The Giza Pyramid Complex includes the Great Pyramid of Giza – the only surviving wonder of the ancient world – the Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaura and the Great Sphinx of Giza. All of them were built during the Fourth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, approximately between 2600-2500 BC. The way these marvels were built has fascinated scientists for centuries.
The new study was carried out by environmental geographer Hader Sheisha of the University of Aix-Marseille and her colleagues.
They explained: “The pyramids of Giza originally towered over a now-defunct branch of the Nile.
“This canal, a branch of Khufu, provided navigation to the Pyramid Harbor complex.”
However, they added, “its exact ecological history is unclear.”
To investigate further, the researchers examined sediment samples previously collected from several locations in and around Giza, focusing on fossilized pollen grains that had been trapped inside.
They combined this analysis with the results of previous studies of the geology of the area around the pyramids.
Together, this allowed the team to reconstruct the history of the now dry arm of the Nile, Khufu, over the past 8,000 years.
They found that at one time—about 4,000 years ago—the branch of Khufu reached almost all the way to Giza, more than four miles from the Nile.
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The team continued: “The Khufu Branch remained at high water levels—about 40 percent of its Holocene high—during the reigns of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaur.”
These were the three pharaohs responsible for building the pyramids.
With this in mind, the researchers added, the Khufu branch would facilitate “the transportation of building materials to the Giza pyramid complex.”
Fossilized pollen grains found in ancient sediment samples mostly come from flowering grasses like those that line the banks of the Nile today.
However, the team also found evidence of several marsh plants that typically grow along the edges of lakes, indicating that the Khufu branch must have remained high in these areas long enough for nature to consider the water features to be permanent.
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The researchers added: “Following the high levels of standing associated with the African Humid Period, our results show that Giza’s waterscapes responded to gradual insolation. [solar radiation] aridity of East Africa.
They explained that the Nile began to fall shortly after King Tutankhamun’s reign ended in 1323 BC.
Evidence of the aridity of Egypt during this time has also been found in the bones and teeth of mummified people.
The team noted that the lowest levels of the Nile were recorded at the end of the dynastic period, which ended with the death of Cleopatra in 30 BC.
The full results of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.