Researchers have discovered what they believe may be the remains of an ancient ramp used to transport the alabaster blocks used to construct Egypt's Great Pyramids.
The academics from the University of Liverpool (UoL) uncovered the ramp at the site of Hatnub, which was the location for ancient Egyptian alabaster quarries.
Alongside colleagues from the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, the team discovered how alongside the sides of the ramp were staircases lined with post holes.
Posts dug deep into these staircases would have had ropes attached to help the workers drag the huge stone blocks into position.
UoL Egyptologist, Dr Roland Enmarch, said: "The Hatnub quarries were the most prestigious source for Egyptian alabaster, the milky white banded stone which was much beloved of Egyptian civilisation.
"Their importance today lies in the fact that they are archaeologically very well preserved."
He explained that there are large numbers of inscriptions left by ancient quarrying expeditions, dating up to 4,500 years ago, which enabled the team to "better understand the personnel and logistics of organising expeditions to these desert quarry sites".
"Equally remarkably, the archaeological context of the quarries is very well preserved," Dr Enmarch added.
"They sit in a broad landscape of Bronze Age structures related to stone extraction and transport: huts for sleeping and stone working, path-finding cairns, ancient footpaths, and even simple dry-stone religious structures.
"The quarries are connected to the Nile by one of the best-preserved Bronze Age roads in Egypt."
"Since this ramp dates to the reign of Khufu (builder of the Great Pyramid at Giza, one of the Seven Wonders of the World), our research offers the exciting possibility for offering further insights into the logistics and technologies used in constructing that astonishing building," Dr Enmarch added.
Yannis Gourdon of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology in Cairo, described how the system worked.
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"Using a sled which carried a stone block and was attached with ropes to these wooden posts, ancient Egyptians were able to pull up the alabaster blocks out of the quarry on very steep slopes of 20% or more."
Dr Enmarch added: "Our joint Anglo-French mission to Hatnub aims to study all of these features of the site, in order to produce a more fully rounded picture of how quarrying worked in ancient Egypt, and what it meant for the people involved."