D&D II -Builders of the Pyramids - Wadi El Jarf, Egypt

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In this episode we head to ancient Egypt and the time of the 4th Dynasty. This is during the reign of the Pharaoh Khufu, who built the Great Pyramid of Giza. Here we explore a coastal site called Wadi el Jarf, on the Red Sea, where archeologists have uncovered both the oldest artificial harbour and the oldest known Papyrus. This extraordinary site offers up unique insights into life over 4,000 years ago.

Bettany chats with Pierre Tallet, director of the excavations at Wadi el Jarf. The team have uncovered an ancient harbour which includes a series of over 30 caves and an artificial jetty. This site was an important connection between South Sinai, the desert of Egypt and the Nile Valley. By enabling food and copper as well as other raw materials to be transported across the Red Sea, this harbour gives us an insight into the organisation and logistics of the Ancient Egyptians.

What is particularly fascinating is the level of preservation here. Within the caves Pierre’s team found an astonishing collection of boat timbers, ropes and sails, telling us more about ancient Egyptian navigation and boat technology. Most surprisingly they found thousands of papyri (sheets made from plant material and used for writing), the oldest known to date, detailing the organisation and logistics of the extensive harbour site.

Pierre tells us they have discovered one particular account of an official. In his daily logs he writes about transporting limestone for the Great Pyramid of Giza, detailing how the stone was moved from the quarries, and across the Red Sea – a unique and surprising find.

Lucy goes on to speak with lead underwater archaeologist, Ehab Fahmy, about diving in the artificial harbour. The site is exposed and shallow, making it a challenging site for the archaeologists. This huge L-shaped jetty has been recorded, and alongside this we hear about how the team has found hundreds of anchors and pottery. What’s really exciting is the potential for more finds in this area and the team will be headed back next year So watch this space!

Professor Pierre Tallet – Chair of Egyptology, Sorbonne University
Dr Ehab Fahmy – Head of Underwater Archaeology, Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.

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