Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, may have solved the mystery of how Egypt’s pyramids, including the Giza complex, were constructed over 4,000 years ago by discovering an ancient Nile tributary.

Discovery of Ancient Nile Tributary Sheds Light on Pyramid Construction

A team of scientists from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, believes they have unraveled the age-old mystery of how Egypt’s pyramids, including the iconic Giza complex, were constructed more than 4,000 years ago. Their research suggests that these monumental structures were built along an ancient Nile River tributary, now buried beneath the desert sands.

Unveiling a Lost Waterway

For decades, archaeologists speculated that the Egyptians utilized a nearby waterway to transport massive stone blocks and other construction materials. However, the precise location, shape, and size of this waterway remained elusive. Eman Ghoneim, one of the study's authors, explained, "But until now, no one was sure of the location, shape, or size of this branch."

Using a combination of satellite imagery, historical maps, and geographic studies, researchers have successfully mapped this hidden tributary. Their findings reveal that the waterway, which they named Ahramat (meaning "pyramid" in Arabic), played a crucial role in the construction of approximately 31 pyramids.

Cross-Continental Research Effort

The research, which involved a cross-continental collaboration, allowed the team to penetrate the desert surface and uncover images of the buried river and ancient structures. These structures span the area where the majority of Egypt’s ancient pyramids are located.

"Having data that shows there was a waterway helps us explain the construction of the pyramids," stated Suzanne Onstine, another author of the study. The discovery of this tributary provides significant insight into the logistics of pyramid construction, suggesting that the Egyptians ingeniously used natural waterways for transporting heavy materials.

The Ahramat River: A Crucial Construction Tool

The Ahramat River, estimated to have been about 64 kilometers long and 200-700 meters wide, ran adjacent to many of the pyramid complexes built between 4,700 and 3,700 years ago. The proximity of this waterway to the construction sites implies it was likely functional during the time of the pyramids' construction.

The presence of this river would have facilitated the transportation of large stone blocks and other materials necessary for building the pyramids. This discovery aligns with historical accounts and provides a tangible explanation for the engineering feats achieved by ancient Egyptian builders.

Implications for Understanding Ancient Engineering

This groundbreaking discovery not only answers long-standing questions about pyramid construction but also highlights the advanced engineering capabilities of ancient Egyptians. The use of natural waterways for logistical purposes showcases their innovative approach to overcoming the challenges of monumental construction projects.


The research conducted by the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, marks a significant milestone in our understanding of ancient Egyptian engineering and construction methods. By uncovering the buried Ahramat River, scientists have provided a compelling explanation for how the pyramids were built, emphasizing the importance of natural resources in ancient construction techniques. As further research continues, this discovery will undoubtedly contribute to a deeper understanding of one of history’s greatest architectural mysteries.