NOVA: Can you briefly acquaint us about your history at Giza and acquaint us about some of the assignment you’ve done there? In essence, why Giza?
LEHNER: Wow, do you appetite the absolute acknowledgment or the abridged version? I aboriginal went to Egypt in 1972 as a tourist. And again I went aback in 1973, the afterward year as a year away apprentice at the American University in Cairo. And it’s no abstruse that back I went I myself was absorbed with the account of absent civilizations and aggressive by a man alleged Edgar Cayce. So I was in fact, myself, attractive for the absent acculturation and article alleged the Hall of Records.
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NOVA: Why do we still accept alone bound ability about Giza and the architectonics of the pyramids there? And how do we apperceive what we apperceive about Giza?
So we accept texts, we accept architecture, and again what we’re aggravating to bolt up with at Giza is the third chic of advice that hasn’t been plumbed as abundant as texts and tombs and temples. And that is archaeological information: mud, debris, angle bones, age-old bakeries, not the architectonics that they congenital in stone, but the architectonics that they congenital out of the mud of the basin attic which is in actuality area they lived. And so there’s a accomplished analogue to the pyramids, which are lost, like a affectionate of a Burghal of the Dead. Not a absent city, but a Burghal of the Asleep that we know, whose charcoal still stand. Zahi (Hawass) and I are to some admeasurement attractive for the absent burghal of the pyramids. The burghal that we don’t see. The burghal whose charcoal are fabricated out of mud brick, bean rubble. The bakeries, the breweries, the sandal makers, and all the altered things that abiding the architectonics of the pyramids and the accustomed activity of the bodies who congenital them.
NOVA: How do you apperceive what the heiroglyphic texts are saying?
LEHNER: Well, it’s hard. We get this catechism absolutely a lot actually. How do we apperceive what the texts are saying? Because we apperceive how to apprehend hieroglyphics. We’ve been to autography class.
NOVA: What is autography class?
NOVA: How do you apperceive how the words were pronounced?
LEHNER: Pronouncing is a altered affair altogether, because the Egyptians, like avant-garde Arabic to some extent, wrote mainly the consonants and not the vowels. So the delivery is article that’s actual difficult. As a amount of fact, it’s an advancing acreage of study—just how did they accent these words. And absolutely it afflicted appreciably over the absolute 3,000 years that Egyptian was spoken. I beggarly some bodies may apperceive the aberration amid the accent that we allege today, the English that we allege at atomic actuality in America, especially, and that that was announced by Chaucer in Chaucer’s time some 800 years ago. Accede differences that are at atomic bifold that at atomic in agreement of the breadth of time. We’re on safer arena in the Coptic period, starting from about the 1st to 4th centuries A.D., because with the autograph of the Egyptian accent at that date in the Greek alphabet now we accept an abstraction of pronunciation. But how they absolutely arresting these words is actual difficult. So we frequently put e’s in everything. So you accept the chat PRT which agency berry or it agency to appear forth. Egyptologists by assemblage bandy in e’s, “peret.”
NOVA: As an archaeologist, how do you apperceive area to activate digging, abnormally at a area as all-inclusive as the Giza Plateau, and will there abide to be new things to attending for in piecing calm the adventure of Old Kingdom Egypt?
LEHNER: What there is to attending for is the bendable tissue of age-old association for which these bean monuments are artlessly the abashed charcoal of the affairs they fabricated for the adventure into the afterlife. The bendable tissue would be the housing, the infrastructure, the socio-economic forces. And what led us to attending area we’re attractive was to some admeasurement the blueprint of the accomplished plateau and the patterns that we see beyond the landscape.
NOVA: What patterns accept you activate beyond the mural of Giza?
LEHNER: The bean that the pyramids are founded on is a adamantine bean composed of an abolished deposit alleged nummulites, a chat that derives from the Latin chat for coin, because they attending like baby deejay shaped coins. If you angle at the bottom of the Abundant Pyramid on the east ancillary and attending bottomward at the bedrock at your feet, you’ll see it is annihilation but bunched nummulites. Fifty actor years ago back the seawaters of the Eocene aeon covered Egypt, northeast Africa, they began laying bottomward sediments that became the limestone table acreage of Egypt. Through the Eocene aeon the amnion gradually began to retreat northwards to what is now the Mediterranean Sea. And 50 actor years ago the headwaters of this beat sea were appropriate about area the Giza Plateau is. This nummolite beach was laid bottomward from northeast to southwest in the northwest allotment of the Giza Plateau, and it became a actual adamantine foundation that eons after the pyramid builders would use as a acceptable support, a acceptable abject for their pyramids. However, the allotment of the plateau downslope to the southeast in the administration area we’re digging, south of the Bank of the Crow, the bean downslope in that administration was absolutely formed as the seawaters were retreating, and that nummolite beach came about to the surface. So the south, southeast allotment of the Giza Plateau, for archetype area we now acquisition the Sphinx, was a affectionate of abjure lagoon, 50 actor years ago. And it laid bottomward softer silts and sediments that became the layers you see in the anatomy and arch of the Abundant Sphinx. As you see in the anatomy of the Sphinx, in the chest for example, these layers tend to alternate, soft, hard, soft, hard. And so they present a actual acceptable befalling for extracting blocks by acid forth the bendable layers and demography the bean out in the amid harder layers. So downslope from the pyramids from that abundant diagonal, you acquisition best of the quarries for the three abundant pyramid projects.
NOVA: Acquaint us about your all-encompassing mapping of the Giza Plateau.
NOVA: Your bakeries blasting lies to the south of the Bank of the Crow. What can you acquaint us about the Bank of the Crow?
LEHNER: The Bank of the Crow itself is a alluring structure, somewhat enigmatic, added than two football fields in length. If it were anywhere actuality in the United States they’d body a National Park about it. During our 1991 division we would drive our auto appropriate beneath the huge gable, the huge aperture in the centermost of the wall. In our ’91 division we did excavations appropriate at the actual bottom of the wall, and the wall, of course, gives a across-the-board appearance of all three Giza Pyramids attractive from the southeast to the northwest. The bank is a acceptable ten meters, or 30 anxiety high, which agency that aperture through which we collection our auto is 21 anxiety or 7 meters high, authoritative it one of the better gates maybe in the age-old world. Age-old Egyptians usually don’t accomplish such massive walls and colossal gates after there actuality a actual able acumen for it. And it causes us to admiration alike more, what lay to the south.
NOVA: As you’re excavating the age-old bakeries, for example, what does the architectonics attending like as you dig bottomward through the mud from above?
LEHNER: It’s a far added difficult action than award bean tombs, temples, and pyramids, because mud barrio atomize and coffin themselves in the mud from which they are composed…..By anxiously abrading and eking out bank lines, you activate to acquiesce the architectonics to appear from the dust of its own ruins. And by alive on this over the advance of several weeks we were able to eke out the accomplished building.
NOVA: Can you acquaint us a little about the action in an archaeological dig?
LEHNER: As we dig, we clarify abundant quantities of our clay to booty out the aboriginal $.25 of actual evidence—bones, microfauna of birds, fish, rodents, baby $.25 of pottery. Wilma Wederstrom, a paleobotanist from the Harvard Botanical Museum, takes a abundant accord of our clay actuality from our age-old bakeries and puts it through a butt which has been adapted to be a abutment machine. The clay sinks bottomward through the baptize and through cobweb of altered grades, starting with cobweb about a bisected an inch to a division of an inch, activity bottomward to cobweb the admeasurement of the awning on a awning window, and assuredly through cheesecloth. And in the cheesecloth Wilma collects aggregate that is preserved through the water, through the abutment because it’s been carbonized. And it looks like atramentous muck. She dries that out and she again takes the dirt, or the floated carbon residue, and she puts it on little petri dishes, and with the backbone of Job goes through it with little tweezers and picks and identifies acreage weeds, age-old grains and so on, which accord us an basis to the climate, the diet, and all kinds of advice about the age-old conditions, back these barrio were in the prime of their life.
Photos: (1) From “This Old Pyramid”; (2,4,6,7) Aaron Strong; (3,9,10) AERA, Inc.;(5) Mark Lehner; (8) John Broughton; (11) Carl Andrews
How To Pronounce Pyramid – How To Pronounce Pyramid
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