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NOVA Online: Pyramids—The Inside Story (see bottom of page for navigation)
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How Old Are The Pyramids?

PyramidsThe precise age of the pyramids of Giza has long been debated because, until now, there has been little evidence to prove when the pyramids were built. The history books generally point to 3200 B.C. as the approximate date when the pyramid of Khufu was under construction. But how exactly do Egyptologists date the pyramids? Like past excavations, the current dig at Giza attempts to bring us closer to pinpointing the time period during which the pyramids were built. NOVA Online's interviews with two experts reveal the results of recent carbon dating on the pyramids, and shed further light on the process Egyptologists must go through to decipher the age of these great monuments. NOVA Online invites those who have questions or comments about the age of the pyramids and the Sphinx to e-mail the excavation.

ZAHI HAWASS, Director General of Giza

NOVA: There have been claims that a great civilization predates ancient dynastic Egypt—one that existed some 10,500 years B.C.—and that this civilization was responsible for building the pyramids and sculpting the Sphinx. Is this possible?

HAWASS: Of course it is not possible for one reason. Until now there is no evidence at all that has been found in any place, not only at Giza, but also in Egypt. People have been excavating in Egypt for the last 200 years. No single artifact, no single inscription, or pottery, or anything has been found until now, in any place to predate the Egyptian civilization more than 5,000 years ago.

NOVA: What evidence do you have that the pyramids and tombs at Giza were from, as you say, no more than 5,000 years ago.

Aerial shot of ruinsHAWASS: First of all you have inscriptions that are written inside the tombs, the tombs that are located on the west side of the Great Pyramid for the officials, and the tombs that are located on the east side of the Great Pyramid for the nobles, the family of the King Khufu. And you have this lady, the daughter of Khufu. And this man was the vizier of the king. This one was the inspector of the pyramids, the chief inspector of the pyramids, the wife of the pyramid, the priest of the pyramid. You have the inscriptions and you have pottery dated to Dynasty 4. You have inscriptions that they found of someone who was the overseer of the side of the Pyramid of Khufu. And another one who was the overseer of the west side of the pyramid. You have tombs of the workmen who built the pyramids that we found, with at least 30 titles that have been found on them to connect the Great Pyramid of Khufu to Dynasty 4. You have the bakery that Mark Lehner found. And all the evidence that we excavate here.


Photos: (1) Aaron Strong; (2) Mark Lehner

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