What if you could “un-build” or deconstruct all of the ancient monuments on Giza Plateau, replace the stones in their quarries, and recreate the building sequence of all the structures?
Where on the Giza Plateau could thousands of workers have been housed and fed?
Where do you look for a lost city?
Those questions have driven the work of Dr. Mark Lehner and Ancient Egypt Research Associates (AERA) for over two decades. Our original aim was to create a high-precision map of the natural and cultural features at Giza to better understand the social and economic forces that supported pyramid construction.
The natural features include the plateau formation upon which the ancient mortuary monuments of the 4th Dynasty pharaohs are built. The cultural features are many:
- Great Pyramid of Khufu
- Pyramid of Khafre
- Pyramid of Menkaure
- Queens’ Pyramids
- Mastaba tombs of royal family & high officials
- Hundreds of lesser tombs
- Pyramid quarries
- City of the pyramid builders
We began by creating the first accurate scale maps of the Sphinx. We expanded our mission from the Sphinx, to the Giza Plateau Mapping Project (GPMP), identifying the Khufu quarry and other landscape features, and finding the Lost City of the pyramid builders.
Often, people look at the pyramids, Sphinx, temples, and tombs as static monuments, each a template of a single moment in time. In fact, the Giza Plateau was a massive construction site, in a continual state of flux, throughout the 4th Dynasty and even much later. Many structures reveal ancient alteration and renovation. The builders left many structures unfinished, showing their working hand and techniques.
That’s why AERA conducts systematic, interdisciplinary archaeology of the Giza Plateau, from megalithic structures down to the smallest seed and pottery sherd. Our goal is a broad-based picture of all ancient activity at Giza.
Our large, international team includes specialists in stratigraphy (archaeological layers), archaeobotany (seeds and other plant remains), osteoarchaeology (human remains), zooarchaeology (animal remains), ceramics, epigraphy (inscriptions), lithics (intentionally chipped stone), and more.
Through painstaking processes we seek to answer essential questions about the ancient people and activity that created the World Heritage site we know today as the Giza Plateau.
Pyramid construction still intrigues
In the 21st century, we build structures that far surpass the pyramids in size and complexity. Why do the pyramids and the puzzles around their construction still intrigue us so much?
In some measure, the question is about us. If monuments that seem beyond human scale were built by human hands, it shapes our perception of who we are and what humans were capable of in the pre-modern world.
Absolute answers for the planning and construction of the pyramids are lost in the mists of antiquity. But the archaeology at Giza reveals the labor of human hands, over and over, in moments frozen in time.
We are discovering the footprint of a city that thrived during that great century of pyramid building at Giza. As we examine the questions in the light of new evidence, we are learning more and more about the true impact of that century on Egyptian history and on the formation of one the world’s oldest nation states.
AERA’s work through the Giza Plateau Mapping Project aspires to tell that story: