Archaeology

Egypt's Oldest Writings Found

The 30 papyri reveal information about workers who built the pyramids.

Egyptian authorities have unveiled the country's oldest papyri, which date date back 4,500 years.

The 30 papyri -- six of which are now on display at the Egyptian museum in Cairo -- were found in 2013 inside caves in the ancient Red Sea port of Wadi al-Jarf by a mission led by French Egyptologist Pierre Tallet and Egyptian Egyptologist Sayed Mahfouz.

"They contain the oldest known examples of Egyptian writing," Antiquities minister Khaled el-Anany said.

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The papyri provide information about the lives of workers in the port during the reign of fourth dynasty King Khufu, also known as Cheops, for whom the Great Pyramid of Giza was built as a tomb.

The hieroglyphs reveal that workers and employees at Wadi al-Jarf port participated in the construction of the pyramid.

While most papyri are accounting documents, one papyrus was written by a middle-ranking official called Merer who was in charge of a team of sailors.

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Hussein Abdel-Bassir, head of Scientific Publication Department at the ministry, said the document provides an everyday account of the sailors's work as they hauled limestone blocks from the quarries of Tura on the east bank of the Nile to the Great Pyramid at Giza plateau through the Nile and its canals.

The papyri also list revenues transferred from various Egyptian provinces to feed pyramid builders and pay their wages. Revenues were written in red, while payments to workers in black.

"The documents indicate the highly efficient administrative system in Khufu's reign," Egypt's ministry of Antiquities said.

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