Perhaps one of the most striking aspects of the pyramids at Giza — a massive monument complex built some 4,500 years ago, and one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — is the way they rise from the surrounding landscape of barren desert. The logistics of building such an edifice would be staggering under any circumstances, but moving the five million blocks of limestone overland using ancient technologies truly beggars belief. A recent research paper proposes a different vision of how the pyramids came to be built — one that hypothesizes a branch of the Nile that flowed adjacent to the site, making the transfer of materials a less daunting proposition.
This is not the first theory to posit a disappeared branch of the Nile, but the paper, published in late August in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, supports this idea by analyzing core samples containing pollen. Five samples were taken from the Giza floodplain in 2019 to measure pollen levels over ancient times, thereby creating an “8,000-year fluvial history” of the region.
“It is now accepted that ancient Egyptian engineers exploited a former channel of the Nile to transport building materials and provisions to the Giza plateau,” reads the study’s overview. “However, there is a paucity of environmental evidence regarding when, where, and how these ancient landscapes evolved.”
The study imagines the Nile at around 40% of its Holocene maximum. Based on pollen levels present in the core samples, the research proposes that the so-called “Khufu branch” of the Nile remained at a high-water level during the reigns of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure — the pharaohs for whom the pyramids at Giza serve as burial sites.
“It was a natural canal in the time of the fourth dynasty [when the pyramids were built],” study lead author Hader Sheisha, a physical geographer at Aix-Marseille University in France, told Live Science. “It would be very difficult if not impossible to build the pyramids without the Khufu branch and without it having a good level, which provides enough accommodation space for the boats carrying such heavy blocks of stone.”
These findings also impact our understanding of climate change throughout a larger scale of human history.
“To edify the plateau’s pyramids, tombs, and temples, it now seems that ancient Egyptian engineers took advantage of the Nile and its annual floods, using an ingenious system of canals and basins that formed a port complex at the foot of the Giza plateau,” according to the research.
While the pyramids will always retain an awe-striking air of mystery, science has managed to pierce the veil and offer a peek into the construction logistics and environmental conditions of one of human history’s greatest building projects.
What would it look like if museums turned their billions toward positive good instead of questionable investments simply for profit?
Patricio Guzmán combines reflection on the past, observation of the present, and hope for the future into an expansive vision of all the ideas he’s explored in his work.
Artists reflect on histories of oppressive power structures in Brazil in this exhibition at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
So closely do Disney’s animators assimilate the sensibility of French design that on occasion their source material appears almost more Disney than Disney itself.
The Grand Avenue Billboard Project enables artists like Karen Fiorito to publicly express their political views.
The museum opens to the public on October 8 with a 24-hour kickoff and a rebooted California Biennial.
The report estimates that 6.7 million Indigenous objects and human remains continue to be held in Canadian institutions, most of which do not have formal repatriation policies.
Funding options at UB include full-tuition scholarships for MFA students, the Arthur A. Schomburg Fellowship Program, and additional opportunities for MA students.
The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a shift in its longstanding policy, which restricted the use of funds from sales of art to new acquisitions only.
Martín Mobarak may have broken Mexican law, but he burned the proof.
Your list of must-see, fun, insightful, and very Los Angeles art events this month, including the Maya Codex of Mexico at the Getty, Beatrice Wood, Trenton Doyle Hancock, and more.