynasty, found at Wadi al-Jarf. Those are the oldest papyri ever found in Egypt (ca. 2560–2550 BC, end of the reign of Khufu).

Diary of Merer

Oldest papyrus in the world

Ten of the papyri are especially very well preserved dated to the year after the 13th cattle count of Khufu’s reign which describes how the central administration sent food and supplies to Egyptian travelers.

Out of those documents the Diary of Merer, a middle-ranking official with the title inspector, is thought to date to the 26th year of the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, has the special interest. Using the diary, researchers reconstructed three months of Merer life, providing new insight into the everyday lives of Merer and his coworkers.


Diary of Merer

Over a period of several months, Merer made reports in form of a timetable with two columns per day. Many operations are related to the transportation of stones to/from Akhet-Khufu “Horizon of Khufu” and the work at the limestone quarries on the opposite bank of the Nile.

The entries in the logbooks are all arranged along the same line. At the top, there is a heading naming the month and the season. Under that, there is a horizontal line listing the days of the months.

Under the entries for the days, there are always two vertical columns describing what happened on these days. For example, 

  • [Day XX] The director of 6 Idjeru casts for Heliopolis in a transport boat to bring us food from Heliopolis while the elite is in Tura, 
  • [Day YY] Inspector Merer spends the day with his troop hauling stones in Tura North; spending the night at Tura North

Complete translation is available here

First 20 days of Merer’s Diary

According to the Merer records, these blocks were delivered within four days at the pyramid construction site called the Akhet-Khufu “Horizon of Khufu” (It is clear from a starting few lines where to/from Akhet-Khufu event was recorded) and were probably used for the external casing of the Great Pyramid made of fine limestone.

About every ten days, two or three round trips were done, shipping perhaps 30 blocks of 2–3 tonnes each, amounting to 200 blocks per month.

Merer’s records also mention a regular passing by an important administrative center, “Ro-She Khufu” (Rȝ-š Ḫwfw), which seems to have functioned as a logistical stop point, one day before its arrival at the construction site on the Giza plateau.

It is specially specified that this site is under the authority of a high ranking official Ankhhaf, half-brother of Khufu who was his vizier and “chief for all the works of the king.”

This diary highlights two major facts,

  1. It confirms that Ankhhaf was effectively vizier and in charge of some of the final steps of the construction of the Great Pyramid at Giza.
  2. It verifies that the pyramid was clearly at a final stage of the construction project at the very end of Khufu’s reign.

Open Questions

Just after the discovery, the Merer’s record was showcased in such a way as if they contained answers to all the mysteries of the Giza pyramid. It is clear from the Merer’s records that the ship got stones from Tura, but it is not clear that they were shipped to Giza and not somewhere else? Probably the assumption is made due to chronological events like the construction period of Giza’s pyramids and the period of this record are the same. Another assumption might be due to the logistic halting point which was just before the Giza.



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