Amihai Mazar, professor at the Institute of Archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says that myth stemmed from an erroneous claim by former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, on a visit to Egypt in 1977, that Jews built the pyramids. “No Jews built the pyramids because Jews didn’t exist at the period when the pyramids were built,” Professor Mazar says.
Dorothy Resig, an editor of Biblical Archaeology Review in Washington D.C., says the idea probably arose from the Old Testament Book of Exodus, which says: “So the Egyptians enslaved the children of Israel with backbreaking labor” and the Pharaoh put them to work to build buildings.
“If the Hebrews built anything, then it was the city of Ramses as mentioned in Exodus,” said Mazar.
Dieter Wildung, a former director of Berlin’s Egyptian Museum, said it is “common knowledge in serious Egyptology” that the pyramid builders were not slaves and that the construction of the pyramids and the story of the Israelites in Egypt were separated by hundreds of years.
“The myth of the slaves building pyramids is only the stuff of tabloids and Hollywood,” Wildung told The Associated Press by telephone. “The world simply could not believe the pyramids were build without oppression and forced labor, but out of loyalty to the pharaohs.”