Heit el-Ghurab (Egypte): remains of massive catering operation to feed builders who made the pyramids at Giza on 4,000lbs of meat a day

Leon Watson

Source - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2314472/The-ancient-burger-vans-Archaeologists-uncover-remains-massive-catering-operation-feed-builders-famous-pyramids-Giza.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

A massive catering operation that served up thousands of pounds of meat to feed the builders who made the famous Giza pyramids has been unearthed in Egypt, it emerged today.

Archaeologists found the ancient remains at a site believed to have been a village used to house workers about 1,300ft south of the Sphinx.

It is thought the workers, who occupied the site for around 35 years, were building the pyramid of pharaoh Menkaure, the third and last pyramid on the Giza plateau.

The site, which has been studied for several decades, is also known by its Arabic name, Heit el-Ghurab, and is sometimes called 'the Lost City of the Pyramid Builders'.


Catering operation: The site known as the Old Kingdom Corral, with the Giza pyramids in the distance. Researchers note that it was large enough to hold 55 cattle with feeding pens

So far, researchers have discovered a nearby cemetery with bodies of pyramid builders, a corral with possible slaughter areas on the southern edge of the workers' town and piles of animal bones.

Based on animal bone findings, nutritional data, and other discoveries at this workers' town site, the archaeologists estimate that an average of more than 4,000lbs of cattle, sheep and goat meat were slaughtered every day to feed the pyramid builders.

This meat-rich diet, along with the apparent availability of medical care, shown by skeletons found with healed bones, show the workers enjoyed relatively good conditions.

Richard Redding, chief research officer at Ancient Egypt Research Associates, a group that has been excavating and studying the workers' town site for about 25 years, told LiveScience the builders were looked after.

He said: 'People were taken care of, and they were well fed when they were down there working, so there would have been an attractiveness to that.

'They probably got aarticle-2314472-02d5fe08000005dc-438-634x416.jpg much better diet than they got in their village.'


The site believed to have been a village used to house workers about 1,300ft south of the Sphinx

Redding estimates he has identified about 25,000 sheep and goats, 8,000 cattle and 1,000 pig bones, he wrote in a paper published in the book Proceedings of the 10th Meeting of the ICAZ Working Group - Archaeozoology of southwest Asia and adjacent Areas.

Around 10,000 workers helped build the Menkaure pyramid, with a smaller work force present year-round to cut stones and complete preparation and survey work, the AERA team estimates.

This smaller work force would have ramped up for a few months starting around July of each year.

Redding, who is also a research scientist at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology and a member of the faculty at the University of Michigan, added: 'What they would do is, for about four or five months a year, they would bring in a big work force to move blocks, and they would do nothing but move blocks.'

The workers would need at least 45 to 50 grams of protein a day, Redding said. Half of this protein would likely come from fish, beans, lentils and other non-meat sources, while the other half would come from sheep, goat and cattle, he estimated.

Milk and cheese were probably not consumed due to transportation problems and the cattle's low milk yield during that time, Redding said.

Redding estimates that around 11 cattle and 37 sheep or goats were consumed each day in addition to supplying workers with grain, beer and other products.

It is estimated that in order to maintain this level of slaughter, the ancient Egyptians would have needed a herd of 21,900 cattle and 54,750 sheep and goats just to keep up regular delivery to the Giza workers.

A settlement located adjacent to the workers' town, dubbed 'eastern town,' wasn't as rigidly planned as workers' town, and its residents were eating a considerable number of pigs, the researchers found. Evidence also suggested the people in eastern town were trading with people in workers' town for hippo-tusk fragments.

These findings suggest that the residents of the eastern town were not as directly involved in pyramid building and had a special relationship with the pyramid workers.

'They were not provisioned; they were not given their meat and food every day,' like those in the workers' town were, Redding said. 'It's more of a typical urban farming settlement, and there was a symbiotic relationship between the two - probably.

'What we think now is - and this is something we're going to be coming out with in the next little while - is that, more likely, it was a large portion of the work force, the more skilled laborers [living at workers' town], and that there were temporary camps up by the pyramids where the temporary workers who came in would be housed,' he said.

'They probably (didn’t) need much in the way of housing; they would need more shade than anything else. They wouldn't need any kind of warmth because it wouldn't be winter.'

Future studies will look for the remains of the workers' towns of Khufu and Khafre, the two other pharaohs who built pyramids at Giza. A dump area, investigated in the 1950s, may hold them; seal impressions found at the dump have the rulers' names on them.

'What we think was going on was that Menkaure came along, he establishes his reign, he leveled that whole area and he took all the levelling debris, took it to the top of the hill and threw it over the back in a big dump,' Redding said.

'That dump on the back side of the ridge may represent a remnant of Khufu and Khafre's construction's town,' Redding said, adding that he hopes new excavations will begin on the dump in the next year or two.