Moses' Land: Who Built Egypt's Ancient Pyramids?

Part 10: Famous Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass made a significant discovery in Giza.
8:50 | 12/21/12

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Transcript for Moses' Land: Who Built Egypt's Ancient Pyramids?
"Back to the beginning" with christiane amanpour continues. We start the next leg of our journey with a warm wind at our back. As this felucca sails up the river nile the modern world seems to melt away and I'm struck by the power and history of egypt's majestic waterway. We're here because this is the backdrop for the bible's timeless story of freedom redemption. This is where the moses story begins. His mother put him inside a reed basket and placed him on the nile to save him and protect him from the terror of the pharaoh of the time who was having israelite children murdered. A prophet and teacher, leader and liberator, moses is revered by christians and muslims and jews the world over. She is really, really tired. His story has touched so many lives, like the captain's, he's a devout muslim. What do you think moses looked like? What does his face look like? Beard? No, no. Without beard. Without a beard? Not big? What is the most important thing for you about moses? Translator: He served humanity and the oppressed, god sent him to free the people from the pharaoh. If I'm a slave and a got a brutal master and somebody's telling me aut a guy who set his people free, I like that guy. I really do. The bible tells us the israelites were enslaved because the pharaoh was worried they had become too mighty in the land of at a certain point the jews became so numerous that pharaoh said we are going to have a demographic problem soon, there are going to be too many jews. Pharaoh ordered the women, whose job it was to bring israelite babies into the world, to immediately kill any boys they delivered. But two refused. It is supposedly the first written instance of any civil disobedience. Really important what the midwives did. First of all, aloud moses to be born and set into motiothe story of the exodus but it's instructive moment as martin luther king wrote from the bi birmingham jail there are just and unjust laws and when we encounter an unjust law we have to disobey. Moses is hidden but she must make a dispratt decision. You look at the modern nile it's hard to imagine this heartbreaking scene from a story set more than 3,000 years ago. But just across the river we find a more accessible window on this path. What are we doing here? It's kind of kitsch isn't it? A bit but the educational value of this place is significant. An american biblical scholar lives and works in egypt. We met her at cairo's village a theme park of sorts, a place come to life. The moses story happened along mewhere very much like this? Right. Right. Most of us picture ancient egypt with huge monuments and its grandeur but she says most people live simple lives as farmers and fishermen. What is he doing? Fishing, trying to to scare the fish into the right place. Are they real? They are probably plastic. Despite the low budget special effects, lori tells me it's fairly accurate in its depiction of the world moses was born into. The text tells us his mother made a basket and put him in it and pushed him off, undoubtedly in just the right place so someone would find him. Well, guess what. And here we are. As if we planned it. Very nice. In a twist of fate typical of the biblical narrative, moses winds up at the home of the very man who ordered his death. He's rescued by none other than pharaoh's daughter. Who raised him in the palace. The text tells us he was educated in the ways of the egyptians. He was educated as a warrior, in reading and writer, in all ways, as a scribe, everything. As moses grows up in the palace among the egyptian elite, we're told his people, the israelites labor rigorously with bricks and mortar and all of the building projects from the time of the pharaohs, one stands alone. We're driving through quite a bleak part of cairo, really very ungrand, if you like, and yet about to happen across one of the greatest feats of human engineering ever, ever contemplated. What everybody thinks they know about the pyramids is that the israelites built them. We're going to find out whether that's true. We're going to show you a very discofer. A famous archaeologist says a massive amount of manpower would have been needed to build these pyramids. Who is is that? The pyramid of kufu. That took 10,000 people? 10,000 workmen lived here. Wow. In this place. Next to the ruins of the village where the workmen lived, there is an ancient cemetery, the tombs of the pyramid builders are a significant discovery that is answering many questions about who they were. Okay, were the builders of the pyramids israelites? No. Everybody thinks they were. This is not true, an idea maybe you think about because you never studied anything. He's setting me straight. Can we go here? My son darius is checking out one of the tombs. That's his son, who wants a bird and they gets a bird. Now the story is over. Maybe we should leave the hieroglyphics to the experts. But before we leads me to the tomb a warning. This tomb has a curse -- I don't want to go in. If you switch what I'm talking in this program, the curse of the fpharaohs will rest on you. Come with me. Inside the tomb, he shows me evidence that the pyramids were not built by the israelites. If you look at the name of this guy it's an egyptian name and all of the names, in every tomb here, completely egyptian. And he says the way the workers were buried also provides evidence that they were not slaves. He believes they were simply poor laborers who paid their taxes by toiling for the pharaoh. A tomb of a poor man who has nothing, built a mud brick tomb and beside him a -- breeer in the aft afterlife. The idea that the pyramids were built by israelite slaves is a popular misconception. But he says there is evidence that the israelites did work on other building projects innen a che chent egypt. They are participating in structure -- how many years after that? Later. Like 900 years from now. The bible tells us that even though moses is learning to be an egyptian he can see that his people are suffering and he never forgets where he came from. He sees a moment in which an egyptian taskmaster abuses an israelite slave. Anger management issues. He beats him an egyptian to death and he looks around and hides the guy in the sand. He thinks he's gotten away with it. But pharaoh hears about what happened and he tries to have moses killed. Now he's a wanted murder. He flees, far from his family, far from egypt. Moses heads into the unforgiving sinai desert where he has a date with destiny. Little does he know he's about to get the call-up of a lifetime.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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