Friday, April 26, 2013

Beefy builders

Egyptologist Richard Redding of the University of Michigan has done some meat math to determine the extent to which bureaucracy played a role in building the pyramids at Giza. The pyramid-builders - who were not slaves – lived just 1,300' (400m) south of the Sphinx. Based on animal bones at slaughter sites nearby, he estimates that the workforce consumed more than 4,000 pounds of meat each day - about 11 cattle and 37 sheep or goats, supplemented by an equivalent amount of fish and other sources of protein. This means that the ancient Egyptians would have needed to maintain a herd of 21,900 cattle and 54,750 sheep and goats to keep up regular delivery to the Giza workers. To support the animals and the herders would have necessitated an area of 465 square miles (1,205 square km) – about 5% of the present-day Nile Delta. This investment of land, livestock, and "support staff" ensured the 6 lbs of meat they needed each week to contribute half of the 67g of protein they had to eat every day to perform hard labor. This daily total was calculated by Redding using modern statistics, but adjusting for the smaller body size of ancient Egyptians. "They were young males, who ate exceptionally good food and had good medical care and were working for the good of society," Redding says of the thousands of workers who spent 20 years constructing the Great Pyramids. "They probably got a much better diet than they got in their village."

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