A response to Richard, who objects to my disparaging remarks of Graham Hancock and his fantasies about ‘Lost Civilizations.’
Richard kindly left a comment on one of my Megan Fox reviews of the episode where she met with pseudoarchaeology/pseudoscience writer, Graham Hancock. I actually responded directly with another comment as well as a stand-alone post since I felt the information was worthy of wider dissemination. Richard has again commented with a rejoinder that’s nearly 4,000 words, so I’m going to make my new response its own post. I’ll put a link in the original comments section so he’ll see it.
Just to refresh, the original comment can be found here with the responses immediately following.
“his next book for the gullible.” – Well, I’m not sure if the author of this article has read, at length, any of Mr Hancock’s work, but it defiantly is not “the gullible” who have, it is “the gullible who read this kind of comment and decide not to.
I should clarify that gullible is not a condition that I think to be necessarily derogatory. I’ve spent many years studying the notion as an anthropologist (in the U.S., archaeology is a branch of anthropology) and it seems likely that this is something that affects humanity in general, albeit to varied degrees. I think we level our gullibility with rational thought or the logical application of reason to the world around us, particularly as new phenomena unfold before our eyes. But we’re human and we have limits.
I was once quite taken with exactly the sort of things Hancock sells in his books. And more. I wont’ go into it here, but suffice to say, I’ve read more of Hancock and others than you might think. As a believer.
In the sequel to “Fingerprints of the Gods, ‘Magicians of the Gods’ He has moved away from earth crust displacement being the main cause for the abrupt ending of the ice age and concluded that an impact of extra-terrestrial origin was most probably the cause.
On the one hand, I’m tempted to applaud Hancock for revising in the face of evidence, but the evidence wasn’t sufficiently there to begin with. What he’s doing is simply moving his goal post somewhat, however. With “crustal displacement” being such a laughable idea without the evidence it needed, he needed a new hook to hang his conclusion on. That conclusion being the so-called “lost civilization with high-technology (whatever that is).”
He was looking for a smoking gun and funnily enough in November 2018 a huge impact crater was discovered under a half-mile-thick Greenland ice sheet. In a quote from The Guardian, scientists state… “The enormous bowl-shaped dent appears to be the result of a mile-wide iron meteorite slamming into the island at a speed of 12 miles per second as recently as 12,000 years ago.”
Yeah, funny enough. The idea isn’t so new, there have been colleagues of mine looking at this possibility for quite some time. It waxes and wanes as evidentiary hints are found here and there, but the recent Greenland impact news notwithstanding, an impact as any sort of explanation as yet leaves more questions than answers.
Also, it would be fallacious to suggest that this impact crater equates to Hancock being right about his core claims.
…So are Graham Hancock’s readers “Gullible” or quite simply looking for alternative explanations after being miss informed by orthodox scholars?
“Misinformed?” “Orthodox scholars?” These are presumptions that aren’t shown. Certainly not by Hancock nor by you in this commentary. What, specifically, would you say are the top 3 pieces of misinformation by scholars or professionals? Also, what, precisely, is meant by “orthodox” as an adjective for scholar? Either one is learned or one is not. The term “orthodox” implies that there exists some “alternative” scholar. Does this sort of scholar download his or her knowledge from a tree? Sleep with a book under a pillow? Obtain secrets by channeling a long dead alien spirit? Lets stick to reality. You are either learned or you are not. There is definitely value in those that cannot claim scholarship through a university, and I’ve often conceded many of this sort to have specialty knowledge that easily exceeds my own. But anyone willing to achieve an advanced degree in a field deserves more credit and respect for their efforts than the pejorative label of “orthodox” simply because they demand rigorous evidence and data prior to conclusions.
This cannot be said for the likes of Hancock. He has a conclusion. One that he freely adjusts his data to fit as you’ve pointed out above.
If the scientific data from this crater produces a date of 12,000 BC, then history as we have been led to believe would become highly questionable, and Mr Hancock will have been bang on the money. We will see.
There are a lot more “if’s” than that. What was the angle of the impact? Was the object truly iron as you say? Or are you parroting the assumption or conclusion of another? Perhaps the density of the object was such that it’s impact simply wasn’t as significant as Hancock would like us all to think. Certainly a massive, global-civilization ending meteorite would serve his per-conceived conclusion well, but this isn’t how science works. Data first. Conclusions last.
You state that why the Pyramids have to be tombs “Is because of the burial goods like sarcophagi, jewelry, and so forth found within actual burial chambers inside the pyramids”
Well No, The Giza Pyramids contained none of the above that can be attributed to their proposed builders.
No other inscriptions, bones, burial goods or jewellery have ever been found inside the three main pyramids of Giza.
There are well over 100 pyramids in Egypt that date to ancient times. A good many contained sarcophagi, human remains, and burial goods. Pseudoarchaeologists love to single out the pyramids of Giza because, well… that’s how significance-junkies work. What you say about Khufu’s pyramid below isn’t entirely true. But even if it were, if the majority of ancient Egypt’s pyramids are funerary (as they are), then why would we expect something different from the pyramids of Giza? What other purpose would they serve except to be monuments to rulers when all the others of the Old Kingdom have been show to be?
Except for this the Khufu Pyramid was empty, no inscriptions, no treasure, no body – Nothing! Even the Granite “sarcophagus” reveals nothing of its intended use. If the pyramid was plundered by grave robbers in ancient times did they really clear every item out of the monument using the 3’ x 3.5’ foot passages?
What you say here might not be true. Khufu’s pyramid was first opened in permanently the 9th century CE by al-Mamun. I’ve yet to read any personal accounts by al-Mamun—I don’t think they exist—but quite a few Arab historians speak of finding a mummy within the sarcophagus you mention above. One that was adorned with treasures (which al-Mamun kept). The mummy was inside an anthropomorphic sarcophagus that was, in turn, placed inside the larger granite sarcophagus that remains in the King’s Chamber today. Incidentally, it was al-Mamun that named this chamber the “King’s Chamber” based on the things he found and it’s flat ceiling. The probably miss-named Queen’s Chamber, which his team entered first, was named thus because of the corbelled niche off to one side. Islamic burials of queens had this feature, so he made an assumption.
And it is very likely that the tomb was looted in antiquity. There definitely is a looter’s tunnel and, if the Arab historians were all embellishing a story they heard rather than reporting facts, and the King’s Chamber was found by al-Mamun as we see it today, it’s likely that it was robbed. This was a very real problem in antiquity. It’s a problem even today.
Did they completely erase any scripts or hieroglyphics from the walls of the monument?
I always see comments from fringe types about the “grand mystery of no writing/hieroglyphs in the pyramids.” Often they ask why this is so. And it’s always struck me as really the wrong question to ask since, for me, a better question is “why do some pyramids have writing within?”
Honestly, I wouldn’t expect any writing to be done inside of a tomb that is to be sealed to outside visitors.
However, several Arab historians noted that there was writing associated with the body that was removed. If I recall correctly, it was on the exterior of the anthropomorphic, inner sarcophagus. They described it as “writing no one could read” or something of that nature.
But there is writing—hieroglyphs in fact—found within the Great Pyramid. They were, however, work gang notes probably created between the quarry and final placement.
Also where is the proof that Khufu built the pyramid? If it was for his burial, it was a daring decision to presume it could be built in only twenty years, which it almost certainly could not!
I half expect this to be a set up for a softball pitch back to you (I’m not sure of the British equivalent to this American idiom), but there’s the Khufu cartouche originally found by Vyse’s explorations in the 19th century. The conspiracy theories of various and sundry pretend-archaeologists notwithstanding, this is a pretty telling bit of history actually written down by one of the workmen. So if it wasn’t Khufu’s pyramid, whoever built it certainly knew of Khufu, putting the pyramid either at or after his reign.
But you packed a lot in those two sentences in addition to the “Khufu” assumption. I’m actually happy calling it the “Great Pyramid” and agreeing with colleagues that it’s probably for Khufu. And clearly they could build it during his reign. There it sits. Assuming it was Khufu’s. It would mean that something like 230 cubic meters of stone would needed to be set each day on average. Which would certainly be impossible today.
But not because of any “lost technology” (whatever that might be). Rather, it would be largely due to the sheer inability to muster a workforce the size used by Khufu. There has actually been a fair amount of experimental archaeology done in this area by archaeologists like Mark Lehner and Dennys Stocks. Franz Löhner includes some interesting calculations on his website, but I tend to think these are minimal expectations and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to double his total number of 6700 workers. Löhner writes:
Assuming 20 years to build the pyramid of Khufu (2’500’000 stones) we calculate 342 stones that had to be moved daily (working during 365 days a year) or 431 stones daily (working during 290 days a year). Assuming a 10-hour day a stone every 2 minutes / with a 8-hour day a stone every minute had to be hauled up the pyramid.https://www.cheops-pyramide.ch/khufu-pyramid/khufu-numbers.html#performance
I agree that these are a great many assumptions made when it comes to archaeological conclusions like this. But they’re far more parsimonious than many of the alternatives ranging from “aliens did it” to the equally stupid “there was a lost civilization.” And, with archaeology—as with science in general—conclusions are conditional, ready to be cheerfully revised with good evidence.
Furthermore, John Anthony west and Geologist Dr Robert Schott P.H.D of Boston university have proved without reasonable doubt that the Great Sphinx is far older than it’s accepted date, possibly thousands of years, this is agreed by a huge amount of professional Geologist’s worldwide, for these reasons Khafre was not the builder of the Sphinx.
The Sphinx topic is one deserves it’s own article if not a book. Suffice to say, neither of these two “proved without reasonable doubt” anything other than West and Schoch do poor science. I can point you to resources that take them on point by point, utterly destroying their preconceived notions, but I suspect you’re already aware of them and have ignored them.
These two chuckleheads are really just espousing an idea that began with Edgar Cacye, a self-professed “psychic” who pretended to know Giza and the Sphinx were built around 10,500 BCE. Ironically, the Edgar Cayce Foundation—a bunch of ancestors, friends, and supporters of the dead “pyschic”—funded some of the early radiocarbon dating.
Just because The mortuary complex of Khafre is in the vicinity of the pyramid does not mean the pyramid was conceived by him or built to be his tomb.
No. But this, along with the cartouche mentioned above, we have radiocarbon dates. The Giza Pyramid Complex samples dated to between 2551-2472 BCE, fairly consistent with historic analyses that put the construction of the pyramids of Giza in a period between 2590-2505 BCE.
It seems logical to assume that the layout of the Giza pyramid complex far predates 2500 BC.
The astrological alignment of the three pyramids undoubtedly reflects the sky at around 10,000 BC. There is evidence of a large construction project at Giza around the time of 2500BC but may very well not have been the total construction of the pyramid(s).
Yeah, not logical at all. The so-called alignments don’t really work out or are otherwise coincidental. You pick billions upon billions of stars in the sky, even the few million prominent ones, and you’re going to find some “alignments.” But there’s definitely no need to reach so far back into the Neolithic where people haven’t even figured out ceramics yet, much less organized into social bands large enough to create a workforce needed (much less the agriculture needed to supply enough calories). The evidence points to the middle of the 3rd millennium.
Hancock’s “far out” assumption that the builders of the pyramids and other temples, monuments and so forth may have been used a technology that has been lost to us, a technology that was passed down by a much older civilization that is regarded by scholars as myth or legend.
No, actually it’s regarded as utter nonsense. Not even myth or legend. It’s nonsense. Nothing more. It’s a conclusion that Hancock starts with then makes every attempt to find data that are supportive. He has no problem cherry-picking whatever suits his fancy—often ignoring those data which are counter to his conclusions.
But maybe this assumption is not so “fantastic” as we are led to believe.
For hundreds of years’ people have speculated over how the pyramids could have been built by people who were meant to be so primitive and basic.
“Primitive” and “basic” aren’t really terms that modern, educated archaeologists use. Particularly with regard to ancient Egyptians. Hell, I wouldn’t say that about Natufians of the Pre-Pottery Neolithic or Mississippians of Cahokia. These are, however, terms I read a lot from the ignorant who have notions of the fantastic in archaeology. There’s nothing wrong with being “ignorant,” mind you. Unless one refuses to be willing to learn.
Even today we have no real idea. Engineers have proved the impossibility of ramps and levers and have marvelled over what appears to be a simply impossible feat, regardless of how much brute force you bring to the party. Architects have studied the plans in complete bewilderment and envy.
On the contrary, we have wonderful ideas about the construction methods used for the pyramids of Egypt. In fact, there are many competing hypotheses that range from the fantastic to the very reasoned and logical. The more reasoned ones are generally favored over the fantastic (like poured concrete blocks, alien ships airlifting blocks, etc.), but these are still possible albeit improbable compared to various ramps and lever ideas.
Builders have accessed the sheer size and weight of the materials used and the accuracy of the manner they were installed and shaken their heads in disbelief. Mathematicians
have gasped at the calculations that were used in the construction and the almost dead on accuracy that the builders were able to accomplish with such a huge project, the use of Pi and other calculus appear again and again, in fact it would be impossible to build without this knowledge. (Not bad for a primitive race).
There’s that word “primitive” again. I must say I take great offense to its use being part of the same race: modern human. Using the word primitive implies that somehow these are expected to be stupid people with no means to sort out their lives without some outside help (aliens or lost ancient civilizations). When the fact of the matter is that these are us. They had the same likelihood of genius intellect and sheer will of innovation that we do today. They were clever folk. Clearly. It isn’t a question of whether they built the pyramids. We know they did. The pyramids were built during the periods we have them dated to +/- some decades here and there due to margins for error.
Scientists and astronomers marvel at the precise orientation of the monuments.
Yet we are told that these are merely coincidences, lucky guess work and hard physical labour.
We are also told that the tools used were almost certainly, and only, basic copper chisels, pounding stones, primitive hammers, wooden sledges and reed ropes Etc.
Some of the so-called alignments probably were coincidental (i.e. alignments to skies of over 13 kya). But others weren’t. They understood how to find cardinal directions. They understood how to find right angles—it really isn’t difficult, I do it all the time to put in an excavation unit. If I can do it, these clever people certainly could. Their tools were brilliant not only in their simplicity but in their implementation. They had a great cutting tool available all around them: sand. Like I mentioned earlier, there has been some great work done in experimental archaeology that shows all this, confirming and helping to identify/explain things found in the archaeological record.
To cut granite to the accuracy of the slabs found in the Great pyramid would not be possible using any of the above, even if certain substances were used to achieve higher efficiency.
Sure it would. Don’t blame the ancient Egyptians for your lack of being clever!
And this is where I have to say I’ve had enough. The rest of your comments seem to be more of the same lackluster regurgitations of popular authors in pseudoarchaeology and pseudohistory. A couple of things are clear in your comments:
First, you’re well read in the doctrines of Hancock, Bauval, and probably others like the late John Anthony West, Robert Schoch, et al. These guys (they’re almost always guys, JJ notwithstanding) are simply repackaging the nonsense of Velikovsky, Sitchin, and Cayce into more modern, easier to purvey crapology based in pseudoscience to good people with genuine interests in the ancient world.
Which brings me to the second thing that seems apparent in your comments. And that is a lack of reading in reality. I know you said at one point that you read factual things as well, but this doesn’t seem to be the case. Otherwise you would understand that modern archaeologists don’t really use “primitive” in the manner you do. And you’d be more aware of things like experimental archaeology and hypotheses on pyramid construction that have been around for decades. Decades. You and I were kids when some of this was being sorted out.
To close, I have to say that I find Graham Hancock even more objectionable than when we started this conversation. Mainly because I cracked open a couple of his books that were gathering dust on my shelf of pseudoscience and was reminded of his typical shtick. Hancock has a way of blending fact with fiction in just the right quantity that you think you’re getting something good for you.
It kind of reminds me of a guy named Walt I used to work for as a kid. He owned a pizza shop and would mix imitation mozzarella with 100% real mozzarella because he wanted to make an extra buck of the consumer. He knew that people were smart enough to spot how quickly imitation cheese breaks and how bland it tastes. Real mozzarella, you see, will stretch when hot. Often to the point you have to break it with the other hand when you pull a slice of pizza from the tray. But imitation breaks off right away.
Imitation cheese was extremely inexpensive compared to 100% real mozzarella and Walt knew he could make more money mixing it to the ignorance of his customers. The menus all said, “made with 100% real mozzarella.” And Walt would say they were: “half 100% real mozzarella and half imitation. We just don’t mention the imitation.”
Graham Hancock is mixing 100% real facts with imitation facts. And calling it 100% real.