Pseudoarchaeology of the Serapeum, a 19th Dynasty Egyptian Site in Saqqara

Browsing Facebook not long ago, I came across a page called “Science of the Remote Past.” Cool. Just the kind of thing I like to read about. The article I stumbled on seemed interesting so I “Liked” the page so I’d get feeds from it. Then, over time, I started to notice not everything seemed all that scientific. I finally had to question them when the admins dropped a post on “Earth chakras” and then another regarding the “high technology” of ancient Egyptians.

Someone thoughtfully responded to my dig at the pseudoscientific approach of the page admins and recommended that I watch a 15 min video titled A Visit With Yousef Awyan at the Serapeum. And I did.

I saw nothing in the video that demonstrates any sort of “high technology.” In fact, “high technology” and “high civilization” are buzz words of pseudoarchaeological proponents who discredit the abilities of ancient peoples and cultures. Awyan seems to be channeling a particular pseudoscientific proponent by the name of Christopher Dunn, who suggests that the Serapeum is part of a “power plant” complex that includes the Great Pyramid which “resonates vibrations” and “harmonic mumbo jumbo.”

The tell-tale signs of this bromance with Dunn is in how he finds undo significance with the craftsmanship of the stone work and the level of difficulty these Egyptians were faced with. Also in how he discredits the writings within the Serapeum as not related to it because they were “using a different technology.”

Both Awyan and Dunn have to cope with the fact that the writings within the Serapeum date it to the 19th Dynasty, well after the Giza Pyramids were constructed. The fact that different technologies were used really isn’t a problem and would be more of a concern had they used polishing and shaping technologies to carve hieroglyphs.

Writings within the Serapium

Awyan is a significance-junkie. He can’t imagine how it could be done and assumes that 19th Dynasty Egyptians were somehow less intelligent and unable to make use of their resources, which is an affront to humanity and the ancestors of his own culture. Experimental archaeology has demonstrated the methods that Awyan and Dunn ignore and refuse to acknowledge on more than one occasion. Moreover, the tools of their trades as well as writings of how it was done shows up in the archaeological and epigraphic records of the region. To put it simply: the Egyptians have written of stone working and positioning; the evidence that corroborates it is in the archaeological record. Never have the pseudoscientific positions of Awyan been demonstrated in either record. Moreover the conclusions that require the fewest assumptions are the ones that do not include “high technology” (whatever that is) and do include tools and methods available to ancient Egyptians.

The Serapium of Saqqara was a site that appears to be dedicated to bull worship. Often cited, and Awyan does so in this 15 min video, is fact that without electric lights the tunnels of the Serapium are quite dark. But there are some fire-blackened niches in some places, though this would likely not have been the primary source of light. These Apis (sacred bull) devotees would have used a series of mirrors to reflect light into the tunnels to avoid the fumes and smoke in the poorly ventilated chambers.

It’s a shame that so many buy into this pseudoarchaeological nonsense, though I can see its appeal. Suspending my skepticism and rational thought is fun when I’m watching an episode of Stargate SG-1, but the fact is our ancestors were smart folk. They were actually able to accomplish things we’ve long abandoned a need to replicate in the same manner. The wonder and awe isn’t found in fantasies of ancient aliens and “high technology” of long lost civilizations -rather it comes with the understanding that we are more than the sum of our parts when we decide to do something together. A fact that our ancient ancestors understood all too well. For better or worse.

About Carl Feagans 322 Articles
Professional archaeologist that currently works for the United States Forest Service at the Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area in Kentucky and Tennessee. I'm also a 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army and spent another 10 years doing adventure programming with at-risk teens before earning my master's degree at the University of Texas at Arlington.

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