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Pyramid Builders Had Medical Care

July 27, 1998 GMT

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ The workmen who built the pyramids received emergency medical care and even brain surgery, the head of an Egyptian archaeological team said Monday.

Zahi Hawas, the director of antiquities for Giza, said his team’s excavation of 20 workers’ tombs near the pyramids has thrown light on the lives of ordinary Egyptians of the Old Kingdom, which dates back to 4,500 years ago.

``This discovery provides clear evidence of worker lives _ a chance to understand how these people lived, what they ate,″ Hawas said.

Archaeologists found six skeletons. X-rays revealed what may be the earliest evidence of brain surgery. The worker was operated on for a brain tumor, said Hawas.

The leg of another worker had been amputated and he had lived for 14 years after the operation. Tests on a third skeleton showed what could be the earliest proof of syphilis and the hand of a fourth skeleton was found in splints, Hawas said.

The ancient Egyptians were long believed to have been capable of performing complex medical procedures, including brain surgery and complicated births.

Hawas said that about 600 skeletons from two cemeteries for the pyramid builders have been exhumed and tested. A total of 12 skeletons had splints on their hands, which had presumably been injured by rocks.

``These were not slaves who built the pyramids. They were workers. This much care would not have been afforded to slaves,″ he said.

The workers were allowed to build small pyramids, made of mud-bricks, above their own tombs, Hawas said.

``The (mud brick) pyramids are like democracy. They were available for everyone,″ he said.

Some tombs bore inscriptions that gave the worker’s position, such as ``Inspector of Pyramid Building″ and ``Overseer of West Side of Pyramid.″