Today in class we learned about the Great Pyramids of Giza and their significance in ancient Egypt. It is amazing that the people of this time had the skills and resources to complete such great monuments. Though the pyramids them self are of great interest to me, I was especially interested in the motive behind their construction and the people who built these massive structure.
The Old Testament talks about Egyptian slavery and their work on the pyramids, and up until today, I didn’t know any better but to assume this was how the great tombs were constructed. We learned instead that the workers on these projects were in fact not slaves but free citizens required to work for the state. Each season, a crew of unskilled laborers jumped on the project and was swapped out with a new group when their season was over. Accompanied by skilled workers, these people lived in the Workers Village just on the other side of the Wall of the Crow, separating sacred and nonsacred land. Unskilled workers returned to their homes after the season ended but the skilled laborers remained at the site, showing great dedication to the states project. These people were also compensated, usually in distributed agricultural parcels, showing that these workers were not at all slaves as the Old Testament claimed.
I also thought it was very interesting that the motive of the state for building these great structures, besides the honoring of past royalty, was to basically show the world that they could. Egypt was able to draft and mobilized such a great number of people for such an extended amount of time. They were also able to show off their ability to acquire the necessary building materials and coordinate the construction of such immense projects. The success of each project gave a positive reflection of the height of centralized power and administration of the early state during the time of the Old Kingdom.
Today’s lecture really changed my outlook on the Egyptian state during the Old Kingdom. I had never really thought about the Great Pyramids of Giza as being almost a political tool. I also didn’t realize that the Biblical reference to Egyptians slaves was so inaccurate.