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The Red Sea Scrolls

How Ancient Papyri Reveal the Secrets of the Pyramids

Pierre Tallet, Mark Lehner


The inside story, told by the archaeological detectives themselves, of the extraordinary discovery of the world’s oldest papyri – revealing how King Khufu’s men built the Great Pyramid at Giza

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Pierre Tallet’s discovery of the Red Sea scrolls – the world’s oldest surviving written documents – was one of the most remarkable moments in the recent history of Egyptology. These papyri, written some 4,600 years ago, combined with Mark Lehner’s research and theories, change what we thought we knew about the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza. Here Tallet and Lehner together give us the definitive account of this astounding discovery.

The story begins with Tallet’s hunt for hieroglyphic rock inscriptions in the Egyptian deserts, leading up to the discovery of the papyri – the diary of Inspector Merer, who oversaw workers in the reign of King Khufu – in Wadi el-Jarf, the site of an ancient harbour on the Red Sea. The translation of the papyri reveals for the first time exactly how the stones of the Great Pyramid were transported to the Giza Plateau. Combined with Lehner’s excavations of the recently unearthed harbour, the Red Sea papyri have greatly advanced our understanding of how the ancient Egyptians were able to build monuments that survive to this day.

Tallet and Lehner narrate this thrilling discovery and explore how the building of the pyramids helped create a unified state, propelling Egyptian civilization forward. This lavishly illustrated book captures the excitement and significance of these seminal findings, conveying above all how astonishing it is to discover a contemporary eyewitness testimony to the creation of the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.

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'This landmark, elegantly illustrated book is the first to reveal how raw materials used in the Great Pyramid’s construction … were transported to Giza'

'A detailed, compelling account of Khufu’s extraordinary project, based on the latest evidence'
Toby Wilkinson, Times Literary Supplement

'A really fascinating, in-depth discussion of a remarkable set of documents that show this early civilisation coming together'
Guy de la Bédoyère MA FSA

'Rigorously detailed … for diehard nerds there’s plenty of mapping, reconstruction and transliteration'
The Spectator

'A vivid, richly illustrated account'
Current World Archaeology

'A fascinating and, above all, readable account of a discovery that has already had significant impact on our understanding of Egypt in the Pyramid Age'
Ancient Egypt Magazine

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.0 x 17.0 cm

Extent: 320 pp

Publication date: 20 January 2022

ISBN: 9780500052112

Contents List


Part I
Discoveries in the Desert
The Red Sea

Part II
Sneferu and Khufu and their Pyramid
From Khufu to Khafra on the Red Sea Coast and at Giza
Finding the Papyri
The Challenges of Translating the Papyri
What the Papyri Tell Us

Part IV
How Merer and his Team Transported Stone to Giza
From the Red Sea to the Nile Delta: A Year in the Life of Merer and his Men
From Worker’s Village to Port City
Overseer of the Ro She Ankh-haf

Part V
Feeding the Workers
How They Could Have Raised the Stone
How the Pyramids Created a Unified State

Conclusion: Future Discoveries on the Red Sea Coast?
Appendix : Translation of Papyri

About the Author

Pierre Tallet is Professor of Egyptology at the Sorbonne and President of the French Society of Egyptology; he is leader of the archaeological mission at Wadi el-Jarf where he discovered the Red Sea Papyri. Mark Lehner is President of AERA (Ancient Egypt Research Associates) and Research Associate at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago; he has conducted fieldwork at Giza for over 40 years. He is the author of the bestselling The Complete Pyramids and the definitive volume on the subject, Giza and the Pyramids, both published by Thames & Hudson.