Contrary to some popular depictions, the pyramid builders were not slaves or foreigners. Excavated skeletons show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh's supervisors.
The builders' villages boasted bakers, butchers, brewers, granaries, houses, cemeteries, and probably even some sorts of health-care facilities—there is evidence of laborers surviving crushed or amputated limbs. Bakeries excavated near the Great Pyramids could have produced thousands of loaves of bread every week.
Some of the builders were permanent employees of the pharaoh. Others were conscripted for a limited time from local villages. Some may have been women: Although no depictions of women builders have been found, some female skeletons show wear that suggests they labored with heavy stone for long periods of time.
Graffiti indicates that at least some of these workers took pride in their work, calling their teams "Friends of Khufu," "Drunkards of Menkaure," and so on—names indicating allegiances to pharaohs.
An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years. Much of the work probably happened while the River Nile was flooded.
Huge limestone blocks could be floated from quarries right to the base of the Pyramids. The stones would likely then be polished by hand and pushed up ramps to their intended positions.
It took more than manual labor, though. Architects achieved an accurate pyramid shape by running ropes from the outer corners up to the planned summit, to make sure the stones were positioned correctly. And priests-astronomers helped choose the pyramids' sites and orientations, so that they would be on the appropriate axis in relation to sacred constellations.
From stone pusher to priest, every worker would likely have recognized his or her role in continuing the life-and-death cycle of the pharaohs, and thereby in perpetuating the glory of Egypt.