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Scientists find 6,200-year-old parasite egg in ancient skeleton


June 19, 2014: A skeleton in a grave in northern Syria in 2010.ap

In a skeleton more than 6,200 years old, scientists have found the earliest known evidence of infection with a parasitic worm that now afflicts more than 200 million people worldwide.

Archaeologists discovered a parasite egg near the pelvis of a child skeleton in northern Syria and say it dates back to a time when ancient societies first used irrigation systems to grow crops. Scientists suspect the new farming technique meant people were spending a lot of time wading in warm water — ideal conditions for the parasites to jump into humans. That may have triggered outbreaks of the water-borne flatworm disease known as schistosomiasis.

 “The invention of irrigation was a major technological breakthrough (but) it had unintended consequences,” said Gil Stein, a professor of Near Eastern archaeology at the University of Chicago, one of the report’s authors. “A more reliable food supply came at the cost of more disease,” he wrote in an email.

People can catch the flatworm parasite when they are in warm fresh water; the tiny worms are carried by snails and can burrow into human skin. After growing into adult worms, they live in the bladder, kidneys, intestines and elsewhere in the body for years. The parasites can cause symptoms including a fever, rash, abdominal pain, vomiting and paralysis of the legs. These days, the disease can be easily treated with drugs to kill the worms.

Stein said there was evidence of wheat and barley farming in the town where the skeletons were found and that irrigation might have also spurred outbreaks of other diseases like malaria by creating pools of stagnant water for mosquitoes to breed.

Piers Mitchell, another study author, said ancient farming societies could have inadvertently launched the global transmission of the flatworm parasites, which sicken millions of people every year. He said modern irrigation systems are still spreading diseases in developing countries.

“In many parts of Africa, someone clever decides to put in a dam or an artificial water source and then 10 years later, everyone’s getting schistosomiasis,”Mitchell said.

The research was published online Thursday in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Other experts agreed it was likely that irrigation spread parasitic diseases beginning in ancient times.

“Egypt along the Nile was a hotspot for generations because people were crammed into the flood plain and there were probably a lot of people who had low-level (flatworm) infections for their entire lives,” said Quentin Bickle, a parasite expert at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. “People would have known there was something weird going on but they wouldn’t have known what to do about it.”

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4,600-year-old step pyramid uncovered in Egypt

4,600-year-old step pyramid uncovered in Egypt

By Owen Jarus

Published February 03, 2014

  • step-pyramid-1 new.JPG

    Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu in southern Egypt have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years. (Tell Edfu Project at the University of Chicagoâs Oriental Institute)

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.

The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet, is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet tall.

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 × 61 feet. [See Photos of the Newly Uncovered Step Pyramid]

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.

The team also found hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid. The researchers think the inscriptions and burials date to long after the pyramid was built and that the structure was not originally intended as a burial place.

Initial results of the excavation were presented at a symposium held in Toronto recently by the Society for the Study of Egyptian Antiquities.

Uncovering the pyramid Though scholars knew of the existence of the pyramid at Edfu, the structure had never been excavated before Marouard’s team started work in 2010, he said in the study. His team found that the pyramid was covered by a thick layer of sand, modern waste and remains from the pillaging of its blocks.

It didn’t look like a pyramid he said, and people in a nearby village even thought the structure was the tomb of a sheikh, a local Muslim saint. As the team went to work cleaning the monument, the ancient pyramid was revealed. [In Photos: The Seven Ancient Wonders of the World]

Built of sandstone blocks and clay mortar, it had been constructed in the form of a three-step pyramid. A core of blocks rises up vertically, with two layers of blocks beside it, on top of each other. This made the pyramid look like it had three steps. The style is similar to that of a step pyramid built by Djoser (reign ca. 2670-2640 B.C.), the pharaoh who constructed Egypt’s first pyramid at the beginning of the third ancient Egyptian dynasty. The technique is close to that used at the Meidum pyramid, which was built by either Snefru or Huni and started out as a step pyramid before being turned into a true pyramid.

“The construction itself reflects a certain care and a real expertise in the mastery of stone construction, especially for the adjustment of the most important blocks,” said Marouard in his paper. Marouard also noted that the pyramid was built directly on the bedrock and was constructed entirely with local raw materials. The quarry where the sandstone was extracted was discovered in 2011, and is located only about a half mile north of the pyramid.

The growth of a modern-day cemetery and village poses a danger to the newly uncovered pyramid. In order to help prevent further looting, a fence was built around the structure, thanks to financial assistance from the American Research Center in Egypt and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Graffiti and child burials As the team uncovered the pyramid, they found that inscriptions had been incised on its outer faces. They include hieroglyphic depictions of a book roll, a seated man, a four-legged animal, a reed leaf and a bird.

“These are mostly private and rough inscriptions, and certainly dedicated to the child/babies’ burials located right under these inscriptions at the foot of the pyramid,” Marouard told Live Science in an email. One of the inscriptions appears to mean “head of the house” and may be a reference to the mother of a buried child.

Marouard said his team would be publishing these burials and images in more detail in the future.

A pyramid abandoned The archaeologists found that by the time of the reign of Khufu (the pharaoh who built the Great Pyramid), ca. 2590-2563 B.C., the pyramid at Edfu had been abandoned, and offerings were no longer being made. This occurred less than 50 years after its construction, Marouard said.

This suggests the seven small pyramids stopped being used when work on the Great Pyramid began. It seems Khufu no longer thought there was a need to maintain a small pyramid at Edfu, or elsewhere in southern Egypt, Marouard said. Rather, Khufu focused all the resources on building the Great Pyramid at Giza, which is close to the Egyptian capital at Memphis, he added.

Khufu may have felt politically secure in southern Egypt and saw no need to maintain or build pyramids there, Marouard said in the email. The “center of gravity of Egypt was then at Memphis for many centuries — this region draining resources and manpower from the provinces, all regions being put to use for the large construction sites of funerary complexes.”

At Wadi al-Jarf, a port found on the shore of the Red Sea that dates to Khufu’s time, papyri (written documents) dating to the end of Khufu’s reign were recently discovered that supports the idea that the pharaoh tried to converge all the resources he could toward Giza and the ancient wonder being constructed there.

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‘Meat mummies’ fed Egyptians after death

‘Meat mummies’ fed Egyptians after death

By Stephanie Pappas

Published November 19, 2013

  • meat mummies.jpg

    Beef rib meat mummy from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BC). (PNAS)

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    Beef rib meat mummy from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu (1386-1349 BC). (PNAS)

Care for some ribs? The royal mummies of ancient Egypt apparently did, as a new study finds that “meat mummies” left in Egyptian tombs as sustenance for the afterlife were treated with elaborate balms to preserve them.

Mummified cuts of meat are common finds in ancient Egyptian burials, with the oldest dating back to at least 3300 B.C. The tradition extended into the latest periods of mummification in the fourth century A.D. The famous pharaoh King Tutankhamun went to his final resting place accompanied by 48 cases of beef and poultry.

But meat mummies have been mostly unstudied until now. University of Bristol biogeochemist Richard Evershed and his colleagues were curious about how these cuts were prepared. They also wondered if the mummification methods for meat differed from how Egyptians mummified people or pets.

The team analyzed four samples from meat mummies archived at the Cairo and British museums. The oldest was a rack of cattle ribs from the tomb of Tjuiu, an Egyptian noblewoman, and her courtier Yuya. The beef dates back to between 1386 B.C. and 1349 B.C. [Gallery: Scanning Mummies for Heart Disease]

The second sample dated to between 1064 B.C. and 948 B.C. and consisted of meat from a calf found in the tomb of Isetemkheb D, a sister and wife to a high priest in Thebes. The final two samples were from the tomb of a Theban priestess, Henutmehyt, who died around 1290 B.C. One of the meat mummies found in Henutmehyt’s tomb was duck, and the other was probably goat.

The researchers conducted a chemical analysis of the bandages or the meat itself in all four samples. They found that animal fat coated the bandages of the calf and goat mummies; in the case of the calf, the fat was on bandages not in contact with the meat, suggesting it had been smeared on as a preservative rather than seeping through as grease.

The most intriguing chemical profile appeared on the beef mummy, however. The bandaging around the mummy contained remnants of an elaborate balm made of fat or oil and resin from a Pistacia tree, a shrubby desert plant. This resin was a luxury item in ancient Egypt, Evershed and his colleagues report today (Nov. 18) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It was used as incense and varnish on high-quality coffins, but it was not used as a human mummification resin for at least 600 years after the deaths of Tjuiu and Yuya.

Nevertheless, it makes sense to see a sophisticated embalming substance on the beef cut, the researchers wrote. Yuya and Tjuiu were an Egyptian power couple and the parents of the wife of pharaoh Amenhotep III. As the queen’s parents, they would have merited a no-expenses-spared burial.


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4,000-Year-Old Tomb Of Doctor To The Pharaohs Discovered

4,000-Year-Old Tomb Of Doctor To The Pharaohs Discovered (PHOTO)

The Huffington Post  |  By 

tomb doctor to pharaohs

The tomb of a prestigious ancient Egyptian physician who counted pharaohs among his clients is believed to have been found in a vast necropolis southwest of Cairo.

Part of a large plot measuring roughly 70 feet by 46 feet, the tomb of Shepseskaf-Ankh was unearthed this week in Abusir near modern-day Giza, the Agence France-Presse reports. The site is a burial place for many important figures from the Fifth Dynasty, which existed about 4,000 years ago.

“This discovery is important because this is the tomb of one of the greatest doctors from the time of the pyramid builders, one of the doctors closely tied to the king,” Antiquities Minister Ibrahim Ali said in a statement, per AFP.

The Czech team, led by Egyptologist Miroslav Bárta, confirmed the tomb’s discovery on Facebook Tuesday.

After analyzing carvings on the tomb’s false door, a team of archaeologists from the Czech Institute of Egyptology were able to identify the doctor, listed as Head of Physicians of Upper and Lower Egypt, Ahram Online reports.

An impressive final resting place, Shepseskaf-Ankh’s tomb appears to be a family plot and includes a courtyard area and eight burial chambers for members of the doctor’s relatives, the outlet notes.

(Story continues below.)

Carvings on the tomb of researchers believe was one of the most prominent physicians of ancient Egypt’s Fifth Dynasty. Located in northern Egypt, Abusir is the site of three pyramids built by Fifth Dynasty kings Sahure, Neferirkare and Neuserre between 2465 B.C. and 2325 B.C., according to Britannica. In the shadow of these monuments, other kings also built their own sanctuaries, with particular reverence being paid to Re, the sun god.

Team leader Bárta has been working in the Abusir area for many years, according to Radio Prague. His research in the region has informed his theory that the collapse of Egypt’s Old Kingdom began in the Fifth Dynasty.

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The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert

Source:  I09 via StumbleUpon

The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert

These strange cones and holes look like a bizarre wind formation in the Egyptian desert, until you see the pattern they make from the air.

Created by Greek artist Danae Stratou and the DAST art team in the mid-1990s, this earthwork art is called “Desert Breath.” It covers 100,000 square meters in the Egyptian desert near the Red Sea, and took several years to create. At its center was a fairly deep pool of water, and the whole project was designed to slowly erode over time. Which is exactly what’s happened

The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert

This is a view of the project via a satellite photo taken shortly after it was created.

The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert

And this is what it looks like today. It is eroding beautifully.

For more information, and more photos, check out Stratou’s gallery.

The Mysterious Cones of the Egyptian Desert



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German Boy Finds Mummy In Grandmother’s Attic

Alexander Kettler, German Boy, Finds Mummy In Grandmother’s Attic

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 08/05/2013 7:35 pm EDT  |  Updated: 08/06/2013 11:34 am EDT

Alexander Kettler was playing in his grandmother’s home in Diepholz, Germany, last week when he stumbled across something unusual: a sarcophagus.

Alongside dust-covered boxes and clutter, the 10-year-old found a mummy in his grandmother’s attic, according to local reports. His family reportedly had never before come across the curious items.

“There was a huge sarcophagus and inside a mummy,” Kettler’s father Lutz Wolfgangtold Spiegel Online. “Then we opened the other cases and found an earthenware Egyptian death mask and a Canopic Jar.”


The elder Kettler suspects the ancient artifacts may have belonged to his late father, who traveled through North Africa during the 1950s. As the BBC notes, Kettler believes the sarcophagus and artifacts are replicas, but he said he thinks the mummy may be the real deal.

Testing will be required to confirm if the wrapped figure within the sarcophagus is an actual mummy. Kettler told the Bild newspaper that he plans to transport the mummy to Berlin for examination.

If the mummy is proven to be an authentic Egyptian antiquity, authorities in Egypt will seek to bring the relic back to the country.

“Diplomacy is a successful way to resolve these sorts of issues, and it is not costly,” Abdel Maqsoud, deputy director of the Antiquities Sector at Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities, told Egypt Independent. “We should first check if the piece left the country legally and find out if it is registered at any museum.”


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Pharaoh’s sphinx paws found in Israel

Pharaoh’s sphinx paws found in Israel

By by Megan Gannon

Published July 10, 2013

  • egyptian-sphinx

    This sphinx fragment was found by archaeologists with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem during excavations at Hazor. (Amnon Ben-Tor, Sharon Zuckerman / Hebrew University Institute of Archaeology)

Archaeologists digging in Israel say they have made an unexpected find: the feet of an Egyptian sphinx linked to a pyramid-building pharaoh.

The fragment of the statue’s front legs was found in Hazor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site just north of the Sea of Galilee. Between the paws is a hieroglyphic inscription with the name of king Menkaure, sometimes called Mycerinus, who ruled Egypt during the Old Kingdom more than 4,000 years ago and built one of the great Giza pyramids.

Researchers don’t believe Egypt had a relationship with Israel during Menkaure’s reign. They think it’s more likely that the sphinx was brought to Israel later on, during the second millennium B.C. [Images: Glitzy Discovery at Giza Pyramids]

The inscription also includes the phrase, “Beloved by the divine manifestation that gave him eternal life.” Amnon Ben-Tor, one of the Hebrew University archaeologists leading the excavations at Hazor, thinks that descriptor could be a clue the sphinx originated in the ancient seat of sun worship, Heliopolis, which is today mostly destroyed and covered up by Cairo’s sprawl.

The part-lion, part-human sphinx was a mythical creature represented in art throughout the ancient Near East as well as India and Greece. Ben-Tor and colleagues say the artifact found at Hazor is the first-ever discovered sphinx fragment associated with king Menkaure. It’s also the only royal Egyptian sphinx ever to be unearthed in Israel, according to a statement from Hebrew University.

The statue fragment was exposed at the entrance to the city palace in an archaeological layer that dates to the mysterious destruction of Hazor when it was occupied by the Canaanites in the 13th century B.C.

The researchers think the sphinx could have been brought to Israel during the 17th to 16th centuries B.C., when part of Egypt was controlled by the Hyksos, a people believed to be originally from northern Canaan. Alternatively, the royal sculpture may have arrived in Hazor as a gift from an Egyptian king during the 15th to 13th centuries B.C., when Egypt controlled much of Canaan through a system of vassal states. At that time, Hazor was the most important city in the southern Levant, covering some 200 acres, with an estimated population of about 20,000.

Hazor was strategically located at a crossroads between Egypt and Babylon. Initially a Canaanite city, it had been fortified since the early second millennium B.C., conquered by the Israelites, rebuilt under King Solomon and ultimately destroyed by the Assyrians in 732 B.C.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/science/2013/07/10/pharaoh-sphinx-paws-found-in-israel/?intcmp=trending#ixzz2amzYoC00

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Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1,200 Years Under Sea

Heracleion Photos: Lost Egyptian City Revealed After 1,200 Years Under Sea

Posted: 04/29/2013 3:44 pm EDT  |  Updated: 05/01/2013 11:40 am EDT

It is a city shrouded in myth, swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea and buried in sand and mud for more than 1,200 years. But now archeologists are unearthing the mysteries of Heracleion, uncovering amazingly well-preserved artifacts that tell the story of a vibrant classical-era port.

Known as Heracleion to the ancient Greeks and Thonis to the ancient Eygptians, thecity was rediscovered in 2000 by French underwater archaeologist Dr. Franck Goddioand a team from the European Institute for Underwater Acheology (IEASM) after a four-year geophysical survey. The ruins of the lost city were found 30 feet under the surface of the Mediterranean Sea in Aboukir Bay, near Alexandria.

A new documentary highlights the major discoveries that have been unearthed at Thonis-Heracleion during a 13-year excavation. Exciting archeological finds help describe an ancient city that was not only a vital international trade hub but possibly an important religious center. The television crew used archeological survey data to construct a computer model of the city (below).

Heracleion Photos: Lost Egyptian City Artifacts Unearthed After 1,200 Years Under Sea

Franck Goddio/Hilti Foundation, graphic: Yann Bernard
According to the Telegraph, leading research now suggests that Thonis-Heracleion served as a mandatory port of entry for trade between the Mediterranean and the Nile.

So far, 64 ancient shipwrecks and more than 700 anchors have been unearthed from the mud of the bay, the news outlet notes. Other findings include gold coins, weights from Athens (which have never before been found at an Egyptian site) and giant tablets inscribed in ancient Greek and ancient Egyptian. Researchers think that these artifacts point to the city’s prominence as a bustling trade hub.

Researchers have also uncovered a variety of religious artifacts in the sunken city, including 16-foot stone sculptures thought to have adorned the city’s central temple and limestone sarcophagi that are believed to have contained mummified animals.

For more photos, visit Goddio’s Heracleion website.

Experts have marveled at the variety of artifacts found and have been equally impressed by how well preserved they are.

“The archaeological evidence is simply overwhelming,” Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, a University of Oxford archeologist taking part in the excavation, said in a press release obtained by The Huffington Post. “By lying untouched and protected by sand on the sea floor for centuries they are brilliantly preserved.”

A panel of experts presented their findings at an Oxford University conference on the Thonis-Heracleion excavation earlier this year.

But despite all the excitement over the excavation, one mystery about Thonis-Heracleion remains largely unsolved: Why exactly did it sink? Goddio’s team suggests the weight of large buildings on the region’s water-logged clay and sand soil may have caused the city to sink in the wake of an earthquake.


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3D Rendering of The Temple of Karnak

Unfortunately, I am averse to two major things that keep me from traveling much.  First, I don’t want to go someplace where I may be hurt, kidnapped, or attacked because I am a pasty white American.  Second, I hate crowds and “tour buses”.  So, going to Egypt, hopping on a bus to go out to the pyramids, or cool places like The Temple of Karnak, are somewhat not on my immediate itinerary.  However, most of you who follow me, know I am fascinated by such places.

Enter the Internet with 3d rendered photos.  Sweet!  Earlier I posted a truly awesome link of a 3D rendering of the Sistine Chapel.  Here is one for the Temple of Karnak hieroglyphic wall inscriptions.  Below the link, I put a few lower quality pictures.  Again, you can move back and forth, up and down by holding down your left mouse button and moving the mouse.  You can zoom in and out with the mouse wheel.  Enjoy!


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Most Ancient Port, Hieroglyphic Papyri Found

Most Ancient Port, Hieroglyphic Papyri Found

Most Ancient Port Found in Egypt

An ancient Egyptian harbor has emerged on the Red Sea coast, dating back about 4,500 years.

“Evidence unearthed at the site shows that it predates by more than 1,000 years any other port structure known in the world,” Pierre Tallet, Egyptologist at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and director of the archaeological mission, told Discovery News.


Built at the time of the fourth dynasty of King Cheops, the owner of the Great Pyramid in the Giza Plateau, the port was discovered at Wadi el-Jarf, nearly 110 miles south the coastal city of Suez by a team of Franco-Egyptian archaeologists.

Egyptologist Sir John Garner Wilkinson

The site was first explored in 1823 by British pioneer Egyptologist Sir John Garner Wilkinson, who found a system of galleries cut into the bedrock a few miles from the coast. He believed them to be catacombs.

“The place was then described by French pilots working on the Suez Gulf during the 1950s, but no one realized that it concealed the remains of an ancient pharaonic harbor,” Tallet said.


Tallet has been excavating the area since 2011 with archaeologist Gregory Marouard, of the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, topographer Damien Laisney of the French National Center for Scientific Research, and doctoral students Aurore Ciavatti and Serena Esposito from the Sorbonne University. The team first focused on the most visible part of the site: the galleries described by Wilkinson.

The excavation revealed 30 of these galleries, measuring on average 65 feet long, 10 feet wide and 7 feet high.


Used to store dismantled boats after the expeditions that were regularly led to transfer copper and stones from Sinai to the Nile valley, the galleries featured an elaborate closure system which made use of large and heavy limestone blocks inscribed with the name of Cheops (about 2650 BC).

An ancient Egyptian harbor has emerged on the Red Sea coast, dating back about 4,500 years.

“Evidence unearthed at the site shows that it predates by more than 1,000 years any other port structure known in the world,” Pierre Tallet, Egyptologist at the University of Paris-Sorbonne and director of the archaeological mission, told Discovery News.

Built at the time of the fourth dynasty of King Cheops, the owner of the Great Pyramid in the Giza Plateau, the port was discovered at Wadi el-Jarf, nearly 110 miles south the coastal city of Suez by a team of Franco-Egyptian archaeologists.

Inside the galleries Tallet and his team found several fragments of boats, ropes and pottery dating to the early fourth dynasty. Three galleries contained a stock of storage jars, which probably served as water containers for boats.


Underwater exploration at the foot of the jetty revealed 25 pharaonic anchors — and pottery similar to that uncovered in the galleries — all dating  from the fourth dynasty.


About 200 meters from the sea side, the archaeologists also found the remains of an Old Kingdom building where 99 pharaonic anchors had been stored (visible at the center of the photo).

“Some of them were inscribed with hieroglyphic signs, probably with the names of the boats,” Tallet said.


Most interestingly, the storage galleries also contained hundreds of papyrus fragments.

Among them, 10 were very well preserved.

“They are the oldest papyri ever found,” Tallet said

Many of the papyri describe how the central administration, under the reign of Cheops, sent food — mainly bread and beer — to the workers involved in the Egyptian expeditions departing from the port.


But one papyrus is much more intriguing: it’s the diary of Merrer, an Old Kingdom official involved in the building of the Great Pyramid of Cheops.

From four different sheets and many fragments, the researchers were able to follow his daily activity for more that three months.

“He mainly reported about his many trips to the Turah limestone quarry to fetch block for the building of the pyramid,” Tallet said.

“Although we will not learn anything new about the construction of Cheops monument, this diary provides for the first time an insight on this matter,” Tallet said.

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