The Lost River
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Egypt’s Great Pyramid of Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, has always inspired scientists to theorize about its construction.
A new study is shedding some light on that mystery.
Constructed around 2560 BCE, the structure and its adjacent pyramids were made to commemorate the reign of Pharaoh Khufu, with the Great Pyramid alone being over 480 feet tall and spanning 13 acres of land. Scientists could only wonder how Egyptians at the time managed to quarry and transport so much stone.
But archaeologists recently uncovered a long-lost branch of the Nile River that helped builders in ancient Egypt transport 2.3 million limestone and granite blocks, the New York Times reported.
Evidence of a lost branch emerged in 2013 when researchers came across a series of papyrus fragments dating back to Khufu’s reign hinting at how officials organized the movement of limestone up the Nile to Giza.
The problem was that there was a four-mile stretch of desert in between the Giza pyramid complex and the Nile, which prompted researchers to wonder if there was a lost river branch – known as the Khufu branch.
The team collected five sediment cores around the Giza site. Looking for pollen grains, they discovered 61 species of plants in different parts of the cores, which gave them a window into how the local ecosystem had changed over millennia.
Using data from the pollen, scientists recreated Giza’s waterlogged past and determined that the region was underwater around 8,000 years ago. By the time ancient Egyptians started building the monumental wonders, the Khufu Branch retained around 40 percent of its water, which allowed builders to easily transport the heavy blocks, the researchers noted.
However, the branch eventually disappeared as Egypt became drier over the years. When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BCE, the area around the parched Khufu Branch had been converted into a cemetery.