I visited Luxor back in 2005. The power and grandiosity of the ancient temples and tombs, covered in a mass of hieroglyphics, was impossible to deny, barely diminished by either the passage of time or the hordes of tourists who’s presence seems completely contrary to the air of reverence implied by the immense structures. My fellow sightseers and I wandered through row upon row of huge columns at Luxor Temple, illuminated by spotlights and the constant flash of cameras, necks craned trying to grasp the scale of the construction. Even the American boy by my side in Tutankhamun’s tomb, pointing up at the hieroglyphics and observing to his parents, “Wow! It looks like loads of things and stuff!” did little to temper the air of majesty. We’ve all seen the photographs in school textbooks and endless footage on National Geographic and History Channel documentaries, but none of it compares to actually being there, contemplating how the people in this ancient civilization lived.
One man who has spent much of his life studying the wonders of the ancient world is Graham Hancock. His 1995 bestseller Fingerprints of the Gods is both a rigorous examination of the academic theories (often presented as established, uncontestable facts) and a lively, open-minded exploration of alternative hypothesis which reconsider the meaning of ancient myths and suggests that advanced human civilization may span considerably further back in time than is commonly supposed. Throughout the book he draws upon a wide range of ancient civilizations and considers them from the perspective of a number of disciplines, ranging from Egyptology and archaeology to geology and astronomy. Hancock’s book provides an insightful – if not entirely balanced, since the objective of his book is to suggest alternative views to the mainstream – overview of the contradicting claims made by researchers in various fields both working in academia and on the “fringe”. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not, at the very least his argument illuminates the frequently contentious manner in which the evidence is interpreted.
One discussion guaranteed to raise heckles is the method of construction of the pyramids, particularly the Great Pyramid of Giza. The commonly held view is that tens of thousands of slaves laboured for decades using a system of ramps to drag the stone blocks – some weighing 80 tonnes – into position. Indeed, the “ramp theory” is often cited as incontrovertible fact. But even a quick glance on Wikipedia (admittedly not the last bastion of truth) reveals that things aren’t that clear cut: “Most Egyptologists acknowledge that ramps are the most tenable of the methods to raise the blocks, yet they acknowledge that it is an incomplete method that must be supplemented by another device. Archaeological evidence for the use of ramps has been found at the Great Pyramid of Giza and other pyramids. The method most accepted for assisting ramps is levering (Lehner 1997: 222). The archaeological record gives evidence of only small ramps and inclined causeways, not something that could have been used to construct even a majority of the monument.”
The obvious question is: what other devices and methods were employed in the construction of these incredibly precise, enormous buildings? Perhaps there isn’t an answer to be had – but there is certainly evidence out there which complicates the position of the mainstream Egyptologists worthy of speculation, and Fingerprints of the Gods provides a wealth of material which is food for thought for anyone who likes to challenge conventional wisdom (after all, conventional wisdom refers to a view generally held to be true but which often remains unexamined and functions to preserve the status quo). Hancock’s book is as readable for its depiction of academia’s protectiveness over its cherished theories as it is for its radical-sounding alternatives – as the author puts it himself, “Human history has become too much a matter of dogma taught by ‘professionals’ in ivory towers as though it’s all fact. Actually, much of human history is up for grabs. The further back you go, the more that the history that’s taught in the schools and universities begins to look like some kind of faerie story.”
Inevitably, Hancock had his very own run in with the “ivory tower” of dogmatic thinking when he participated in a Horizon documentary for the BBC. In a debate around the provenance of the pyramids based a variety of evidence, the BBC editing room somehow managed to completely misrepresent his position while supporting the mainstream position. Hancock’s associate Robert Bauval released the following statement:
During my interview for the programme, with the producer Chris Hale, I spoke in detail of the astronomical significance of the Pyramids: the alignment of the shafts to Orion and Sirius, the Pyramid Texts and how they associated Osiris with Orion and, of course, of the layout plan of the Giza Pyramids and how they matched the pattern of Orion’s belt. Chris Hale then asked me about a serious critical attack made by the American astronomer Ed Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. Krupp had alleged that I had somehow placed the map of the Giza Pyramids “upside down” in order to match it with the star map of Orion’s belt. In response to Krupp’s attack, I explained how we must try to put ourselves in the position of an ancient Egyptian looking up at the sky. I pointed out that at a conference, at which Ed Krupp was actually present, members of the public were asked to draw Orion’s Belt how they saw it, and everyone’s drawings matched perfectly the plan of the Pyramids at Giza, just as shown in my book, The Orion Mystery. In addition, I referred Chris Hale to two eminent astronomers who had openly rejected Krupp’s argument, Dr. Archibald Roy, professor Emeritus of Astronomy at Glasgow University, and Dr. Percy Seymour of Plymouth University.
When my interview was shown on television, I was puzzled and shocked that it had been heavily edited. Dr. Roy and Dr. Seymour had been ignored and were not invited to appear on the programme. There was hardly mention of the Pyramid Texts and how they extolled the role of Osiris as Orion, and no mention at all of the alignment of the southern shafts of the Great Pyramid towards Orion’s Belt and Sirius. All this had been cut out. The Orion’s Belt-Giza correlation was presented with hardly any support from textual material or the astronomical alignment of the shafts! I was made to sound flimsy and weird. But worse than that, Ed Krupp’s attack on the Correlation theory was presented in detail, while absolutely nothing of my detailed response was shown. I was appalled that the BBC had allowed Krupp to tell millions of viewers that in order to make my theory work, I had to “turn Egypt upside down” or “turn the sky upside down”, without airing my response or at least having Dr. Roy rebut such a preposterous accusation.
The above statement goes some way to illuminating just how complex and wide-ranging the debate can get – and this represents a tiny fragment of the material covered in Fingerprints of the Gods. It’s not unreasonable to suggest that, if the “professionals” from a range of disciplines appear incapable of reaching a consensus, a consensus doesn’t exist. And perhaps it never will – perhaps the Wonders of the World are destined to remain largely that: enigmatic mythological, monolithic cyphers of long lost civilizations revealing suggestive glimmers as to our true origins while the “truth” remains hidden beneath the sand.