They're the wonders of the ancient world that still leave scientists scratching their heads today. Now, an important part of the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids may have been solved. Pictured: the Great Pyramid of Khufu (right) and the Pyramid of Khafre (left) at the Giza Pyramids Necropolis

  • The pyramids could have been built along a long-lost branch of the river Nile
  • Could help explain why they’re now in a narrow, inhospitable desert strip

They’re the wonders of the ancient world that still leave scientists scratching their heads today.

Now, an important part of the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids may have been solved.

Archaeologists have discovered that the famous structures could have been built along a long-lost branch of the river Nile.

And it could help explain why they now seem to be situated in a narrow, inhospitable desert strip.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington studied satellite imagery to find the possible location of a former river branch running along the foothills of the Western Desert Plateau, very near to the pyramids.

They're the wonders of the ancient world that still leave scientists scratching their heads today. Now, an important part of the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids may have been solved. Pictured: the Great Pyramid of Khufu (right) and the Pyramid of Khafre (left) at the Giza Pyramids Necropolis

They’re the wonders of the ancient world that still leave scientists scratching their heads today. Now, an important part of the mystery of the Egyptian pyramids may have been solved. Pictured: the Great Pyramid of Khufu (right) and the Pyramid of Khafre (left) at the Giza Pyramids Necropolis

Archaeologists have discovered that the famous structures could have been built along a long-lost branch of the river Nile

Archaeologists have discovered that the famous structures could have been built along a long-lost branch of the river Nile

Then they used geophysical surveys and sediment cores to confirm the presence of river sediments and former channels beneath the modern land surface.

Analysis indicated the presence of a former 64km-long (40 mile) branch which has since dried up and been hidden by farmland.

The team suggest that an increase build-up of windblown sand, linked to a major drought which began around 4,200 years ago, could be one of the reasons it disappeared.

It could explain the placement of 31 pyramids, including the Giza pyramid complex, in this inhospitable part of the Sahara.

This location would have meant the pyramids were easily accessible via the river branch at the time they were built.

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington studied satellite imagery to find the possible location of a former river branch running along the foothills of the Western Desert Plateau, very near to the pyramids. Pictured: The Red Pyramid at the Dahshur necropolis

Researchers from the University of North Carolina Wilmington studied satellite imagery to find the possible location of a former river branch running along the foothills of the Western Desert Plateau, very near to the pyramids. Pictured: The Red Pyramid at the Dahshur necropolis

The findings could could help explain why they now seem to be situated in a narrow, inhospitable desert strip. Pictured: The Step Pyramid of Djoser

The findings could could help explain why they now seem to be situated in a narrow, inhospitable desert strip. Pictured: The Step Pyramid of Djoser

This would have been important for the transportation of construction materials, the researchers said.

Writing in the journal Communications Earth & Environment they said: ‘The largest pyramid field in Egypt is clustered along a narrow desert strip, yet no convincing explanation as to why these pyramids are concentrated in this specific locality has been given so far.

‘Here we use radar satellite imagery, in conjunction with geophysical data and deep soil coring, to investigate the subsurface structure and sedimentology in the Nile Valley next to these pyramids.

‘We identify segments of a major extinct Nile branch, which we name The Ahramat Branch, running at the foothills of the Western Desert Plateau, where the majority of the pyramids lie.

‘Many of the pyramids, dating to the Old and Middle Kingdoms, have causeways that lead to the branch and terminate with Valley Temples which may have acted as river harbours along it in the past.

‘We suggest that The Ahramat Branch played a role in the monuments’ construction and that it was simultaneously active and used as a transportation waterway for workmen and building materials to the pyramids’ sites.’

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