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Groundbreaking study reveals new insights into chosen locations of pyramids’ sites

A groundbreaking study, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, has revealed why the largest concentration of pyramids in Egypt were built along a narrow desert strip.

Since the beginning of the Pharaonic era, the Nile River has played a fundamental role in the rapid growth and expansion of the Egyptian civilisation.

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The Nile provided sustenance and functioned as the primary mode of transportation for goods and building materials, which explains why most of the main cities of the Egyptian civilisation were built in close proximity to the banks of the Nile and its peripheral branches.

Over the centuries, the primary channel of the Nile shifted laterally, causing these peripheral branches to silt up. As a result, population centres were cut off from the vital resources the river provided.

Image Credit : Eman Ghoneim et al

This is apparent with the pyramids along the Western Desert Plateau, where a majority of the pyramids are concentrated along a narrow desert strip several kilometres from the current primary channel of the Nile.

Using a combination of radar satellite imagery, geophysical data, and deep soil coring, the study has investigated the subsurface structure and sedimentology in the Nile Valley adjacent to the pyramid clusters.

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This has revealed an extinct branch of the primary channel called the Ahramat Branch, which was connected to the pyramids of the Old and Middle Kingdoms via causeways and their Valley Temples.

According to the study authors: “The Ahramat Branch played a role in the monuments’ construction and was simultaneously active and used as a transportation waterway for workmen and building materials to the pyramids’ sites.”

The eastward migration and abandonment of the Ahramat Branch could be attributed to gradual movement of the river to the lower-lying adjacent floodplain or tilting of the Nile floodplain toward the northeast as a result of tectonic activity, as well as windblown sand incursion due to the branch’s proximity to the Western Desert Plateau.

Header Image Credit : Eman Ghoneim et al

Sources : Ghoneim, E., Ralph, T.J., Onstine, S. et al. The Egyptian pyramid chain was built along the now abandoned Ahramat Nile Branch. Commun Earth Environ 5, 233 (2024). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43247-024-01379-7

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Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan
Mark Milligan is multi-award-winning journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,500 articles across several online publications. Mark is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW), the World Federation of Science Journalists, and in 2023 was the recipient of the British Citizen Award for Education, the BCA Medal of Honour, and the UK Prime Minister's Points of Light Award.
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