A Misrepresentation of Two Sarcophagi by Brien Foerster

Thermoluminescence dating of pottery.

Brien Foerster is clearly ignorant of genuine archaeological method and theory.

He took a video of two Egyptian sarcophagi at the University of Pennsylvania Museum in Philadelphia recently and posted it to YouTube, stating in his silly narration that, because it was carved from basalt, it was “beyond the capability of the Dynastic Egyptians.”

He goes on to say that “we may be looking at a predynastic artifact contemporary with the construction of the Great Pyramids on the Giza Plateau, which we date to 12,000 years old having been made with ‘lost ancient high technology.'” I don’t know who the “we” is, but it certainly isn’t anyone who truly understands Egyptology.

Foerster shows a second “much cruder” sarcophagus lid, which he asks the viewer to compare with the first which was of a “smooth polish.”

Basalt Sarcophagus of Putumhese, 305-30 BCE

The first is object number E16134 from Tell El-Muqdam in Lentopolis, Egypt and dates to the Ptolemaic Period of the 33rd Dynasty. It was crafted in 305-30 BCE of basalt and is the sarchophagus of Putumhese, Commander of the Troops.

The second is object number E15415 from Sedment, Egypt and dates to the New Kingdom in the 18th Dynasty. It was crafted between 1539-1292 BCE from diorite and is a lid from the sarcohpagus of General Paser.

Diorite Sarcophagus of Paser, 1539-1292 BCE

Think of what Foerster is asking us to compare. The first sarcophagus was made in Letopolis (which is now Ausim) around 300 BCE. The second was made in Sedment, a village nearly 150 km to the south but around 1500 BCE. 1200 years before the first!

What two objects of the same type might you compare in which one is 1200 years older than the other and not expect it to be “cruder” or perhaps even more poorly preserved? My neighbor has two trucks in his front yard. One is a rusted hulk with weeds growing through the grill. The other is a recent Ford F-150. And they’re only about 20 years apart!

Foerster is fractally wrong in the entire video (wrong at every permutation). It’s as if his main focus is making bold claims in order to sell a product like books or tours. Not only does he have the dates of pyramid construction at Giza utterly wrong, he has it wrong by about 10,000 years.

The dates of pyramids at Giza aren’t simply being guessed at by archaeologists. These dates are based on many converging and corroborating methods that include epigraphy, dendrochronolgy, radiocarbon, paleomagenetic dating, thermoluminescence, and electron-spin resonance all performed on different artifacts and features like timbers found associated with the pyramids, pottery, hearths and burned features, and written records like kings lists and even the writings of other cultures.

Next, Foerster seems to think that carving hard stone like basalt or diorite is somehow beyond the capability of ancient people without the help of some invisible and imagined “high technology” (whatever that is).

The simple truth is, ancient Egyptians (or Inca, or Maya, or whatever culture) were people. Human beings. Homo sapiens like you and I. Intelligence didn’t just arrive in the 20th century or even the 19th. Humans a hundred thousand years ago had their share of Albert Einsteins and Steven Hawkings.

And the archaeological evidence, in the form of material remains, ethno-archaeology, and experimental archaeology, point to the abundant use of flint and chert to incise, carve, drill, and pound stones at a Mohs hardness of 7 (quartz, diorite, granite, basalt…). They sanded and polished these with sandstones and other methods.

Foerster’s video ends with an invitation to join his tour in Egypt in 2018. No doubt for a tidy fee. For those that sell mysteries like a Seattle fish monger, it’s all about making the product look appealing to those willing to pay. The mystery monger knows intrigue and secrecy sells. He promises the lay-person, who hasn’t studied archaeology or even how it is archaeologists know what they know, an inside look at what the “mainstream” doesn’t want you to know.

But the mystery-monger will nearly always keep the customer (that’s what the lay-person is to him) in the dark about what this supposed “mainstream” understands about his product. Instead, he’ll tell you what he says is the “mainstream” position. And he’ll tell you what the “truth” is.

But in the end, his “truth” is not supported by evidence. You can’t verify it. You ask how do you know, and you’ll get obfuscation and vaguenesses.

Because the real truth is, the mystery-monger doesn’t really know what archaeologists understand. Or, if he does, he disregards it because it doesn’t help him sell his product. There is no “mainstream archaeology.” There is only archaeology. A discipline supported by scientific methods.

Anything else is either bad, fake, or fraudulent archaeology.

Recommended Reading 

Stocks, Denys A. (2003). Experiments in Egyptian Archaeology: Stoneworking Technology in Ancient Egypt. Routledge: New York

Lehner, Mark (1997). The Complete Pyramids: Solving the Ancient Mysteries. Thames & Hudson: London.

About Carl Feagans 396 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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