What is it about?

The fluvial-port-complex hypothesis postulates that pyramid builders cut through the western levee of the Khufu branch of the Nile and dredged basins down to river depth in order to harness the annual 7-m rise of the flood like a hydraulic lift, bringing the higher water levels to the base of the Giza plateau. In this way, it was possible to transport supplies and building materials directly to the pyramid complex. These canals and ports would also have been key for the longer-distance transport of materials via the Nile, facilitating transport logistics and for the continuous supply of the plateau’s diverse building projects and linking Giza with nearby cities in the Memphite region and on the delta. Nonetheless, the interactions between ancient Egyptian societies and environmental changes along the Khufu branch are complex and poorly understood. We evaluate its water levels during the last 8,000 y, with a particular focus on the Dynastic Period and the Oldkingdom, using sediment cores and long-term ecosystem dynamics. Our data shed light on previous reconstructions because environmental and historical data are more closely coupled; such resolution has never been achieved in this region. Furthermore, our sequence can be extrapolated to upstream and downstream areas of the Egyptian Nile, allowing comparison with other archaeological sites.

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Why is it important?

The pyramids of Giza constitute one of the world’s most iconic cultural landscapes and have fascinated humanity for thousands of years. Indeed, the Great Pyramid of Giza (Khufu Pyramid) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It is now accepted that ancient Egyptian engineers exploited a former channel of the Nile to transport building materials and provisions to the Giza plateau. However, there is a paucity of environmental evidence regarding when, where, and how these ancient landscapes evolved. Our palaeoecological analyses have helped to reconstruct an 8,000-year fluvial history of the Nile in this area, showing that the former waterscapes and higher river levels around 4,500 years ago facilitated the construction of the Giza Pyramid Complex.


Actually, understranding the environmental contexts in the time of the pyramids construction is indispensable. The location of the great pyramids is very sensitive from the climatic and environmental point of view, I mean it is on the frontier between the Nile floodplain and the desert. The stability of the environmental conditions such as the level of the channel feeding the harbour and the rainfall frequencies on desert resulting in destructive surges in the site and the rates of desert crawl on account of the floodplain, all would impact directly the site of the construction, the circumstances of the process and the builders themselves. harsh conditions would threaten all the process and good levels of the river nile would be contrairily conducive. understanding the environment will change all our perception about the story of building the great pyramids, it would help us to understand the enigma of the great pyramids: The location, the technique and the timing.

Hader Sheisha

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This page is a summary of: Nile waterscapes facilitated the construction of the Giza pyramids during the 3rd millennium BCE, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, August 2022, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2202530119.
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