Most of us can’t even put together IKEA shelves without having them fall apart. However, the Egyptian pyramids are still standing after thousands of years, a true testament to the ingenuity of the ancient world. And make no mistake — these structures are far more than just tall piles of rocks.
The greatest minds on Earth are still in the process of learning more about the pyramids every day, and some of their discoveries are truly baffling. Bordering on the inexplicable, these finds could redefine history as we know it. Can we solve these puzzles before they’re lost in the sands of time?
1. Popular culture has us believe that slaves built the pyramids under the stern eye of the pharaoh’s cronies. While some slaves may have been involved, historians believe that due to the complexity of the operation, skilled craftsmen were primarily responsible.
2. Even the most hardcore DIY-er wouldn’t dare to build an authentic Egyptian pyramid. The wheel hadn’t been introduced to their society yet, so they instead used a series of ramps and sledges to haul stone from hundreds of miles away.
3. Unless you’re a camel, you probably don’t want to hang out in the Sahara Desert. The pyramids, on the other hand, are amazingly cool inside. Their advanced ventilation causes interior chambers to drop as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
4. Though the pyramids form one of the most iconic skylines in the world, they looked quite different back in their heyday. An outer casing of polished limestone, which has since fallen off, made them shine like diamonds under the desert sun.
5. Although their design looks straightforward from the outside, pyramids hide an intricate system of tunnels, chambers, and air ducts within. In recent years, scientists have identified previously unknown rooms, thanks to cosmic-ray imaging. Their purpose remains a mystery, however.
6. As of 2018, scientists are still learning new, fascinating details about the pyramids. Shockingly, they determined that the base and inner rooms of the Great Pyramids hold an electromagnetic charge! Conspiracy theorists will immediately jump to an alien connection, but this is likely just a coincidence.
7. Howard Carter achieved one of the biggest finds in archaeology when he unsealed King Tutankhamun’s wondrous tomb in 1923. Urban legend claims the pharaoh’s curse killed him and his workers as revenge. In reality, there was no curse in Tut’s tomb, plus Carter died long after in 1939.
8. Tut’s tomb was a monumental find because it showed off the decadence of Egyptian burials. They interred their royals with food, household goods, and even pets, due to the belief that their spirits would use them in the afterlife. So why was this discovery the first of its kind?
9. No pyramid or royal tomb was found in its full splendor prior to the 1920s. We have millennia of grave robbing to thank for that. Thieves would eagerly swoop in and steal valuable trinkets, leaving most archaeologists with only remnants of the magnificent burials.
10. Aerial photography revealed a curious fact about the Great Pyramid. Rather than having four sides, the picture showed four indented seams — almost perfectly straight — that actually divided the monument into eight sides!
11. The Great Pyramid is the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World still standing. The Lighthouse of Alexandria, Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Statue of Zeus at Olympia, Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, Colossus at Rhodes, and Temple of Artemis are all lost or in ruins.
12. While its purpose is not completely clear, historians theorize that Egyptians built the Great Sphinx to guard over the pyramids. Its face is likely based on Khafre, a rather obscure pharoah. Of course, he did have a nose; the Sphinx’s simply crumbled away.
Flickr / Gary Todd
13. We all know that wealthy Egyptians were mummified, but that process is probably more involved than you’d think. Over the course of months, high priests would remove internal organs, dry the body in salt, and wrap it in multiple layers of linen.
14. Anyone can see that it took a whole lot of rocks to construct the pyramids, but this factoid will still blow your mind. Giza’s three main pyramids contain enough stones to build a ten-foot wall around all of France!
15. Upon its completion in 2560 B.C., the 481-foot Great Pyramid stood taller than any other manmade structure in the world. It stayed that way for thousands of years, until the Lincoln Cathedral topped it in 1311.
16. Nearly all of Egypt’s pyramids are located to the west of the Nile, probably so the spirits of the dead could follow the setting sun. It also didn’t hurt that many of the quarries in the region were on that side of the river.
17. Among other architectural marvels, the Great Pyramid features a hidden 20-ton door on one side. Though it sounds impossible to move, ingenious hinges allow it to open with the push of a single person.
18. The placement of the three largest pyramids at Giza have been the source of frenzied speculation, and many believe they have a connection to the stars. They claim that this trio of structures aligns with the stars in Orion’s Belt, though this theory has plenty of detractors.
19. Though Peru houses some of the world’s oldest pyramids, the very oldest is in Egypt. Pharoah Djoser’s pyramid went up in the 27th century B.C. and featured a more primitive step design.
20. Archaeologists are constantly on the lookout for new breakthroughs on ancient Egypt, though this is easier said than done. The care and cunning of the ancient people who built these tombs makes their jobs a delicate scavenger hunt…
Middle East Monitor
In recent years, the Ministry of Antiquities has attempted to lead new excavations all over Egypt, in part to make new discoveries, but also to help repair the damage tomb raiders and looters have caused over time.
Middle East Eye
See, since the Egyptian revolution in 2011, many areas, like the Great Pyramids, have been completely unguarded. Consequently, grave robbers, some with major connections to the criminal world, others just common thieves, plundered the area and made away with artifacts.
Illicit Cultural Property
When some tomb shafts proved too small for adults, they used kids to access them, causing injury and even accidental death. If the loss of life weren’t bad enough, because of the thefts, a large portion of tombs have suffered damage beyond repair.
One of the newly excavated sites was the necropolis of Saqqara, an ancient burial ground. In 2018, the groundbreaking treasures the Ministry of Antiquities brought to light were highly preserved and unique. One finding, in particular, was dubbed “the most beautiful tomb discovered this year.”
What makes this site so special? Looters damaged and stole many of the valuable ancient relics, but inside a wooden coffin lay hidden a mask of gold-plated silver. Only a few of its kind exist, so excavators geared up for the other gems waiting to be found within Saqqara’s depths.
Finding the mask lit a fire in the bellies of archaeologists. In fact, it was the first mission in the area since 1900, so the opportunity and probability that more significant treasures were on the horizon was pretty high.
Not long after the mummy was found, archaeologists came across some more ancient artifacts. Nestled inside a stone ridge was a series of seven tombs; one crypt held mummified cats and rare scarab beetles.
Ancient Egyptians mummified human bodies to preserve them for the afterlife, but animals were mummified as part of religious offerings. After collecting the pristinely preserved creatures, the researchers were elated to discover the entrance to an untouched tomb believed to hold human remains.
Left completely intact and out of sight for 4,400 years, the tomb was the elaborately decorated final resting place of a high priest — Wahtye. As the high ranking member of the priesthood, he was appointed by royalty, King Neferirkare Kakai, back in the Fifth Dynasty.
At 33 feet long, 9 feet wide, and 10 feet high, the tomb held many clues about the man laid to rest in its walls. Elaborate carvings, paintings, and hieroglyphics all told stories about the life of Wahyte. In fact, the high priest was a bit of a “mummy’s boy”…
Archaeologists were hard pressed to find a spot in the tomb where Wahyte wasn’t paying tribute to his beloved mama, Merit Meen. Drawings, paintings, and even statues of his mother covered the walls.
Inscriptions also revealed Wahyte had a wife, Weret Ptah, though there was much less fanfare for her. Thousands of years after artists originally painted the limestone walls, new people finally saw the elaborate scenes depicting Egyptians hunting, sailing, and manufacturing.
Ministry of Antiquities-Arab Republic of Egypt /Twitter
The Saqqara site exposed so many details of daily life for an Ancient Egyptian person. Drawings of musical performances, and the making of pottery and wine, as well as sailing and furniture making, make Ancient Egypt seem akin to the social life of a present-day young, cultured city dweller.
As they examined the inside of the tomb, they learned more about Wahtye. Of course unraveling the story of his life, family, and place in the fifth dynasty was fascinating, but all the while the team was on the hunt to discover the crown jewel — Wahtye’s hidden final resting place.
On December 13th 2018, the excavation team had their grand stroke of luck. They cleared away the last layer of debris, and low and behold, there were five shafts. So they began the slow careful process of finding a way inside…
To their surprise, the first shaft was unsealed. Which made sense, since when they pried it open, it was absolutely empty. Nevertheless, the four other shafts had potential to hold findings that the modern world hadn’t yet seen.
“I can imagine that all of the objects can be found in this area,” said the general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziri. He indicated the remaining shafts held the biggest answers. “This shaft should lead to a coffin or a sarcophagus of the owner of the tomb.”
Officials said that in the coming months, as the excavation continued, they expected to unearth even more in the preserved chambers. Shoveling by hand, sifting through stone and sand, the archaeologists waited to reveal more glimpses into the past.