Building the Pyramids

Can Alan S, Mil, or any others tell me if any of the tour guides mentioned who actually built the pyramids? Was it indeed all slave labor, a mixture of paid skilled workers and slaves etc. Has evidence been found about how and where they lived, any midden finds, were they housed in barracks, in family units and so on? I assume they would have to be fed well to be able to do the physical work. Was the work seasonal because of the climate?
When I was in elementary school in England, it seemed all we learned about was the Egyptians and Romans, we were told slaves built the pyramid, we thought nothing of it. We visited the big museum in the city and seeing mummies and artifacts, we had our fill. Which, along with all the terrorist incidents in the area and our government warning is not to visit, never had Egypt on our radar.
With the current feelings changing by our own more recent colonial and history of slavery, tearing down of statues etc, has there been any regrets in Egypt about how many thousands of ordinary people might have suffered building what are essentially a glorified grave for their ruler, who might not have been revered by everyone?


  • It was not slave labor, we were told. There was no slavery in Egypt at the time.

  • Thank you!

  • edited April 2022

    It has been the subject of a number of studies. All seem to agree it was not slave labor. One big explanation that has been offered is that during the annual Nile inundation, the farmers could not work their fields so had time to work on pyramids and temples. Towns, like Deir al Medina in the Necropolis of Thebes, were built specifically for the tomb builders. Remains of a workers village have been discovered near the Giza Plateau and located to the southeast of the Khafre and Menkaure complexes, not far from the Sphinx, but I don't know if it had a name.

    Another point is that in addition to unskilled labor, large numbers of skilled stone-cutters and sculptors were required and you don't typically get that level of reliable craftsmanship from slave labor. Their are exception throughout history, however- look at colonial and antebellum US.

    It was hard work and some of the remains of workers show evidence of trauma from accidents.

    Google Giza Pyramid Complex and Deir al Medina for details.

  • Sallyjack
    It was not slave labor, we were told. There was no slavery in Egypt at the time.

    The pyramids were built around 2500 BC. The Jewish (slave) exodus from Egypt (Moses et al) was around 1450 BC. So you're saying there was no slavery 1000 years before the Exodus?
    Do you have any references on that?

  • edited April 2022

    Thanks to all who replied!

  • BKMD
    The pyramids were built around 2500 BC. The Jewish (slave) exodus from Egypt (Moses et al) was around 1450 BC.

    The Pyramid of Djoser was built c. 2630–2610 BCE during the Third Dynasty. The Giza pyramids were built roughly between 2550 to 2490 B.C during the 4th dynasty- realistically, over a very short period of time. Hollywood anachronisms aside, it is not clear when the Jews arrived and if they were enslaved by the pyramid builders or much later rulers.

    I'm not a scholar, Biblical or otherwise, so someone needs to tell me when the Jews arrived in Egypt- wasn't it after the age of the pyramid builders? I couldn't find any sources that nailed down when they arrived, but it seems it was somewhere around 1800-1900 BC.

  • edited April 2022

    According to Hebrew Scriptures I had to study, Judeans took refuge in Egypt around 597 BCE (before the common era). The term "Jew" was not used until 1275 AD.

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