Ancient Mystery: How The Great Pyramid Was Built Bob Brier, mummy expert, Egyptologist and co-author of The Secret of the Great Pyramid, discusses theories about how the ancient Egyptians managed to build the Great Pyramid. New research suggests a ramp inside the pyramid may have been the key to its construction.

Ancient Mystery: How The Great Pyramid Was Built

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This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. Of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, only one remains, and that is the Great Pyramid of Giza. The pyramid stands in the Egyptian desert outside of Cairo. It took decades and an estimated 20,000 people or more to build it way back in 25 to 50 B.C. That was well before the era of engine-powered cranes and heavy machinery, when each one of the two million blocks used to make it had to be hauled up in the old-fashioned way, lots of muscle. And while the ancient Egyptians left lots of records and hieroglyphics behind detailing many different aspects of their culture and society, they left no information about how the pyramids were actually built.

There is no end to the speculation, though, over the centuries. Egyptologists have been debating the construction method ever since, and now, make room for one more theory. My next guest thinks he may finally know the secret to the construction of the Great Pyramid, and he details the new theory in a new book co-authored with the French architect who first proposed it. Joining me now to talk more about it is Bob Brier; he is co-author with Jean-Pierre Houdin of "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery." He's an Egyptologist and mummy expert and senior research fellow at Long Island University. He's here with us in New York. Thank you for coming with us today.

Dr. BOB BRIER (Senior Research Fellow, Long Island University; Co-author, "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery"): Pleasure, Ira.

FLATOW: What are the standard theories about how the pyramid was built?

Dr. BRIER: Well, for 30 years, I've been teaching the basic theory and always knew it was wrong. It's the single...

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: You knew it was wrong when you were teaching it.

Dr. BRIER: Yep, I did. And I told the kids, I told the students, you know, this is the best theory we have, but there are real problems. The best theory was a single ramp theory. The idea is, is how do you get blocks up to - up to the top of a 480-foot pyramid? And it's the old Hollywood solution, one big long ramp with guys hauling up blocks.

FLATOW: Right.

Dr. BRIER: But we always knew there were real problems with it. I mean, if you're going to have a slope going up to 480 feet in the air, it's got to be a very long, gentle slope, and it would have to be a mile long, and that's just too big. You can't have anything that big.

FLATOW: And so your idea is that there's an internal ramp we can't see from the outside.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, the secret of the Great Pyramid is really that there's a ramp inside. It's a mile long, like a road in a parking garage, you know, sort of cork screwing up, and it's been in there for 4,500 years.

FLATOW: So, did they use the ramp as part of the pyramid itself?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, the pyramid is its own ramp, and you've got this thing going up inside it, and the blocks for the very top are brought up inside the pyramid.

FLATOW: And how were you able to see this ramp if you can't get inside to see it?

Dr. BRIER: Well, the unfortunate thing is we haven't seen it yet. It's a theory, but it's more than a theory; there's evidence for it, too, but so far, we just don't have the smoking gun.

FLATOW: Mm-hm. What would you need to actually see it? Is it possible to actually take a picture of it? Internally, we have all these high-tech, radar, infrared, all kinds of these cameras that can see through the Earth, through opaque objects. Could we see the ramp if we wanted to?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, in a way, we've got a picture already. It's a curious story. In 1986, a French team went to the pyramid and did a very sophisticated survey using micro-grava(ph) metrics. It lets you find low-density areas in the pyramid. They were looking for hidden chambers. And in 1986, they found a little hidden chamber with sand inside, not a great discovery, but something. But they should have found this internal ramp, and they didn't say anything about it. And then when Jean-Pierre Houdin was talking about his theory, gave a lecture, one of the guys was there and he said to him, I've got something you're going to be very happy to see. And he took him to his office in Paris, and the computer printed out the internal ramp. They had found it in 1986, but they just didn't want to make of it, and they ignored it. They thought it was an artifact of the computer.

FLATOW: So, then Jean-Pierre said what?

Dr. BRIER: Encredahble(ph).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: That's exactly what he said.

FLATOW: Encredahble(ph).

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, that's exactly what he said. And then we knew - you knew it really looked good. So, that's why I say that it's not really just a theory. There's evidence for it. But to answer to question, Ira, there are other ways to get at this thing. We could use infrared photography, you could use ground penetrating radar, and we're really looking for another confirmation of the theory pretty soon.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. I'm talking with Bob Brier, co-author of "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery." Now, this being the Middle East, I'm sure that the greatest impediments you're getting in there's got to be political, right? Or religious or social or something like that?

Dr. BRIER: No...

FLATOW: Not going to be the science.

Dr. BRIER: No, it's not the science. Science is not a problem. We know what to do, we know how to do it, and it's not too hard. But getting...

FLATOW: But what would you do? What would you do?

Dr. BRIER: OK, we would use, I think, infrared photography first. That's a really good thing; thermal cameras can give you a really good picture.

FLATOW: It can penetrate inside the stone - the big stone, yeah.

Dr. BRIER: No problem. The ramp isn't all the way deep inside the pyramid; it's near the surface. It's only about maybe, we think, about maybe 15 feet in. So, it's not going to have to be a real deep, penetrating thing. We could do it. And we have to make a permission - we have to give a sort of proposal to the Supreme Council of Antiquities. And we need their permission, and we haven't gotten the permission yet, but I think within a year or so we will get it. We've got to wait for other people to do their projects on the pyramid, all kinds of egos have to be stroked, but I think we're going to get the permission.

FLATOW: Give us the story, you talked to Houdin about this, and take it from there. What happened after that?

Dr. BRIER: Sure, sure. There's really two stories to this tale. One is the pyramid story and how it was built. The other is Jean-Pierre Houdin, and I'm not sure which is the more amazing one.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: Houdin is an outsider. He came to my house one day with his laptop and wanted to show me his theory. And when I say he's an outsider, he's not an Egyptologist. He's an architect who, eight years ago, gave up a successful practice as an architect, sold his apartment, moved in to a one-room flat with his laptop, and for eight hours a day, did nothing but computer generate graphics of the inside of the Great Pyramid . And you know, he emerged with a theory, you know, the internal ramp theory. And he's just an outsider; he had no idea of Egyptology. He had never been to the pyramid. You know, when he came to my house and he showed me these beautiful diagrams, you know, I said to him, well, what'd you think when you first saw the pyramid? He said, oh, I've never been there, you know, and we were all shocked.

FLATOW: You didn't even show him the door at that point.

Dr. BRIER: We were all - no, we didn't...


Dr. BRIER: Because this guy was clearly the real deal. He knew the pyramid better than anyone I had ever met, you know, but the other kicker is he didn't want to see the pyramid. He said - I said, don't you want to see it? No, I know what it looks like, and that was it; he didn't want to go. I finally dragged him, but he was kicking and screaming.

FLATOW: And so he got to see the pyramid and he said, that's my baby there, and I know what's inside?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, but you know what's disappointing?


Dr. BRIER: He didn't go crazy when he saw it.

(Soundbite of laughter) It was sort of like this very nonchalant, yeah, it's kind of like what I thought.

FLATOW: Well, he's been looking at it for years.

Dr. BRIER: Yes, yes, yes.

FLATOW: It's better in my head that what I'm seeing here.

Dr. BRIER: It's like that beautiful woman, you know, there on the radio. You don't want to see her, right?

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: And so, what happens next?

Dr. BRIER: Well, next we went through Egypt looking for other evidences that might support the theory. And you know, it was kind of interesting going with him because he really had interesting insights. So, we went to a ruined pyramid that had an internal ramp, a small one, nothing like the Great Pyramid. But we could look at that and say, oh, at least Egyptians were building internal ramps.


Dr. BRIER: They had that technique. So, we were looking for things to support the theory.

FLATOW: Doesn't that make sense if, you know, if you were to think about making a pyramid today in a very simple way, that you would put the ramp inside so that you wouldn't have to go away for a mile away, and haul that stuff up there, and drop the stones off as you go around the circle?

Dr. BRIER: It makes sense now that the guy came up with a theory...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: But for 200 years nobody said, well, here's the way to do it. I mean, it was that - it was an outsider, that he didn't have all this Egyptological baggage.


Dr. BRIER: He could just sort of think it through as an architect and say, well, the inside determines the outside. Let's think about the inside.

FLATOW: And what is the government of Egypt say about all this?

Dr. BRIER: Not much. There's no real...

FLATOW: Are they fearful of it, coming in with an outside idea and upset something?

Dr. BRIER: I don't think so. No, I don't think it's that. I think if anything, you know, if we really discovered this internal ramp and show it, it'd be great for tourism.

FLATOW: Oh, sure.

Dr. BRIER: You know, everybody is going to be talking about the pyramids everywhere they go. So, I don't think they're fearful in that way. It's more sort of social, political, who's going to go at the pyramid first, you know, who's going to make another discovery. So, we've just got to wait in line.

FLATOW: Why is it that we don't have any documentation from the Egyptians, who used to do all these kind of documentation, not about the pyramid?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, no, good question. The Egyptians were really a nation of accountants. They wrote down everything, you know? I mean, I can tell you the name of Ramses the Great's two horses.

FLATOW: Right.

Dr. BRIER: Mut-is-Content and Victory-in-Thebes were their names. I can tell you how many people were killed in various battles, but they never wrote down a single technique for construction. We don't have anything architectural from them. Maybe it was a kind of Masonic, you know, secret that this was our industry, I don't know. But they never wrote it down.

FLATOW: Maybe they thought it was just so obvious, you know? I have to write this down? You take a ramp, you go around and drop the rocks.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: Yes. That obvious? Sure.

FLATOW: Obvious to everybody else.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: You know, you're not going to tell me about how to make a pile of sand.

Dr. BRIER: Right, right. Right, right.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Same shape, different in construction from the inside. Well, this doesn't take much brain. So, where do you go from here now? Do you just try to get those permits for the readings that they do?

Dr. BRIER: We're really looking for the permissions and to really get to the final, you know, conclusive proof. It's also another question - you know, you're asking a pyramid question in a way; it's also a Jean-Pierre question. Where does he go from here? I mean, he's really obsessed. He has no other life than the pyramid. I mean, he's a dear friend...


Dr. BRIER: But that's all he talks about. And now he's talking about part two...

FLATOW: Part two is what?

Dr. BRIER: Whatever that maybe.

FLATOW: He hasn't told you.

Dr. BRIER: I have no idea.

FLATOW: Is he thinking of another pyramid? Are there other pyramids?

Dr. BRIER: Not for him.

FLATOW: Not for him.

Dr. BRIER: No, no. He's a one man - he's one-pyramid man. He's thinking about maybe other chambers in the pyramid, perhaps, or other things to be found.

FLATOW: And this is - as you say in "The Secret of the Great Pyramid," this is one man's obsession.

Dr. BRIER: A real obsession. You know, when I first told him about - as I said, I used the word obsession. He said, Bob, in the book, can't we say passion, you know? And I said, no, with you it's obsession.

FLATOW: Every time - any chance he get, he'd pull somebody over and talks about it.

Dr. BRIER: Oh, yeah. He has no other interest, really.

FLATOW: And he'll be greatly - do you think - does he think he'll live long enough to actually get to, you know, the opportunity to probe it?

Dr. BRIER: He has no doubt. He has no doubt. You know, people have asked me, are you 100-percent sure about this theory? I'd say, I'm 75-percent sure. I think the guy is right. But he's not - I'm not certain. He's 100-percent sure. He's going to take that walk a mile up inside the pyramid and that ramp.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Before the break, Alex in Washington, D.C., hi.

ALEX (Caller): Hi, great show. I've got a quick question. I read somewhere when they built the replica of the pyramids in Las Vegas, it took them five years and it's one-third the height of the actual pyramids right now, and that's with modern equipment. I just don't understand how they could've built this in 20 years back, you know, 4500 years ago.


Dr. BRIER: Good question, Alex. The answer is, no unions.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: They - I mean, they - it was a different kind of technique, a different structure. But I'll tell you something that'll really blow you away, I think. It's two million blocks of stone built over 20 years. And now if you do the math, and these guys had a 10-hour workday, that means one block of stone was put in place every three and a half minutes for 20 years. That's organization.

FLATOW: Wow. And you say in your book that it was not built by slaves.

Dr. BRIER: No, it's free labor. There's no doubt about it.

FLATOW: Tell us how you know that.

Dr. BRIER: Sure. You know, a lot of people pick this up from the Bible. You know, I think that Bible tells you, the Israelites weren't building pyramids. The Bible says they built the cities of Ramses and Pithom. They were building cities, and they're 1,000 years after the pyramids. So, we're sure. We also have graffiti from the workman. We know that these guys were free laborers, and they took pride in their work. They had work gang names, you know, like Kufu's(ph) drunkards - and these are real names of work gangs. So, these guys took a kind of pride in it. We even have their village where they lived while building the pyramid. So, we know a lot about these guys.

FLATOW: Wow. We're going to learn more about the building of the pyramid with Bob Brier, with Jean-Pierre Houdin, authors of "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession" - and boy, it sounds like a real obsession - "Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery." Our number, 1-800-989-8255. And you could also get us on Second Life, and also with Twitter SciFri, you can twitter us a question. We're going to take a short break and be right back. So, stay with us.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: I'm Ira Flatow. This is Talk of the Nation: Science Friday from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

FLATOW: You're listening to Talk of the Nation: Science Friday. I'm Ira Flatow. We're talking this hour about pyramids with my guest Bob Brier. He is an Egyptologist and mummy expert and senior research fellow at Long Island University. His new book, co-authored with Jean-Pierre Houdin, is called "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery." Now, you're a mummy person.

Dr. BRIER: Yes, that's really my specialty...

FLATOW: Is that how you approached the pyramid?

Dr. BRIER: Not at all. That's just my day job.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: This was sort of an avocation. I became fascinated with this guy and his theory, and I thought he really needed help. So, I took a year off from my work to work on pyramids.

FLATOW: But you did some pioneering work on mummifications, didn't you?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, I did a lot of work on mummies. I mean, the thing I'm sort of known for is that about 14 years ago, I took a human cadaver and mummified it in the ancient Egyptian way using ancient tools, just to figure out how they did it.

FLATOW: How did they do it?

Dr. BRIER: It wasn't the way people thought. The key to mummification is dehydration. If you can dehydrate the body really quickly, bacteria won't act on it and it'll last forever. So, they took out the internal organs, which are moist, took out the brain through the nose, which is moist, and then dehydrated the body in salt. It's called natron.

FLATOW: It's amazing. I was in Antarctica many years ago in some place called the Dry Valley - we're going to talk about this a little later in the show - and there was a penguin that had somehow gotten from the coast. And I was with a scientist, he said, how old do you think that penguin is? I said, a couple of years. He said, it was 10,000 years old, just lying there in the dry of the desert, you know, totally mummified.

Dr. BRIER: Yep, as long as you get rid of that moisture, the thing will remain.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255 is our number, if you'd like to talk about the pyramid. Let's see if we can go take some phone calls from George in Salt Lake City, Utah. Hi, George.

GEORGE (Caller): Hi. I love your show. I was listening to you about the pyramid, and one of the things that I wanted to mention was that in the construction of the five-pointed star, the initial triangle that you use to set that up, is an isosceles triangle, which is the sides of the pyramid. And one side is the golden proportion. The other side is the, uh...

FLATOW: All right, well, you'll call back. You're having a senior moment like I do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: Yeah.

FLATOW: Thanks, George.

GEORGE: The hyperbolic, uh...

FLATOW: Sorry, we'll get back to you when you remember it, because I have that same sort of problem. Let's go to Glen in Jackson, Michigan. Hi, Glen.

GLEN (Caller): Hey, the ramp's really good there. Congratulations on figuring that one out. But they still have to be able to move those blocks. You hear about that concrete engineer out in the Midwest somewhere who's moving 10- or 40-ton blocks singlehandedly?

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, I've seen his video. It's pretty impressive. I mean, the guy really has a simple way of moving heavy stones, and I think it shows that it's possible.

FLATOW: How does he do it?

Dr. BRIER: He - with balance, very careful balance. You can do it with a simple rock, and he's got a balance board, and you put it on it and just moves a little bit of the time. It's really quite interesting.

GLEN: You pick up one block, you stick a round rock under deck to the fulcrum and you can, just by putting a tenth of the weight at the other end, walk it across, and you stick another fulcrum onto the other end or under the other side of the middle and you just walk it further. The nice thing is, is that it only takes about twice the width of the blocks to move it which makes turning 90 degrees turns on a spiral ramp, a lot easier to do.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, no. I think his real contribution is that you can do move fairly heavy objects with very simple techniques.

GLEN: And very few people.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah.

FLATOW: Thanks for calling, Glen.

GLEN: Thank you.

FLATOW: 1-800-989-8255. Ted in Hermiston, Oregon, is it?

TED (Caller): Yes, yes.

FLATOW: Hi, there.

TED: Good afternoon. I have a question for Mr. Brier. I'm a thermal-infrared guy. I take pictures with - from the air with thermal-infrared cameras. I have found things like pioneer grave sites and pipelines, things like that. And I'm just curious, knowing that thermal infrared doesn't penetrate objects, how do you see inside the pyramid?

Dr. BRIER: Well, it's through the temperature differential. What it is, is the - any void inside the pyramid it's going to have a different temperature from the actual stones. So, it's based on the temperature differential. And it's been used in archeology before on buildings, say, in Jerusalem, just to see what's behind walls that you can't move, stone walls. So, it'll work.

FLATOW: It's just like a shadow that you're going to...

Dr. BRIER: It's not going to be a clear picture.

TED: The walls, how thick these walls?


Dr. BRIER: Well, we think it's going to be about - at some place it'll be as thin as perhaps three feet where we've gone.

FLATOW: And the ramp itself will be how big?

Dr. BRIER: The ramp is a mile long. It's going to be at least 10 feet wide.

FLATOW: Ten feet wide.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, no, you're got to have a room for guys to go up and guys to go down, and you got wide blocks. No, no, it's a big...

FLATOW: How wide are the blocks?

Dr. BRIER: The blocks are about three-foot cubes, three-foot cubes. But they're on sleds, which increases the width, so - and you've got 10 guys hauling each block.

FLATOW: So, you're pretty sure we know how it was made.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, yes.

FLATOW: How it was put together.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, now we've just got to show it's there, the ramp.

FLATOW: When is the next time - next opportunity? You're waiting on something to happen, a response to the government or...

Dr. BRIER: I think we're going to wait. What we're doing is we're hoping that the book will put a little pressure on people, their interest will be saying and people ask, why don't you give these guys permission already? It's non-destructive; we don't even have to touch the pyramid. So, there's no reason why we won't get it, and I think we will. We've just got to put a little pressure on and let public opinion build behind us.

FLATOW: Let's say that you're successful and Jean-Pierre is right; what does that do to the whole world of Egyptology?

Dr. BRIER: I think what it shows is really that the Egyptians were amazing planners. I mean, it doesn't change things radically. OK. So, the ramp is inside rather outside. But it's a kind of greater feat of planning and engineering that is unheard of an Egypt. So, I think it really puts them up a notch again in terms of planning.

FLATOW: Because they're pretty high up already, aren't they?

Dr. BRIER: Oh, they are. They did amazing things. But you know, it's not rocket science what they did. You didn't need mathematics to build the pyramid; you didn't need, you know, careful theorems or - you know, they never worked out the structural strength of stone, for example. They couldn't calculate how strong stone was. They kept building until the thing broke, then they knew how strong it was.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: And of course, we know the pyramids were there for burial services.

Dr. BRIER: Yes, they were just tombs. One purpose for the pyramids, to preserve the body of the pharaoh.

FLATOW: There was a new pyramid discovered recently. Tell us about that.

Dr. BRIER: Yes, it was found at Saqqara just a week ago or so. And it's really the base of a pyramid. The top of the pyramid is gone, robbed, quarried - you know, they use the stones over and over again in Egypt. But this is an important one. It's a queen's pyramid, and it may have inscriptions in it because it's a later pyramid. So, it's important.

FLATOW: Hey, it's hard to believe that you can still discover new pyramids.

Dr. BRIER: The belief in Egyptology is that there's more underground than above, that you can't believe what's still under ground. And you know, pyramids do disappear. They can be - say 18-foot pyramid disappears in the sand and it's gone.

FLATOW: Wow. So, this was found - actually still underground, you say it was the base. It was covered over by the sand?

Dr. BRIER: By sand, yeah, at Saqqara.

FLATOW: Do people still go looking for them as a matter of - let's go look for a pyramid or...

Dr. BRIER: Absolutely, there are pyramid experts. I mean, for example, the architect of the first pyramid, the step pyramid at Saqqara, is somebody named Imhotep, and they've been looking for his tomb for 35 years. They know it's in the area, but they just haven't found it yet.

FLATOW: Do they line up astrologically to point at stars or planets or anything?

Dr. BRIER: Not really. You know, there was theory, the Orion Theory.

FLATOW: Yeah, I know. I remember that.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, that's sort of new-age.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Dr. BRIER: No, because the whole, you know...

FLATOW: Well, the whole idea about pyramid power is...

Dr. BRIER: Yes, very new-age or now old-age.

FLATOW: Now old-age.

Dr. BRIER: But you know, the pyramids were built one at a time, and the pharaohs didn't work in concert. One guy built his pyramid where he wanted, and the next guy built his pyramid where he wanted. So, the big three pyramids of Giza, you know, they look like they line up beautifully...


Dr. BRIER: But you know, it's just where they put them.

FLATOW: And what's the most fascinating aspect of the whole thing to you, when you look at the pyramid like that and you say...

Dr. BRIER: I think it's the social organization. When I think about putting one block in place every three and a half minutes for 20 years...

FLATOW: Round the clock? You think they can do that?

Dr. BRIER: Ten-hour days.

FLATOW: Ten-hour days.

Dr. BRIER: I think it's incredible. You had to have 20,000 guys on the pyramid at one time, and they couldn't get in a way of each other.

FLATOW: Right.

Dr. BRIER: And they're hauling the block up a mile-long ramp. Remember the ramp is a mile long. So, they're hauling this thing up a mile, and one guy drops his block off; the next guy has to put this in three and a half minutes. And they had guys at the quarries; they had thousands of people quarrying the stone. They've probably had hundreds of guys just sharpening the chisels, just sharpening the chisels.

And for example, part of the pyramid is granite; part is limestone. They knew the different properties of the different stones. And when you get to the burial chamber of the king, it's solid granite. Now, those beams are big, big, big, big, 62 tons, right, some of the beams. They had to start quarrying them 10 years before they needed them to have them ready. So, they knew from year one that in year 10 of construction, we're going to want these beams; start quarrying them now. So, the planning is what blows me away. I mean, it's not just the size; it's not the beauty' it's the social organization that - it was a military operation with surgical precision.

FLATOW: Wow, I never realized that.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, I know, it's incredible.

FLATOW: Every three and a half minutes.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, think of it: it's a two-ton block. Every three and a half minutes, a block is put in place, and there's no glitches.

FLATOW: Tell us a little bit more about where they lived. You said there was a town.

Dr. BRIER: Yeah, yeah. Recently - when I say recently, during my lifetime, 20 years ago - they found the workmen's village. We knew there had to be a workmen's village. These guys lived right near it; you know, they had to have a short commute, walking distance to the pyramid, and we found the village. And it's very revealing about these guys.

You know, before you ask, are you sure they're not slaves, they were well-cared for. For example, by looking at their bones, we can say they're well-mineralized. These guys had good diets. They were given meat, which is a really upper-class thing in ancient Egypt, meat. And - but we look at their spines - we have their burial grounds, too - we look at their spines and you can see they had the wear and tear of construction workers. There are discs that are out of place. There are - you know, they had all kinds of construction injuries, broken legs, broken, you know, arms. So, we can tell a lot. We can almost reconstruct their lives from their village and from their cemeteries. So, we know a lot about these people.

FLATOW: Fascinating. And if you want to know more about it, this is a great book, "The Secret of the Great Pyramid." We're getting close to the holidays, you're looking for a good book selection for the holidays, this is "The Secret of the Great Pyramid: How One Man's Obsession Led to the Solution of Ancient Egypt's Greatest Mystery." Bob Brier, one of the co-authors, along with Jean-Pierre Houdin. Bob is here with us. Thank you.

Dr. BRIER: Pleasure, Ira.

FLATOW: Thanks for coming down from the Bronx today.

Dr. BRIER: Pleasure, Ira.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: We're going to take a short break.

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