New Discovery: Ancient Egyptian Pyramids Likely Built with Help from Lost Nile River Branch

Reported by Pushpa


For centuries, people have been intrigued by how the massive Egyptian pyramids were built. Various theories have been proposed, from long ramps to even alien assistance. Now, a new discovery adds more weight to a different idea: that a long-lost branch of the Nile River played a crucial role.

Though the pyramids today sit on a dry, desert plateau near the ancient capital of Memphis, a recent study suggests that this area was once home to a busy river branch. Researchers have named this 64-kilometre-long branchAhramat,” which means pyramidsin Arabic. This river branch likely made it possible to transport the huge stone blocks needed for the pyramids’ construction.

Eman Ghoneim, a geomorphologist from the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the study’s lead researcher, explained to National Geographic that the Ahramat river was like an ancient superhighway. Using radar satellite imagery, Ghoneim and her team uncovered the buried river and its course. They also analyzed soil and sediment samples to learn more.

Published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, the study reveals that Ahramat was nearly a kilometre wide in some places and over 24 metres deep in others. This made it perfect for floating large stones, some weighing more than a ton, from quarries far to the south. The river also likely carried other equipment and workers.

This discovery might explain why some pyramids are located farther east than others. During the Middle Kingdom period (about 2030 to 1650 BC), pyramids were built more to the east because the river had shifted from where it was in the Old Kingdom period (about 2650 to 2130 BC). Many pyramids have causeways pointing towards the Ahramat branch, hinting at vanished harbors that once existed.

The river likely dried up about 4,200 years ago due to a major drought and sandstorms, filling with silt and disappearing under what is now desert and farmland.

While the idea that the ancient Egyptians used waterways to transport materials has been around for years, this is the first concrete evidence supporting it. Researchers had previously found hints of water channels in the Memphis area, but nothing as definitive as this.

The Ahramat river was mapped from Lisht, about 50 kilometres south of Cairo, to the Giza Pyramids. Researchers now plan to extend their mapping both north and south of the pyramids. They will use radiocarbon dating on plant and seashell remains in the area to determine the age of the river.

Understanding the ancient Nile’s layout helps us see how landscape changes influenced Egyptian civilization. This discovery sheds new light on the remarkable engineering feats of the ancient Egyptians and their ability to adapt to their environment.

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