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Pushing the “aliens built the Great Pyramid” lie

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The Great Pyramid of Khufu

The Great Pyramid of Ḫwfw (Khufu)

A certain George Rixon has published a post on UFODigest (“Ufo and Paranormal News from around the World”) on the subject of Extraterrestrials and the Great Pyramid, apparently based on “the knowledge Aramac (an extraterrestrial) has passed on to [him]”. This ought to grab our attention: after all, as an extraterrestrial, Aramac obviously knows more about Old Kingdom Egypt than any mere Egyptologist, although I can’t help but think that a particularly revolting sweet lurks behind his name…

Unfortunately, it’s not at all clear from Mr Rixon’s text which elements are his own and which derive from his extraterrestrial friend. This is a pity, as I’m sure it would help if we could separate the earthly dross from the heavenly wisdom, but until the poster achieves his true desire (“LOOKING FOR FULL PUBLICATION.OF MANUSCRIPT” (sic)), we’ll just have to go with what’s presented on UFODigest.

We start with accusations against the hieroglyphs containing Ḫwfw’s name:

To begin with it has been thought and taken for fact that the Great Pyramid was built for King Khufu as a burial tomb. This is because his name was written in hieroglyphic markings inside the construction. But, there is great doubt to its authenticity. Some were wrongly spelt, and some with bad grammar, making them appear to be fakes.

Khufu's name painted on a block in the pyramid

Ḫwfw's name painted on a block in the pyramid

Well, this can’t be from CAramac, as it’s just dead wrong: there is no doubt whatsoever about the authenticity of the painted marks, some of which are in gaps between blocks inaccessible to a modern forger, none is wrongly spelled or has poor grammar and the accusation that they were forged by their discoverer, Howard Vyse (1784-1853), made unjustly by Zecharaia Sitchin in his Stairway to Heaven, published in 1983, has been comprehensively debunked.

Next, we move on to the idea that the Great Pyramid was not a tomb:

The theory of a Royal tomb, historians have taken and speak about it as fact even though there is no firm evidence that this was so. The Egyptologist’s say the reason no body has been discovered in the Great Pyramid, was because before it was completed the treasures that were supposed to have been placed there, were stolen. The Pharaoh then abandoned the idea of using the pyramid as a tomb, and used a burial site underground instead.

Chair from the cache of Hetepheres's funerary furniture

Chair from the cache of funerary furniture beloning to Ḥtpḥrś’s (Hetepheres's), mother of Ḫwfw (Khufu)

That’s a slightly new idea: Ḫwfw’s treasure was stolen before construction work on the pyramid was over, so he decided to have an underground tomb instead. Those dastardly palace burglars! Always making off with Pharaoh’s goodies. It’s a pity that Mr Rixon (for I’m sure that Caramac wouldn’t have made this mistake) doesn’t tell us which “Egyptologist’s” (sic) have come up with this ingenious explanation for the lack of Ḫwfw’s mummy inside the pyramid. Going against family tradition, the bereft king decided not to follow in his ancestors’ footsteps by building a pyramid: perhaps he was put off by his father Śnfrw’s greed in having three of them. As George Rixon says, “One would have thought that the treasures would not have been placed in the pyramid until the Pharaoh had actually died”. Quite. Perhaps it was Aramac, after all, who fed him this implausible detail.

We are then vouchsafed the information that the Egyptians weren’t the only ancient people to build pyramids (“many believe it was a phenomenon which only belonged to the Pharaohs but that was not so”). Well, who’d have thought it? Anyone with a knowledge of world history, really. Apparently, “[t]here are the stepped pyramids in Central America, claimed to have been built by the Maya civilisation around 2,500 years ago? Also there are pyramids in Tiahuanaco Bolivia” (sic: punctuation in original). More astoundingly still:

In 1994, Hartwig Hausdorf a German explorer gained permission from the Chinese government, to explore a once forbidden area to outsiders. In doing so, he discovered 100 large pyramids, which had never been seen by anyone in the west before. He claims that some of the pyramids in Shensi Province in Central China are even larger than Egypt’s Great Pyramid, dating back some 5,000 years. Excavations in that area will not begin until sometime in this century.

A Chinese tomb mound at Xianyang, Shaanxi province

A Chinese tomb mound at Xianyang, Shaanxi province

Herr Hausdorf (born 1955) is not so much of an explorer as a former travel agent who has turned his talents to writing on pseudoscientific topics, with a particular focus on what is unnecessarily kindly termed PalaeoSETI. It is more often known as the Ancient Astronauts hypothesis, particularly associated with Erich von Däniken. Again, our information is presumably not from Mr Rixon’s alien chum, as it’s wrong: the mound tombs of Shaanxi province were known in the west long before 1994 (unless Aramac had not yet observed Earth when Emperor Qin’s terracotta army was discovered in 1974 close to his tomb mound). And this despite those secretive Chinese authorities informing “a New Zealand airline pilot named Bruce Cathic” in 1962 that there are no pyramids in their country. The cheek of it! Not deterred by this brush-off, good old Bruce “was nevertheless able to confirm the existence of several of them and in a book called the ‘Ridge of Infinity’ he suggested there is a network of pyramids over the surface of the earth, whose purpose is connected with leys lines and earth energies?” (sic: punctuation in original). Ah yes, “ley lines and earth energies”. We’re still not in the realms of Aramac: what ET would be so foolish as to believe in non-existent ley lines and earth energies?

A supposed pyramid in Bosnia

A supposed pyramid in Bosnia; actually a mountain called Visočica

The list goes on (and on…). There are pyramids “near the town of Guimar on Tenerife… [i]n Trujillo Peru… in Caral Peru… [i]n the valley of Mexico in ancient Teotihuacán… There are many small pyramids that can be seen across Europe from France to Greece. In 2003 in Italy a pyramid was found and in 2005 another was unearthed in Bosnia. Pyramids are still being discovered in some parts of the world where in the past they have been hidden underground such as Bosnia.” Aramac can’t have been misled by the ridiculous claims of Semir (Sam) Osmanagic about Bosnian pyramids, so we must still be reading George Rixon’s contribution.

Oh well, at least there are some pyramids elsewhere in the world. We can accept that much. Time to move on, this time to a discussion of construction techniques. Like typical Bad Archaeologist, Mr Rixon (for it is surely he, not Aramac, who is misrepresenting Egyptologists) frets that “[a] number of documentaries over the years shown on TV have seriously undermined the precision required to complete the Great Pyramid in its construction”. I think he means “underestimated” rather than “undermined”. An alien would be more careful with his English, I’m sure. Mr Rixon doesn’t like the idea that the pyramid builders might have used a plumb-bob, as it’s not sophisticated enough to “achieve the very precise measurements in that manner. And yet no one challenges the documentary makers” apart from the brave souls like George Rixon who know that you need complicated equipment to construct a heap of stones.

There then follows a section on averages. At least, I think that’s what being discussed, but it gets derailed by a discussion of the “national average wage… for the workers of this country” (I assume the country to be the UK as pounds are mentioned, unless Aramac’s home also pays its workers in sterling). We’ll avoid this section, not because it’s incoherent (which it is) but because there must be better stuff to come.

An unfinished obelisk in a limestone quarry at Aswan

An unfinished obelisk in a limestone quarry at Aswan: it is possible to see a line of holes prepared to receive wooden wedges on one edge of the obelisk

We move into a discussion about how the limestone blocks were quarried. Once again, Mr Rixon has been watching his television carefully. Not carefully enough, though, as he has completely misunderstood the use of heat as a means of fracturing the blocks. Fire was used to weaken the stone before using wooden wedges driven into the rock in lines, which would then be soaked in water to make them expand, pushing stone away from the quarry face. There are still quarries in Egypt where the rock has been prepared to take the wedges but abandoned before being used. He seems to think that the use of water-soaked wedges was a separate technique. Perhaps Mr Rixon was distracted by a telephone call from Aramac and missed that bit. He then brings some of his personal expertise to bear on the question of dressing the stone blocks:

With having a great deal of experience in the building trade I can tell you using stones as tools would have been impossible. You would not be able to get the very precise measurements required in the stone dressing process. Also the workers would have had to wear modern day gloves, especially made for that kind of hard work. To hold one stone as a form of chisel and the other as a pounder would mean after an hour or two both hands would ache so much where the workers would not be able to hold those stone implements. Their hands would soon become sore creating blisters and even if they had used gloves the same problem would arise. The heat of the sun through the gloves would make the hands extremely hot where irritation between the glove and the hand would become so severe again the hands would become sore creating blisters.

The cover of Egyptian Metalworking and Tools by Bernd Scheel

The cover of Egyptian Metalworking and Tools by Bernd Scheel: obviously a work of fiction!

Well, I’m not going to try to gainsay that. I’ve never worked as a quarryman, but just from trowelling on an archaeological site, I’m aware of just how painful blistered hands can be and how hot hands can get when wearing gloves. My heart goes out to Pharaoh’s workers. But wait! The workers on the Giza Plateau had access to copper chisels. That would have helped them a lot, although Mr Rixon dismisses the copper chisels as they “would have to be made in their hundreds of thousands if not more, and worn out ones would have to be sharpened every one or two hours as the soft metal would soon be blunt and of no use” and apparently no furnaces for making them have been found “even if they have in time been covered by sand”. Oops! It seems that Mr Rixon hasn’t done his research properly. Here are some Egyptian drawings illustrating the metalworking process from the tomb of Rḫmir‘ (Rekhmirē‘), while here are some photos of the copper working site at TImna, where Egyptians began mining copper long before the Great Pyramid was built.

After a lengthy and unconvincing argument from incredulity about the dressing of the stone, Mr Rixon considers how the finished blocks were moved from the quarry to the pyramid. He seems very taken with the idea of sledges but worries that “copper chisels could not possibly have cut the secure joints needed in the wood in order to hold the sledges together; they would simply have slid on the wood. That could only be achieved with metal chisels similar to those we have today”. According to this logic, nobody could ever have made a sledge (or any other wooden construction needing “secure joints”) before the advent of modern steel tools. It’s a shame, then, that we know that sleds were indeed used and there is a surviving example (complete with its “secure joints”) from the pyramid of Śnwsrt (Senusret or Sesostris) III at Dashur.

The funerary sledge of Senusret III from Dashur

The funerary sledge of Śnwsrt (Senusret or Sesostris) III from Dashur, complete with its “secure joints

We then have another argument from incredulity about the number of pyramids (Mr Rixon counts 94) and the impossibility of building them with the tools available to the Egyptians. Finally, we have the promise that:

The rest of the chapter continues to look at every theory put forward about the Great Pyramid. Such as the impossibilities of it being erected by simple workers. Aramac then gives his explanations of how and why all the pyramids were built that are scattered around the earth, along with those on other planets.

Those poor, simple Egyptians. They can’t possibly have had the mental capacity to build something as complex as a pyramid. But until some enlightened publisher has taken Mr Rixon’s manuscript and given it the “FULL PUBLICATION” it so evidently deserves, we aren’t going to learn anything from Caramac Aramac, not even about those fascinating pyramids on other planets! How disappointing…

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