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It may have been premature to dismiss the old wood problem in our 1984 study.

Do our radiocarbon dates reflect the Old Kingdom deforestation of Egypt?

Did the pyramid builders devour whatever wood they could harvest or scavenge to roast tons of gypsum for mortar, to forge copper chisels, and to bake tens of thousands of loaves to feed the mass of assembled laborers.

The giant stone pyramids in the early Old Kingdom may mark a major consumption of Egypt's wood cover, and therein lies the reason for the wide scatter, increased antiquity, and history-unfriendly radiocarbon dating results from the Old Kingdom, especially from the time of Djoser to Menkaure.

While the multiple old wood effects make it difficult to obtain pinpoint age estimates of pyramids, the David H.

It was an odd sensation climbing over the Great Pyramid, looking for minute flecks of charcoal or other datable material, loaded down with cameras, scales, notebooks, and forms with entries for sample number, site, monument, area, feature, material (charcoal, reed, wood, etc.), matrix (gypsum mortar, mud brick, etc.), date, time, notes on details, extracted by, logged by, photograph numbers, and sketches. The 1984 radiocarbon dates from monuments spanning Dynasty 3 (Djoser) to late Dynasty 5 (Unas), averaged 374 years older than the Cambridge Ancient History dates of the kings with whom the pyramids are identified.

Our radiocarbon dates from the site suggest that, like those from the pyramids, the dates on charcoal from the settlement scatter widely in time with many dates older than the historical estimate.

The pyramid builders were likely recycling their own settlement debris.

At Giza, south of the Sphinx, we are excavating remains of facilities for storage and production of fish, meat, bread, and copper that date to the middle and end of Dynasty 4, when the pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure were under construction.

Three of the eight dates from samples taken here are almost direct hits on Menkaure's historical dates, 2532- 2504 B. The other five, however, range from 350 to 100 years older.

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